As you probably figured out when your bracket fell to pieces on the very first day, we’re in the middle of March Madness, America’s greatest sporting event. Every year, the 64 best college basketball teams in the country Duke it out (see what I did there?) to crown a new National Champion. Between the shocking upsets, the near-misses, and the unbelievable Cinderella stories, there’s nothing that even comes close to the full month of excitement that is the NCAA Tournament. It’s so exciting, in fact, that you no doubt find yourself sneaking a quick glance at your bracket while you’re at the office or checking scores under the table during your business meetings. Don’t feel bad, though. There’s actually a lot you can learn about business by taking in March Madness.
While the regular season has its fair share of mismatches and blowouts, every NCAA Tournament game is competitive. At the highest levels of college basketball, the stakes are elevated to the point that teams have to battle for every single basket. Business is the same way. Your competition’s entire livelihood depends on outperforming you. If you lose, you don’t get to go home and try again next year. You’re playing for keeps, and so it’s absolutely vital that you keep your head in the game. That means doing what college coaches do. Scout your opponents and devise a game plan to come out on top. Business is competition at the highest level, and knowing who you’re up against, what they’re good at, and where they’re weakest puts you in a great position to corner your market and bring home the proverbial trophy.
If there’s one thing that defines March Madness, it’s the Cinderella stories. Everyone loves the Gonzagas of the world, who come sweeping in from out of nowhere and topple the traditional giants. It’s easy to get so caught up in the emotion of a shocking upset run, though, that you miss a fundamental point. Upsets aren’t just about underdogs pulling off miracles, they’re about favorites blowing concrete advantages and coming up short when it matters most. There’s nothing more fatal to a basketball team or a business than complacency. No team is too good or too storied to lose, and no business is too successful to fail. Business history is littered with massive companies who were unable to adapt or grow and fell apart completely. Don’t believe me? Go try to take a photo of a Sharper Image store with your Polaroid camera. If you take anything for granted or underestimate your competition, you might wind up as the next big cautionary tale.
The one thing that really makes March Madness such a huge event, though, is the brackets. Being able to participate vicariously and follow along with something on the line adds a whole extra layer to the viewing experience. People love being able to participate at home, whether it’s an NCAA bracket or American Idol. Find ways to get people involved in your business too. If you sell a product, give a live demo in your store. If you offer a service, build an interactive environment where you can demonstrate the benefits. The more hands-on your customers can get, the more invested in your business they’ll be.
So anyway, go enjoy the games. But between the spectacular dunks and the fadeaway jumpers, pay attention. You just might learn something that will make your business championship caliber.