7 Startup Lessons Taught by March Madness

7 Startup Lessons Taught by March Madness


March Madness is back. The time of eliminations and exclamations, of dashed dreams and Cinderella teams is upon us once more. It’s all-out war on the hardwood floor, and the record breaking battles we’ve seen so far are a strong indication that the best of the best are getting down to business. And, speaking of business— and at the risk of committing a flagrant foul in transition—here’s a look at 7 business startup lessons entrepreneurs can learn from March Madness.

1. Bring it every day:

For every team in the tournament it’s sudden death. Every game is do or die. To have the best chance of staying in the competition, each team must bring its “A” game every time. Although the business world may not be as cutthroat as the NCAA finals, startup entrepreneurs need to approach each and every day with a do or die mentality. Getting a business up and running can be a monumental task. If you’re not giving it your best effort and expecting the same from your team, you can be sure that your competitors are. Being overconfident and letting down can kill momentum and lead to elimination.

2. Know your opponent:

Before tip-off, it’s critical for each team to have a clear understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of the opposition. And the same holds true for startups. Knowing opponents and understanding how they operate—individually and collectively—will make for better match-ups, and the formulation and execution of winning business plays and strategies.

3. Stick with your game plan:

The 68 teams that made it to the March Madness bracket got there because they know how to win. And the teams that advance make that happen by sticking to what works best for them. If they are better in the paint than the perimeter, and they find themselves behind as the clock winds down, they don’t panic and head for 3 point land. They attack the lane, go for the score, and get to the foul line. By the same token, startups need to have a solid business plan and stick with it. A company that starts second guessing itself and tries to be something it’s not will soon be sent packing.

4. Make every effort a team effort :

Every tournament team has its marquee players, the go-to guys they can count on to make big plays. But as any coach will tell you, there’s no substitute for teamwork. A willingness on the part of all players to be unselfish with the ball and create opportunities for others to use their own unique talents and abilities for the good of the team—that’s what wins NCAA championships. Although startups also need key players who bring vision and passion to the table, ultimate success will only come from a consistent, collaborative effort.

5. Take care of the ball:

We’ve all groaned in disbelief at blown dunks, bricked layups and crunch-time turnovers. It all comes down to focus. Even seasoned players who focus more on the basket than taking care of the ball will find themselves coughing it up. To be competitive, all business startups need clear goals and objectives. Once those are established it’s all about staying focused. While distractions are inevitable, they cannot be allowed to shift energy and attention away from the tasks at hand—tasks that must be properly executed in order to achieve success.

6. Have a great coach:

There are all kinds of coaches—the sports coach, the life coach, and the business coach—but they all have the same objective: to achieve maximum results through optimizing and leveraging talents and resources. Great NCAA basketball coaches recognize that the one sure thing that will make their players better individually, and their teams better collectively, is a mastery of the fundamentals. Watch a team with a great coach practice, and you’re going to see a lot of players working on ball handling, passing, layups, fouls shots, rebounding, screening—all of the basics that will make even an average team better against any team. Great coaches also recognize the individual talents of their players, and inspire them to develop those talents in ways they never thought possible. By the same token, successful startups need great coaches to instruct and inspire all on the team to reach their full potential, setting and achieving individual and collective goals for the betterment of themselves and the business.

7. Don’t give up:

In the first round of this year’s NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball tournament, BYU took on Iona. Near the end of the half, BYU was down by 25 points, not a huge surprise given that Iona is the highest scoring college basketball team in the Nation. The real shocker came as BYU battled back to beat Iona 78-72—the largest comeback in NCAA tournament history. BYU forward, Noah Hartsock, who scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half, summed up his team’s big win with a telling post-game observation, “This is a team that’s worked hard all year, that’s never given up.”; For startup entrepreneurs in today’s increasingly competitive arena, a winning mindset is a must-have.

2 Comments

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  1. old hardwood floors

    Thanks Julian,Of course I could get a lot more edgy but you know as well as I how risky that can be for a make teacher.

  2. Andra Wakeford

    That’s so nice, Joyce! I’m pretty sure Dave will see your comment this week, and it’ll make his day! Have a great day yourself!

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