Business lessons from the world of sports: basics, basics, basics

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Playing sports at a very high competitive level is very rewarding. That one throw, shot, or move that makes a difference is what people watching sports love to see. Contrary to popular belief, skill actually has very little to do with making a difference at the highest level.

The next level

When I started playing Ultimate Frisbee, I was really bad at it. I had played tennis a lot and the technique for throwing a disc seems similar to tennis, but is actually completely different. The field sense I had gotten from playing football and basketball, was completely wrong for playing Ultimate Frisbee. So I really had to start with the basics, like I had done with tennis when I was 5 years old…

Once you get the basics under control, playing matches becomes fun. At first, being athletic is a big part of winning and you seem to progress fairly quickly. As soon as you get past that entry-level however, things are different. Suddenly you find yourself with other people who are also athletic. That’s when you have to go back to the basics.

Back to the basics

The only way to win at that next level, is to make less mistakes than the opponent. That means that you have to make sure that the basic things such as throwing, catching and the patterns you run on offence and defense, are properly executed. When done correctly, your team can move up the ladder a bit, to an even higher level.

And you know what? You again have to look at the fundamentals to scale this next level. Choosing the easy, low-risk / high-reward options over the so-called ‘hero-shots’ is what ups team performance. Every level you go up in sports, you have to find a new advantage in your basics. The fantastic athletic actions are only for when the basics didn’t get you out of a tight spot. Then, and only then, is when you try that high-risk option, that’s when you count on the athleticism of a teammate to save the day.

Basics in business

In business this is also true. As your company grows from 1 customer to 10 customers, the basics need to be revisited. Are customers getting the attention they deserve? Are the business processes you use good enough to support 10 customers? Every bit of basic thing you can think of, needs to be top notch.

With every level your company grows, as customer numbers increase and ultimately your company has a presence in multiple countries, the basics are key to getting to the next level. With every step up the ladder, make sure you go back to the basics and polish them like crazy.

In sports we usually call this ‘basics, basics, basics’. And yes, it can be boring, revisiting the same thing every year or quarter or month. But it is absolutely vital to pay attention to these basics if you want sustainable growth!

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