Defense Wins Championships: In Football and Business Transtion
by Paul Cronin, partner STPI
OK, I am a New England Patriot's fan, but I have to give the New York Giants credit: their defense stood up to Tom Brady and the Pats in Super Bowl XLVI (46). The Pats had a stellar offense all year, but a mediocre defense. In the Super Bowl you need greatness on both sides; the Giants had it, the Pats did not.
As I looked at the players and coaches walking off the field, I began to wonder, what impact does an imbalanced team have on business owners?
Owners are supposed to balance sales, marketing, finance, operations, etc.,. But do owners really do so? As an owner myself, I can often feel pulled in many directions, but I love to present and to sell. If I (and other owners) neglect other, less interesting parts of the business, do we weaken ourselves? Do we allow competitors to slowly eat away at us? Even to overtake our lead?
So what is a strong "business defense"? - operational systems, marketing systems, sales systems, HR systems, strategic planning and finance systems.
These are hard to design, and harder to keep up, but systems are the "best defense" of a successful business. So what is the Offense? too often it's the "stars" or rainmakers, who sometimes shine brightly, then melt under the pressure of endlessly high standards. Owners may fall into the trap of letting the stars run things their way, or bypass systems, but without a strong defense, stars can bring a company down.
Other signs of a weak defense: "C" players who are kept on by owners for familial or personal reasons, as well as modest retirement savings. For owners who have run a business for a long time, thinking that selling will suddenly fund your retirement, you should check on your business defense before you buy that lakeside villa.
In sports, there's "always next year", but business can be less forgiving: you may not end up with a business championship (IPO, Sale, or Succession), but rather liquidation.
So what are a few things any business owner can do to beef up their defense?
1. Look at your systems and see how tough they are: written down, understood and regularly implemented by employees
2. Look at your staff to plan for weeding out the C players
3. Keep resumes of potential replacements of stars - they always leave
4. Make a personal financial plan with an advisor to increase your tax-deferred income
5. Research competitors, both for defense and for potential sale options
6. Spend some time figuring out what you want to do outside of the business - Plan for some fun, for some work and set some goals.
Otherwise, you may end up crying in your beer (like Pat's fans).
About the Author
Paul Cronin is partner and Director of Business Development at STPI, the Successful Transition Planning Institute of Cambridge, MA. STPI trains advisors to show owners and executives how to "Think", "Live" and "Decide" what to do with their companies and plan for a dynamic, new life. Paul can be reached at 978-749-9546, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+, or at Contact Us.
For more information, visit STPI, or see this video.