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Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lessons from the San Antonio Spurs for Your Business’ Success

While most folks are not as big of sports fanatics as I am, there are quite a few individuals worldwide that were following the past few months’ worth of playoffs action for the National Basketball Association. In fact, Nielsen ratings say that 22.4 million viewers watched Game 5 of the NBA Finals, where the San Antonio Spurs hosted the Miami Heat in a rematch of last year’s Finals. As a huge fan of the San Antonio Spurs, I was especially pleased with how things panned out for the NBA championship as the Spurs won their 5th title in 15 years, but the implications of this year’s Finals don’t end there.
          This year’s championship run for the San Antonio Spurs basketball team is an excellent example of the parallels between sports and business.  First and foremost, like any company, a successful sports team needs strong leadership.  While I might be a tad bit biased, I believe Gregg Popovich is the absolute best NBA basketball coach, exemplified by him winning his third NBA Coach of the Year award earlier this year, and the team trusts him completely. Likewise, R. C. Buford (the General Manager for the San Antonio Spurs) was rewarded for his excellence in leadership with the 2013 – 14 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year award. Plus, there is a good deal of leadership on the court as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been together as “the big three” for the San Antonio Spurs for the past 12 years, throughout 4 of the Spurs’ championships.
2014 NBA Champions

During the 2013 NBA Finals, having won the opening game in Miami, the San Antonio Spurs seemed to have the championship in hand as they went back to Miami for Games 6 and 7 in the “best of 7 series” with a 3-2 lead, needing only one more win to clinch the trophy. Yet, that just wasn’t to happen as the Spurs let a 5-point lead disappear over the final 28 seconds in Game 6, where the Heat pulled away to win in overtime and, subsequently, used that momentum to secure the championship in Game 7. It would have been easy for R. C. Buford to have considered the team a failure, blowing it all up and starting from scratch the next season. Instead, the Spurs’ organization used this experience to pull together, refocus and instill persistence in achieving its goals. Through this, they exhibited the definition of TEAM in that “Together, Everyone Achieves More”.

This year’s team successes for the San Antonio Spurs exhibited key traits of successful businesses. Anyone watching the Spurs play saw their approach to teamwork… Passing the ball more on each possession than any of their opponents, trusting teammates to be in the right position at the right time to fulfill their roles, communicating clearly as to what is needed of each role player and each team member dedicating himself 100% to the specific role asked of that individual. This unified team pulled together a group of stellar athletes to win the Finals series against “the best player” in the NBA.

As the NBA opens up free agency today, I find it fitting to spotlight one of the many ways in which the San Antonio Spurs set themselves up for being such a tremendous team. When Tim Duncan negotiated his most recent contract back in 2012, he went from making $21.5 million in one season to $9.65 million the next. This wasn’t because Tim Duncan couldn’t get paid more… Absolutely not! Instead, Tim Duncan approached the San Antonio Spurs’ management team with a goal of freeing money for the team to sign other free agents that could support Duncan, Parker and Ginobili as the team moved towards winning more championships, helping the Spurs avoid the NBA’s luxury tax penalty. It is with this complete team that the San Antonio Spurs are able to excel in a team sport such as basketball, empowering each member of the team to fulfill his specified role. When each team member does his own part, the combination of those roles is a winning team. Wow… What a concept!

Do you have a favorite team in collegiate or professional sports? If so, how does that team exhibit principles that make it successful similar to success in the business world? Are there things your sports team does that could benefit your company and how can you implement those tactics for your own success?