When it comes to sports, we all have our favorites. But come May and June, let’s face it, it’s all about the NBA playoffs. And this year’s series of back and forth battles in pursuit of the National Championship has been nothing short of spectacular. From the early upset eliminations of favored teams to record breaking individual performances, this playoff season has been a boon to basketball, not only as a sport, but as a business. In fact, here are 7 lessons any business owner would do well to learn from watching the NBA playoffs.

1. Have a game plan
No NBA team has ever been competitive without establishing and sticking to a game plan. In business it’s called a business plan, but the same idea applies. Only by defining who you are, where you want to take your business and strategizing how to get there can you have a real shot at being competitive. The key is to be flexible in the execution of your plan in order to deal with the unforeseen challenges and opportunities that are bound to come.

2. Master the fundamentals
On the court and in the corporate world, it’s important to level the playing field as much as possible. That’s where mastering the fundamentals comes in. With the ability to perform all the necessary tasks cleanly and effectively, along with a full understanding of the dynamics involved in getting things done, your business can gain a clear advantage. Consider the free throw line where many a championship game has been won and lost. It’s the same ball, the same distance to the rim 10 feet above the floor. But those who have studied and practiced the fundamentals have the greatest chance of taking and making the shot.

3. Never underestimate your competition
Before stepping onto the floor a good coach makes sure his players know as much about their opponents as possible in order to play to their weaknesses and minimize their strengths. Any business owner who thinks he can succeed without knowing what to expect from his competitors will soon find himself watching from the sidelines. It should also be recognized that competition is what makes good teams and businesses great as they are forced to reach within and rise to a level of performance they would not otherwise achieve in the face of mediocre opponents.

4. Work as a team
In the NBA, on any given night, a star player can single-handedly light up the scoreboard. However, a successful run for a championship ring can only be realized through consistent team effort. Like those who manage and coach NBA teams, a successful business owner needs to be adept at team building. This means putting together a group of individuals, each of whom has unique abilities that will contribute to the good of the business as a whole.

5. Have a deep bench
A well balanced team has a backup player for every position on the floor. Although these persons may not be as qualified as their starter counterparts, allowing them ample minutes of playing time to grow in their given assignments can reap huge dividends down the stretch, should key players become sidelined for unforeseen reasons. By the same token, a smart business owner will implement backup protocols before they are needed to make sure that  all of the essential elements required to keep the business running efficiently are kept in play.

6. Get the crowd involved
Why does the home team traditionally have the advantage? Because they know how to get the crowd involved. In the business world, the ability to engage a crowd of support comes through the effective usage of Social Media tools such as Face Book and Twitter. Through these avenues lies the potential to create a vast and potentially viral awareness of your company brand that the advertising tools of the past could never have come close to helping you achieve.

7. Play with passion
Anyone who has ever pursued the dream to play a professional sport understands that achieving that dream takes talent, drive, determination and, above all else, a pure unwavering passion for the game. The kind of passion that motivates star players to devote extra time outside of practice to develop their skills to the highest level possible. In the increasingly competitive arena of business, these same character traits are a must for those who would strive to become truly successful. It’s no longer enough to show up. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to become the kind of business owner who, like the star player on the basketball team, creates opportunities for success and helps those around him rise to a higher level of excellence.

One final thought. In business as in basketball it’s best to travel as little as possible.

About the Author: Doug Bennett is a freelance writer for Hewlett Packard. Since 1939, HP has been making technology products, such as tablet pc’s to help people and companies address their problems and challenges, and realize their possibilities, aspirations and dreams.

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