Legendary basketball coach John Wooden not only had some of the greatest players ever (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton to name just two) but he got them to play as a beautiful, harmonic team. Wooden’s UCLA teams won 10 NCAA championships between 1964 and 1975 and from 1971 to 1974, UCLA won 88 consecutive games, still a record in Men’s college basketball.
How does Wooden’s success apply to us now, while we work through a crisis in our small businesses? Let me tell you a few of his secrets; ideas you can use for your own business.
Start with the coach’s famous Pyramid of Success. Here’s my favorite story about this:
On the first day of practice every fall, every UCLA freshman was sat down and taught… how to tie his shoes.
According to Wooden, this was necessary for several reasons – basketball is played on your feet – but most importantly, it taught them the importance of little things, and how they add up.
“Little things make big things happen,” coach preached.
What does this have to do with your business? Everything.
All entrepreneurs want to create a great small business. The question is how. Of course, you need to serve the market with a valuable product or service, but just as importantly, you need to assemble and manage a great team that remembers little things make big things happen.
Here’s a simple two-step process that can help you do just that:
1. Maintain a Great Culture: What made UCLA basketball so special was not only that Coach Wooden was able to attract top talent, but that he got everyone on the team to buy into the system.
Yes, he had some Hall of Fame players, but he had a lot more players who were more mediocre than meteoric. The difference in his teams was that the coach had created a system where even a B recruit could act and look like an A player.
In your world this means that you need to create a special culture; one that rewards your people and allows them to do their best work. One where, when they thrive, the entire organization benefits.
At this moment in time our cultures are likely going to take a hit. Take time to connect with your employees while they’re home and ask about how they’re doing personally. How are their families? If they’re working remotely find ways to support them. If you’re able to still be paying employees who can’t work from home be as transparent as you can about the future of the company and the steps you’re taking to keep them employed.
Additional reading: How to Help Your Employees Focus as They Work from Home
If you create the type of business and business culture where employees are treated well, where they feel appreciated, and where they are rewarded for a job well done, you will have created a small business culture that will reap tremendous rewards. Your people will love being part of it and will work hard to make sure you are a success.
2. Recruit (And Hang Onto!) Great Talent: Over the years, the best small businesses I have come across have a few things in common and one of them is that the owner knows his or her strengths, brings in people who can fill the gaps, and then lets them do just that.
The best small business owners are not micro-managers.
To assemble a special team, you need to employ people who fit and buy into your vision. You need people who are smart, savvy, dedicated, and coachable. People who see the big picture but who also are willing to pitch in on any level when times are tough.
Then you need to coach them. Show them what you expect and bring out the best in them.
This two-step system – recruiting great talent and then giving them an opportunity to shine – is the key to creating a great team, an exceptional team– a team that can work together to keep your business strong through a difficult time.