What Small Business Owners Can Learn From March Madness

Originally published on March 16, 2015 by Intuit Quickbooks Small Business Center

What Small Business Owners Can Learn From March Madness

March 16, 2015


Ahh, early spring — when a young person’s mind turns to thoughts of college basketball. Despite its nickname of “March Madness,” the NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament runs from March 17 through the first week of April this year. It’s one of the biggest events in college sports, but it’s not all house parties and office betting pools. As a small business owner, you can apply lessons of March Madness to your leadership and strategy.

Embrace Your Place on the Totem Pole

Not everybody comes to the tournament favored to win, just like not every small business is poised to become the next breakout corporation, but this isn’t necessarily a handicap. In 2013, Gonzaga University — a tiny private college in northeast Washington state — qualified for the tournament. Its clear underdog status made it a fan favorite, and although the team didn’t win the tournament their performance turned many who hadn’t heard of the school into avid fans. The team’s performance underscores the sometimes advantageous position of an underdog, a position in business that has been celebrated in the likes of Inc. magazine and the Harvard Business Review.

Sometimes, You Have to Make a Desperate Effort

Among the most dramatic and memorable moments of last year’s tournament were the multiple many-point comeback drives during the second half. We saw Shabazz Napier score 9 points overtime to move his Huskies forward, and the Longhorns beat Arizona State as the buzzer rang. Though few businesses have a ticking clock on their most valuable strategic goals, it can pay to put that kind of focused effort into a sprint toward something that could change the face of your company for the better. If you had to choose one goal for your business this year and chase it with everything you had, what would it be? More importantly, do you have a team that would be willing to push as hard as you to make it happen?

Love Your People

In 2010, West Virginia forward Da’Sean Butler ruined his knee coming down from a jump. A senior at the end of his college career, he dropped to the floor in obvious agony and — to put it simply — clearly “freaking out.” Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins hugged and held his athlete in front of the live audience until medical care got out to the field. It was obvious to millions of viewers nationwide that in that moment he had forgotten the game, the tournament, and everything except the welfare of this one member of his team. As a business owner, it can be easy to forget your star players are also human. Huggins’ actions at that moment are a poignant reminder of how important that is to remember.


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