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March Madness Every Day

Businesses face March Madness every day.

Businesses face March Madness every day.

The past few days have seen many people mesmerized by the NCAA basketball tournament games.  There have been more games than ever in the first round that went into overtime before a winner was determined, and there have been more “favorites” upset by lesser ranked opponents than nearly every fan could have ever predicted.  So much so, that in one highly publicized bracket challenge that offered a billion dollars to anyone with a perfect bracket through all of the rounds of the competition, not a SINGLE entry was still perfect after the second round!

More Than Fans and Spectators

Many viewers of the televised games are content to watch and be entertained by the athleticism, the close contests being determined by end of game desperation shots, and the sheer drama of competition.  However, business professionals recognize that what they are seeing in the compressed length of the tournament is a microcosm of their work lives.  While few businesses have bands playing during the workday, and cheerleaders are not tumbling across the office floors, the insights derived from the basketball tournament resonate for entrepreneurs just the same.


Good business owners know that the job is not done until the customer decides to make a purchase.  While there may be a standard or a usual amount of time that a customer takes to make a purchase or the sales cycle usually takes to be completed; there is no whistle that blows or horn that sounds to indicate that “the game is over.”  Even though the college basketball game is designed to end after 40 minutes of play – if the game is still tied at that point, the game continues on for an extra period of time to determine a winner.  No successful business would refuse to continue to try to sell to a customer because three weeks had elapsed, four sales calls had been conducted, or ten questions had been answered.  Rather, the business continues to meet the needs of the customer UNTIL a decision has been reached.


The highlights of the tournament are often the lesser-ranked teams rising up to the challenge against teams that are expected to win.  The analogy for nearly every entrepreneur or smaller business owner is clear.  It does not matter what is expected to happen – only what actually occurs.  Those teams did not enter the game thinking they did not have a chance to win.  Rather, they played the game to win, and may have even expected to win.  Similarly, the smaller companies in industry have to compete against national or better funded competitors.  If they perceive that they have no chance to compete against those market leaders, the customer will surely not choose to spend their money with them.

The larger companies can take a lesson from teams like Duke, Cincinnati, and Oklahoma that expected to win, but learned that to win, they have to actually outscore their opponent.  Just having stars, huge followings, rabid alumni, etc., does not lead to victories alone.  Just as those teams seemed to take their expected victories for granted, some larger businesses also believe that they are impervious to smaller competitors.  That is, until those competitors begin to make incursions in market share!

Do it Again

The NCAA tournament also includes a lesson for business owners in that what happens in one game does not carry weight into the next.  Each game is decided on its own merits.  The business analogy is that every customer interaction, every transaction, and every decision made; must be made independent of what may have previously occurred.  To assume that a previous “win” will carryover to a new business opportunity is to risk having an opponent swoop in and take the opportunity away from the business.

So, cheer hard for your favorite teams, enjoy the games, but remember – the lessons are there for us to find if we are looking in the right places.

David Zahn