Business is 90% Mental. The Other Half is Physical.

People that know me well know that, like Bo, I know my sports. If you don’t get that “Bo Knows” reference then you’re not unlike some unsuspecting people that come to me for advice only to be confounded by my use of sports examples, metaphors and clichés to help explain business issues and solutions. Of course, certain activities and places for me to visit have been suggested in order to help me overcome this particular personal flaw. But, until such time as I get to that fork in the road and take it, here’s a list of some of my most favorite sports clichés that can be applied to your business operations and goals.
1. We knew what we had to do and went out and did it
This speaks to having a plan. The best teams create a game plan that allows them to best leverage their team strengths and capitalize on their competitors’ weaknesses. Championship teams are the ones that execute their plan. If you want to establish and operate a long term, winning business you must start by developing a well-researched, strong business plan and then go out and deliver on those plans each and every day. The most successful businesses in the world start their days with a morning briefing with their staff to emphasize a key point or goal for that particular day and they go out and do it.
2. We’ve got to go back and re-group
Sometimes you don’t quite execute the day’s “game plan” the way you expected. Often customers or your competitors will surprise you with something you were not prepared to handle. Even good teams can get side swiped by supposedly weaker opposition (but that’s why they play the games, right – you never really know what the final score will be!). The great teams are the ones that recognize they need to take a time out, analyze what is going on, and make rational, considered adjustments necessary to better compete. The same holds true for businesses – just be mindful not to do too little, too late before the wheels fall off.
3. When in doubt shoot it out
This applies in a hockey game when the offensive team is applying a lot of pressure on the defenders. Rather than trying to over-think the play or get too cute with a pass attempt that will likely get intercepted and shot into your net this cliché reminds all of us (especially us “lumbering d-men”) to stick to basics and shoot the puck off the glass and out of our zone. Essentially, when you are forced to regroup the best tactic in sports, business and life is to rely on your fundamentals. In hockey, it’s shoot it out of the zone. In baseball, it’s “see ball, hit ball” and in business your basic, fundamental play to make each and every day is to listen to what you’re customers are telling you and do your best to provide a solution to them. Failing to rely on your fundamentals, especially when under siege, will lead to the roof caving in and getting shellacked by your competitors.
4. Can’t get lackadaisical and we gotta stay focused!
Even when you’re off to the races and your team is running like a well-oiled machine with your game plan it’s important to remind yourselves that things can change at any moment. There is no room for overconfidence or coasting that can lead to bad habits and have you pushed back on your heels in no time. As a business owner or operator it’s imperative that you continue to work smart and stay focused on your goals.
5. Not going to rest on our laurels
It’s human nature to take pride in successes. Those successes should be celebrated. However, successes are past tense. And like the past, they can be quickly forgotten. In order to survive and thrive in the long term you must celebrate success, communicate success and forge new goals and challenges towards continuing to grow as a business.
6. We gotta bring our A-game
The competition keeps getting stronger. Your business continues to strive for new levels of excellence. In this combined case it becomes increasingly more difficult to meet new standards. However, if you and your staff bring you’re A-game to the shop each and every day and build on your business fundamentals then you will be better able to compete in a hostile environment and boost confidence knowing that your success was no fluke.
7. Success is a total team effort
No truer words were ever spoken on the ice, field, court or shop floor. Every player, every staff person has a pivotal role to play towards team and business success. If each individual performs his or her role to the best of their ability towards the group’s goals then success is bound to follow.
8. This group showed a lot of character, poise and pride
Adversity doesn’t build character. It reveals it. Success won’t always come; let alone come easy. There will be times when a group will have to rely on the very best of its people. Most often, the very best is not necessarily skills and knowledge-based but grit, determination and heart. If everyone in your business responds to adversity with positive character, poise and pride in their work then the team will find a way to overcome the adversity. As an employer, it’s critical that you find people that have these attributes and you trust to do the right thing in all situations.
9. Can’t go to the well too often
Any team, any business cannot keep doing the same old things hoping success will continue to follow. What worked yesterday may not work today. It’s important to keep creating new ideas to attract new customers and develop new skills and new staff.
10. They’re heading for the exits
As a business, just like a team, that is not providing the effort, energy and results demanded by your customers they will start to stream out of the aisles and head for the exits. If this happens too often, your “fans” (customers) will quite likely find other “teams” (businesses) to support. That is, of course, unless you’re the Leafs!
11. Give it 110%
This should be obvious. And this is why I’m giving you 11 title clichés and not just 10! In business (and life for that matter) you should strive to be better today than you were yesterday; if you’re not moving forward you’re going backward. Despite or because of all the clichés used in this article the message is simple: the businesses that succeed are those that are always working to deliver better products and service to their customers.
With thanks to Yogi Berra, enjoy the rest of your summer folks – it ain’t over till it’s over!