What can team sports teach us about running an OPE business?

By Jeff Sheets

Sports in general can teach us many life lessons, but team sports have the ability to show us how much more each of us can accomplish with the help of others. A successful business is very similar. You can be the best OPE dealership owner and possess the most knowledge, but without contributions from your employees, the business won’t go very far.

I have seen great service technicians who decided they wanted to start their own OPE business, but had a terrible time making it work because they were so used to doing everything on their own. A business that grows and develops needs more than one person to make that happen. As an owner, you need to develop your employees as a team that sees the greater good in working together to accomplish something better.

Here are four benefits that will apply to your business when you develop it as a team.

#1 Collaboration/cooperation

I hate to burst your bubble, but no one person has all the answers. On most teams, there are not just head coaches, but also assistant coaches helping the head coach who can’t be everywhere and do everything all the time. Sometimes, an assistant coach might have a better strategy for achieving success. A good head coach listens to the assistant coaches and then takes the best ideas and applies them, knowing that if the team succeeds, it benefits everyone and encourages even more cooperation/collaboration.

I am a big Kansas City Royals fan, and I read an article on KC Manager Ned Yost in 2014, which was the year the Royals lost the World Series to the San Francisco Giants in seven games, only to bounce back and win it in five games against the New York Mets in 2015. In the article, Yost was quoted as saying, “If you’re really honest with yourself, you have to identify and understand your limitations. And then, whatever your limitations are, you try to strengthen them with the people around you.” Yost puts such a premium on listening to his staff that he tends to take their advice over his. He coached for a long time before he reached this conclusion, and look at the winning results!

#2 Planning and strategizing to win

Most teams can’t go into a game without any preparation and still win the game. It takes planning and strategy to give you the best chance to win, so you need to prepare. Sometimes, I walk into businesses and ask them what is their five-year goal, and all I hear is crickets because they haven’t been looking ahead. They are so focused on the day-to-day and week-to-week operations that they really have no strategy.

Do you like your product mix? What other lines are available for you next year? Is there a new service you want to add next year? In five years, do you need to be in a different location? You can see the questions are endless, but your answers are going to be what that drives you to succeed — not just remaining the same as you were last year or two years ago. The old saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail,” is a great lesson here.

When I think of coaches who are outstanding at planning, I think of Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. The guy always seems to be looking ahead and really one step ahead of all other coaches in the National Football League. I like Belichick’s quote, “To live in the past is to die in the present.” We need to look to the future no matter how much success we have had in the past.

#3 Give respect, get respect

For a sports team to jell, respect is a very important part of the equation. Mutual respect between employer and employees is also a by-product of being a good team. If your leadership helps the employees become more successful and earn more money, because the business continues to grow and you do it the right way, then respect will be very mutual. When this type of respect is nurtured, then you have the chance for a long-time employee who will continue to be successful because of mutual trust. Even when you disagree with those on your team, if you have mutual respect, then you will resolve your differences diplomatically rather than just trying to force people to do what you need them to do.

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke men’s basketball coach, perhaps put it best when he said, “I have a rule on my team: When we talk to one another, we look each other right in the eye, because I think it’s tough to lie to somebody. You give respect to somebody.”

#4 Perseverance/determination

The old saying is “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” When you’re the member of a team, there can be many times when the odds are stacked against you to win, but a big hit or play can change the complexion and outcome of the game.

I also happen to be a big Kansas University (KU) men’s basketball fan and got the opportunity to go to a KU game against longtime nemesis Missouri. It was the last Big 12 Conference game played between the two teams before Missouri joined a different conference. KU was losing by as many as 19 points in the second half, but rallied to force the game into overtime and eventually won it. Needless to say, it was thrilling to see, but a game like that can bond a team in a way that nothing else can, because the team realizes it can overcome difficult circumstances.

In business, there are going to be times where the economy is down and your business is merely hanging on. But when your team makes it through those difficult times, you will find a renewed sense of “team.” You should make sure that you document what happened to your business during those tough times, so you and your team never forget them and can appreciate the good times even more.

Generally, all of us have some team sport experience. We have played on or even coached teams. If you’ve coached, then you understand how hard it is to create a great team because so many factors and personalities are involved. You fight the same thing in your business, and trying to mold all of your employees into one cohesive unit can be challenging. I favor establishing team goals that reward employees for finding ways to contribute toward the team’s overall success and help them develop a sense of team spirit moving forward to achieve future team goals. It might mean raising funds for a not-for-profit organization or working together in a contest of some sort. Whatever way you choose to do it, developing your staff into a team can be a major factor in really pushing your business toward achieving greater success. Here are a couple of quotes that illustrate my point. I like the following quote from management expert Ken Blanchard: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” And Andrew Carnegie, famous businessman, once said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together for a common vision — the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to obtain uncommon results.” Develop your business into a team like this, and you will never regret it.

Jeff SheetsJeff Sheets is the founder and owner of OPE Consulting Services. Whether a business is thriving or struggling to survive, Sheets’ rich experience in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors allows him to partner with business owners to customize unique strategies for their needs. For the past 11 years, he has worked extensively with hundreds of outdoor power equipment dealers to create best practices in business structure, personnel management and financial profitability. For more information, he may be contacted at opeconsultingservices@gmail.com or (816) 260-5430. You can also follow him on Twitter @opeconsult, connect with him on LinkedIn, and visit his website at www.opeconsultingservices.com.