Practice and Playing – Different in Sports, Entertainment and Business

August 31, 2017

There have been many comparisons between sports and business. I know because I have made many of them myself. And while there are similarities there are major differences that can cause problems in business if you don’t adapt the concept from entertainment and sports and make the necessary adjustments.

These thoughts crystallized as I watched Guns and Roses perform last Thursday night at Investor’s Group Field.

In entertainment, musicians:

  • Perform their concert for up to 3 hours
  • Perform two to three times per week (not usually every day)
  • Travel in between shows to another city
  • Practice in between shows and sound check the day of the show
  • Do not tour all year
  • Spend time writing new songs or recording a new album
  • Don’t have great energy and put in a mediocre performance (no refund for fans)

In sports, here are some of the highlights of a season:

  • NFL = 16 games; CFL = 18 games; NHL and NBA = 82 games; MLB = 162 games
  • Most seasons are 8 to 9 months depending on how far a team progresses through the playoffs
  • The off season can be at least half a year
  • You don’t play every day (although it seems like baseball does)
  • the actual games are only 3 to 4 hours max
  • Most players do not even play the full 60 minutes of a match
  • More time is spent on training, practice and preparation than actually playing
  • Have an off game where they miss easy shots, drop balls or play poorly (no refund for fans)

In business, employees:

  • Work 35 to 40+ hours each week
  • Typically get 2 to 4 weeks vacation (not usually used for training but rest and relaxation)
  • May receive between 8 and 40 hours training each year
  • Have to perform at peak proficiency for each customer or business interaction
  • Too many mediocre interactions or mistakes may result in dismissal
  • Training programs may get removed because of a need for budget cuts

You can see that the similarities between the operation of sports/entertainment and regular business is minimal. A focus on daily activities in business, adjusting on the fly, and a need for optimal performance is what most people have to do each and every day. I am certain that some people would love to have the “easy life” of sports figures and entertainers.

Let me also clarify that the sports stars and entertainers have invested a lifetime of deep practice and work to perfect their craft. Because of the high intensity of the games/concerts in their respective fields the practice and preparation is absolutely essential to deliver a winning performance.

Top performers in business also spend their extra time to prepare and provide themselves with a leg up on their colleagues and competition. Sales reps that study techniques and take training programs and then apply what they learned will be better over the long haul compared to someone who just shows up and puts in their 8 hours each day. I am not advocating a 24 x 7 mindset because this leads to burnout. I am suggesting that you must make an extra investment in yourself so that you can increase your chances for success.

It is what you do in the dark that leads to your success in the light. What do you do to get better in your business role when you are not at work?

There is a wonderful quote from Martin Luther King:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Everyone should strive to be their best and make the investments in themselves to achieve their true potential. We are not all going to be the MVP or the President of the company. But we can all be the best version of ourselves. No one can ask more of another person than this. And if every employee gave their best each day in every customer interaction or meeting with a co-worker, the productivity and success of organizations would climb through the roof as well.

You Must Know the Context

August, 24, 2017


Marketers, indeed any one conducting analysis for their organization, have become reliant on Big Data. Why? Well, there is a lot of data and following the adage of “the more the merrier” people generally tend to view more data as better for them to analyze.

“All our bases are covered”

“We know more now that ever before”

“Where did we get all this?”

In my experience with a client and great friend whose company focuses on identity solutions, I have learned that stored data often has many faults. These can include:

  • duplicate entries (in some industries these duplicate rates are as high as 30%)
  • incorrect entries (often leading to duplicates)
  • incomplete entries (how can you analyze what you don’t have?)
  • stale entries (old accounts that have not been active in years

This is just the database information that exists in most companies and is usually in the billing system or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.  When you start to add data from other systems, such as SalesForce, and any market research data you see how overwhelming the analysis can become. This is one of the main reason why industry pundits talk about the need for Chief Marketing Officers to be data or tech savvy.

One piece I often see missing in the analysis is the understanding of the context in which the data was collected. If you only gain market research surveys from dissatisfied customers you are not analyzing a true picture of your customer base. If you are only analyzing surveys from satisfied customers you are missing important insights from those customers that did not have a good experience with you.

When you look at the data in your database you must understand how current and relevant the data is. you should:

  • know when it was last scrubbed to remove errors and how and who did the work
  • have confidence that the right tool was used to reduce or remove duplicates
  • ensure records are properly combined to provide a holistic view of the customer. For example, is Tim Kist = T. W. Kist = Timothy Kist? Or is each one  a separate entry?

Just think about the impact on your projections if you have a 15% duplicate rate in your database that is not fixed. Your sales projections are going to be off by 15% with this customer group. Not a good situation when you are presenting your year end results.

Knowing the context of your data and how it was collected can provide you with more confidence in the data being analyzed and the results of your analysis. And with confidence comes trust that any business decisions made with this data are going to be solid. You will actually be analyzing the metrics that are important for your business.

This is hard work that is essential to help you better understand your customers and plan your future sales and customer programs. And it will help you increase and improve your opportunities for success. When doing analytics “context is king.”


Back to Basics

August, 17, 2017

Thanks for reading the first official post to my new website.  As I sat down to type, I wondered what would be important for people to read related to business performance improvement and marketing success?

Back in late 1988 and early 1989, I wrote a four part series for a retail focused magazine called “Sports Business“.  The magazine doesn’t exist anymore (I hope it wasn’t a result of my writing).  Yet, when I reread the articles this week I was so disappointed to see that all four topics were still relevant today.  Yes, nearly 30 years later, and despite all the technological advancements and social media saviours, companies have not addressed the basic aspects of:

  • knowing your customer (market research)
  • annual business plan
  • building on the basics (the 4Ps – product, place, price and promotion)
  • customer service (how you deal with your paying customers and how you treat your employees that provide the service)

I believe today’s challenge is the immediate gratification that we have for everything material and we have skipped the business basics in our search for a silver bullet solution.

Let me focus on the basics in today’s post. I am an old school marketer that believes in the 4Ps and the concept of strategy first with focused execution of the strategy.  My beliefs were reinforced this year when I taught an Introduction to Marketing course at the University of Manitoba in the Extended Education faculty.  After teaching, I was retained to develop the content for the course that forms the base for all future instructors.  And yes, I will be teaching it again this winter.

While I was creating the content according to the textbook, “Marketing, 10th Canadian edition by Crane et al” , I was heartened that the authors have really reinforced the core marketing principles as foundational elements of business success. Knowing your customer and being aware of your operating environment are important to monitor on an ongoing basis and feed this into your internal assessment process to determine if any changes are required for the execution of your plan.

I see too many people and companies that do not commit to this marketing vigilance and look for a quick fix instead. There is a strategy of “hope”, when hope is not a strategy for success.  They “hope” that their Facebook campaign will solve their problems because it is the third largest country in the world.  Oh wait, some companies cannot sell outside their province but the senior leaders are enamored with the fact they can access 1.2 billion people. And yet they really cannot so their plan is going to fail miserably.

Check out this link to Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian, where he provides terrific third party research that shows the ineffectiveness of mobile advertising, supposedly the next marketing “must have” tool.  Read the comments as one contributor talks about old school newspaper coupons compared to digital responses and the coupon results are far superior:

I suggest that companies are flocking to mobile advertising because everyone is doing it.  .

It is the hottest trend in marketing because the growth and investment proves it. Right?Actually, although more money is being invested the results are obviously not there as evidenced with the research shown in Bob’s column today.

My Dad used to say “if your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you?” Well, Dad, I think you can apply this thought to companies today as everyone flocks to digital solutions with no strategy.

Companies like P&G and King’s Hawaiian (great buns!) are less digitally focused and looking for other ways (traditional media) to ensure their message is being properly delivered where you know potential customers are. I’ll be covering this in more detail in a future post.

We need to go back to basics.  And we need to be disciplined in the execution of these marketing basics so you can achieve performance improvement for your business.