Good Teams Win a Few Games, Great Teams Win Championships

By Larry Girouard

I relish this time of year because it’s March Madness. If you like college basketball, your overdose days are here. There are times when watching a good ballgame, I relate the game to a business model.

In talking with many business owners over the years, most will state that they have good teams when discussing their employees.  They may add a caveat that they could use a stronger person in 1-2 slots, but generally they are happy with their team of employees. The owners like, respect, trust, care for, and are loyal to their employees.

Many of these companies win a few games!  Nothing energizes a company as much as when they complete a significant order for a new customer. Sales is applauded, operations high five each other, and the hand slapping is followed by all the accolades of the great team effort it took to “make this day possible”.

Unfortunately, all too many times these celebrations are short lived.  While the company may do a good job from time to time, high quality performance is usually difficult to maintain for most small businesses. 

All too often the “team” begins to drop the service ball because the current design of their customer support system is not robust enough to ingest the addition of a significant piece of new business. As a result, the growth spurt, buoyed by this new business, is not sustainable.  The company loses other customers because the overall service level begins to suffer, the team feels the stress, and company sales eventually levels off, maintaining its market share, and treading water. Boring!

Market Penetration  
 Most of us want it, but painfully few are very good at it.

Most companies have a very small market share, well under 5%. While we brainstorm about developing new products, expanding territories, and acquisitions, as options to consider for growing their business, the conversation eventually gets down to the seminal question … Why can’t you penetrate your current market?

Most businesses talk about growing sales 5%-10% a year, and they are happy with that. If you have less than a 5% market share, why can’t you talk about capturing 2-3% additional share over a 3 year period?  Now you are talking about growing your business 20% a year.

This type of discussion is usually met with a “What are you nuts!” stare.

Practicing Plays 
 It’s all about Process 

That’s when the discussion goes back to the team. Using the sports analogy, I ask you the following on question …. Does your team practice plays? 

Team sports is all about practicing plays, and as the team gets more proficient with their plays, their performance improves. Eventually the plays become instinctive. They become more precise.  OK, I have to say it … Practice Makes Perfect. The more you practice, the more efficient the process.

Employees run the plays in any business.  Think about that for a minute. When an order comes into a company, how long does it take to schedule the order on the manufacturing floor?  When a customer calls in with a question, how long does it take for the company to respond?  When a machining center needs to be changed over to manufacture the next product, how long does that take?  There is a process associated with each of these questions, and your employees drive these processes, or plays.

Take the machining center changeover example above.  I visited a company last year that had compressed the time to change over their machining centers in preparation for the next part from 1.5 hours to 8 minutes. Talk about improving on a play.

Play improvement is all about saving time and motion in the way employees work together.  Another company I am very familiar with decided to eliminate their central printer and buy everyone their own printer for their desk.  It was determined that the average time it took to make a copy before the change was around 3 minutes.  … the time from when you got up from your desk, walk to the central printer, get your copies, talked with a few colleagues and go back to your desk to continue working.  

If you had to make only 10 copies a day, do the math … 10 trips (copies) a day is 30 min/day,   2.5 hrs/wk, 125 hrs/year, at $20/hr = $2,500/year.  You can play with these numbers up and down, but regardless of the numbers, the $100 printer represents a significant return on investment.

What is more important is the 2.5hrs of time saved each week …  6% of some employees time has just been freed up to help improve other corporate plays.

As you get fully intoxicated into March Madness this month, look at a few plays through a different lens. Just imagine the ball being communications within your company, and the 5 players on the floor are departments in your business … sales, operations, quality, finance and customer service. The communications ball passes between departments with little or no wasted motion. The ball moves effortlessly between “departments” because the players have mapped out the plays, and through continuous improvement, practiced them to the point where wasted motion has been reduced, or eliminated. 

When corporate culture improvement is addressed in this manner, the dramatic improvement in corporate performance results in a value proposition that is not only measurably better than competition, it is sustainable.

This is when you see double digit growth.  Sales has something to sell.  Double digit growth is really possible. Championships are won year after year, and dynasties evolve!!!

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