Business Philosophy

What I learned today: Don’t flinch

Those who follow professional football are aware of the Indianapolis Colts’ perfect season thus far (14-0 as I write this). Even though the season is not yet over, the Colts have already set a record by coming back to win after being behind during the 4th quarter 7 times this season.  That means that in half of their victories so far, their perfect record was in serious jeopardy late into the game.  So what sets the Colts apart?  What special quality has allowed them to pull off this miraculous feat?

The answer is actually pretty simple.  They never flinch, even when a loss seems all but certain.  Consider the New England Patriots game this year.  The Colts were down by 17 in the middle of the 4th quarter.  No Bill Belichick (head coach of the New England Patriots) coached team had ever lost after being ahead by that many points in the 4th quarter.  Did the Colts panic?  Did they all of a sudden start trying a bunch of trick plays or make mass substitutions?  No.  Instead, they stuck with the players and the plays (i.e., their core attributes) that had not lost a game all year.  In short, they didn’t flinch, and they won as a result.

So what does this have to do with business, you ask?  Everything.  When times are rough and the pressure is on, good businesses stick to the core attributes that had gotten them that far.  They don’t try trick plays (e.g., a furniture store deciding to set up a gas pump out front to lure customers) or make mass substitutions (e.g., bringing in a team of consultants that can’t replace the knowledge and skills that the company’s management has cultivated over time).  Instead, they focus on what they do best, tap the minds and leadership skills of their management to improve upon what they do best, and plug away until they’ve won.  In the business world, victory is best defined as growing the value of your business from one year to the next.  In certain circumstances, such as the current economy we find ourselves in, victory is simply not losing money or value.  In extreme circumstances, victory is staving off bankruptcy.

We look for companies that understand, cultivate, and build upon their core attributes.  Those core attributes are proven winners, and we love consistency and predictability.  If a team has used the same quarterback and the same plays with success for years, we feel pretty good about our ability to predict how they will do in the future.  It’s when they bring in an unknown quarterback and a maverick offensive coordinator at the first sign of trouble that we start to question the competence of team management and the ability of the team to win games going forward.

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