5 Small Business Lessons from March Madness

Author: Justin Reynolds | March 31, 2016

Another NCAA men’s basketball tournament is almost in the books. Each year, March Madness provides countless hours of excitement and entertainment, but the tournament can also serve as a teaching tool for small business owners.

Here are five small business lessons you can learn from March Madness:

1. Underdogs can win—and they often do

The odds of filling out a flawless March Madness bracket are 1 in 76 billion. Each year, there are a number of underdogs who knock heavily favored teams out of the tournament in early rounds.

Case in point? Michigan State fell to Middle Tennessee in the opening round this year, shocking everyone.

Many small businesses compete against larger, more established entities. Just because you may not have the name recognition or the resources your competitors have doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Fight as hard as you can, and you may very well emerge victorious.

2. Leverage your momentum

March Madness is all about momentum. Teams ride momentum on hot streaks during games, and they also ride it to advance to the next round and beyond. This year, to see the manifestation of momentum, look no further than Syracuse, a 10 seed that marched all the way to the Final Four.

Small business owners need to recognize when momentum is on their side. A restaurateur, for example, might want to open up a second location after an extremely favorable review results in a packed house night after night at his or her flagship location.

3. As in March Madness, never give up

The term “buzzer-beater”—which refers to a shot taken right before time expires that goes in—is synonymous with March Madness. In every tournament, there are at least a handful of memorable buzzer-beaters, and 2016 is no exception. Who could forget when Northern Iowa sunk a half-court shot as time expired to knock Texas out in the first round?

Even when things look bleak, small business owners should never give up. You never know when a buzzer-beater of sorts is in your future.

4. It’s one thing to have technology, but you still need to know how to use it

Former NBA player Charles Barkley, who serves as an analyst for March Madness each year, made headlines a few weeks ago when he couldn’t figure out how to use a touchscreen on live TV. It’s probably safe to say that Sir Charles’ spot as an analyst isn’t in jeopardy. But he could have saved himself a bit of embarrassment by becoming familiar with the technology before trying it out on camera.

To remain competitive, small businesses need to invest in new technology from time to time—but such investments won’t do much for operations unless employees know precisely how they can use it to be more effective workers.

5. Be careful what you say

After losing to Oregon in the Sweet 16, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski was spotted saying something to Dillon Brooks, a star on the opposing team. In postgame interviews, Brooks said the coach criticized him for taking a shot near the end of the game despite his team holding a commanding lead. When pressed, Krzyzewski denied saying anything. Then a sound bite of the incident emerged, and the coach apologized.

It’s 2016. You almost have to assume that everything you say and everything you write may one day find its way into the public realm. In this light, small business owners need to exercise caution in their remarks and communications and encourage their employees to do the same. You never know when someone might be paying attention to something you’ll later wish you never expressed.

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