"In my experience as a senior executive in the competitive and fast-paced sporting goods industry, I have seen my share of good leaders.


Want to Succeed in Business? Tie Your Laces

shoelaces fundamentals

As many a basketball coach will tell players on the court, to run a fast and accurate scoring play, your shoes need to be on right. Shoes? Courts? Scoring? What does this have to do with my business? Quite a lot, in fact.

Top business executives understand that the lessons we learn from sports – whether it is watching the game at home or playing in a community league – apply to our businesses as well. A key takeaway from some of the most famous sports teams in this country remains a solid foundation in the rudiments of their game. We can learn a lot about how mastering the basics can have a positive effect on a business from legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

The Champion Who Focuses on Tying Laces

John Robert Wooden, “The Wizard of Westwood,” won 10 NCAA championships as head coach at UCLA and is only one of three people ever to be included in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

But Wooden’s success cannot be cast off as simply “natural talent”: His philosophy of mastering the basics through dedicated work and practice contributed immensely to his acclaim and accomplishment.

The first thing he taught his freshman players? Not complicated offenses, or intricate passing plays. No, his first bit of advice to new players was, “Pull up your socks and tie your laces tight.” This wasn’t an eccentricity, but good, practical advice. Coach Wooden knew that loose socks could lead to blisters, and loose laces could lead to sprained ankles, either of which could keep a star player out of the line-up for a game or two.

Applying Sports to Your Business

Like a professional athlete who must first learn how to put on his equipment properly to avoid pain and injury, business professionals must first master the basics of their business before moving forward with other tasks.

Assess the most basic tasks of your business or job: What is the process and the purpose of these tasks? Do you and your team handle them effectively? Does anyone cut corners or skip steps? How can you better perform these tasks? Do these basic tasks require more time, attention, quality work, or more employees to handle them?

The Basics Get Results

While it may seem like a step backwards to go back to basics, these are often the places where a business can stand to improve. And improving from the bottom up can streamline the entire process for greater efficiency and better results.

Just as a hockey player needs to lace up his skates, so too do your employees need to be equipped with the knowledge, technology, and tools to do the job right from start to finish. You would never open a restaurant chain without providing a clean work surface upon which to prepare food, nor would you invest in a company without first performing due diligence.

The basics make up the platform on which all other work gets done: you want it to be a strong and steady foundation that you can confidently build upon.

Reassessing the basics of your business is not a waste of time. In fact, it may just save you time, money, and long-term strife. We can use sports as a metaphor for understanding the crucial importance of even the most minute and seemingly insignificant tasks.

Everything you and your employees do resonates throughout the company: even in some minor way, it affects people, tasks, and outcomes like a ripple on the water’s surface. So take the time to make sure your metaphorical socks are smooth and your laces are tight. You won’t regret it.

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Julie Nimmons

Julie Nimmons

Julie uses her 30 years’ experience to help CEOs, executives and business owners in her Vistage Group find success in their businesses and personal lives. With positive leadership, a firm sense of prioritization and the commitment to lifelong learning, Julie’s creates a constructive workspace for Group members where honesty, innovation and cooperation can flourish.