A Former College Basketball Coach on Building a Winning Franchise Investment Essay
Basketball is now in full swing, and I would be lying if I didn’t confess that I miss the action. Today, I watch the game as a fan, agonize over my two sons’ teams (both sons are basketball coaches) and consult with former peers about their teams. Now, I compete on the Sport Clips Haircuts cutting floor, rather than the gym floor, as a franchise owner.
I spent most of my life involved in basketball. I grew up in the state of Indiana and lived the movie Hoosiers in real life, right down to the tough coach and the corn fields. I even married the head cheerleader to whom I am still married to today.
Basketball was the center of everything we did, it seemed. I went to college on a full basketball scholarship and studied business while in school. Basketball was the impetus for pretty much whatever I did or accomplished in life. I coached basketball in college for 33 years before deciding to “semi-retire” and defer back to my business interests.
I got involved with Sport Clips, first as a client of many years, and now as a franchisee. My reputation as a coach was that of a “program builder.” We built seven programs into winners, won nearly 500 games in total, and took all seven to the post-season tournaments. All but one of the programs we took over was failing before our arrival. Many had never experienced any winning seasons in their histories.
Now, as a Sport Clips franchisee I have taken on the task of building another program, in this case a local business of a large franchise, into a winner. Except, in this challenge we aren’t judged by wins and losses per se. We are measured by profits and losses. Our Sport Clips store has grown from an idea to now competing in the game of commerce. So, here are my coaching tips on building a winning franchise investment:
When you are organized, you tend to be surprised less and prepared more for the many things that can surface during the course of the day. As a coach, I always impressed upon our staff and players that the better organized program can win many games before they are even played. Running a business is no different. If you are not organized, then you are forfeiting opportunities each day and not even aware you are doing so.
Knowing your competition and what it will take to succeed against them is a great deterrent to complacency. Preparedness in basketball or business can take many forms, but the bottom line is, if you aren’t prepared then don’t be surprised when you fall short of goals.
Have a personal business philosophy that aligns with your franchise
Successful basketball coaches have a coaching philosophy that permeates their strategies. There are many philosophies to choose from in coaching: defensive oriented, fast-break offensive style, half-court attack, three-point style, etc. A successful coach’s philosophy usually fits his or her personality, adapts to team composition and is consistent year to year. My philosophy of coaching was based on good fundamentals, aggressive defense, up-tempo offense, and flexibility for seasonal adjustments. We wanted our fans to enjoy their experience and want to come back to watch the next game, buy a season ticket, become involved as a booster, grow with our program, etc.
In business I have carried over that philosophy of “building a championship experience” for our clients and staff. Develop your business philosophy so that your employees want to work for you and that your clients want to come back.
Work ethic is key to success
You hear in the media about the coaches in basketball who say goodbye to their families before the season begins and hello again after the season ends. It's mostly true. I found some balance along the way, but for the most part being a coach can consume you. The same is true for business owners.
Successful coaches can comfortably function without feeling like they must spend every waking hour in the gym. They are the ones who can delegate to staff and subordinates better than others. But to be successful, you have to put the work in. My intent as a franchise owner and employer is the same as it was while coaching — if the hardest working person in the organization is the leader, you have a greater chance of having others follow that lead. Don't be afraid to put the work in.
Encourage others around you
One regret I have about coaching is that I wish I had handed out more daily praise. I had the privilege to coach and work with many tremendous people; however, I tended to focus too much on their shortcomings without balancing it with recognition of their successes. I was so focused on building a winning program that I sometimes came up short in that regard.
People perform better when you fuel their passion for the task ahead. Don’t be afraid to let them know how well they are doing in addition to some constructive criticism. A motivated workforce is always a better workforce.
Get creative and shake things up
My favorite aspect of coaching basketball was the opportunity to be creative. Thinking outside of the box is a quality successful people share in all facets of life. I loved tinkering with the game of basketball to come up with new ways to do things, such as making in-game adjustments to mess up the other team’s plan. Keeping things fresh will keep your team alert as well as keep you at the top of your game.
I consider business creativity to be equally important. Don’t let your employees or customers become stagnant. Keep things moving, exciting, and look for ways to separate your business from your competitor's. It takes some daring to be creative, so go for it!
All-in-all, the greatest similarity between coaching and business is the competitive nature of the people involved. If you are not focused on driving your team or your franchise to win, then your chances of succeeding are pretty dismal. But, if you come from a background where the points on the board matter, the transition is natural. The biggest difference will simply be how you keep score.
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