Is your team focusing on the fundamentals?


I had the chance to watch Hoosiers over the holidays – it had been a long time since I’d seen it (and the rest of the family hadn’t seen it!).  Great movie – I’d highly recommend catching it again!

If you’re not familiar with the movie – it was made in 1986 and it’s the story about a basketball coach (Gene Hackman) who gets a final chance at redemption by coaching at a very small rural Indiana school.

Although it’s a very small school they have some talented players and reasons to believe they can compete but they’re undisciplined and raw when the coach makes it to town.

One of the things that stood out to me is the coach’s approach to bringing the team around – early on he tells the team:

“I’ve seen you guys can shoot but there’s more to the game than shooting. There’s fundamentals and defense.”

There’s more to the game than shooting…now how would that apply to small business owners? (you knew I was going to tie this into business somehow didn’t you…?)

The key to the team’s success in the long run was focusing on the fundamentals of the game.  Coach Dale purposely breaks the team down and builds it back up focusing on fundamentals…things like requiring the team to make 4 passes before they can look for a shot, running specific plays and defense, even when they’re getting beaten.

For a business owner the fundamentals are all about getting back to basics, making sure that you are focused on a few key principles.  There’s a great article in the New York Times on The Top 10 Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail, the author does a great job of cutting through the noise and laying out concrete reasons that a lot of businesses struggle.

In short – they aren’t focused on the fundamentals.  Here’s my take on some the key fundamentals that you need to get right in your business – let me know what I miss:

1. Knowing the value you add to your customers

Is there a market for what you do?  What do people actually pay you for?  Are you clearly communicating that value in everything you say and do?  Are you single-mindedly focused on that value or are you chasing a lot of other things?

2. The business model makes money and there’s future opportunities

Can you make enough money to meet your goals?  How about enough money to meet payroll?  Could you make it if your biggest client left tomorrow?  Do you have enough cushion / runway in terms of savings to hang on until things turn around?  Can you conservatively map out a profit in the next year?

3. Ability to deliver value consistently, predictably and without killing yourself

A lot of business owners are good at what they do, but they are single handedly doing all of the work and doing it in a haphazard way (that makes it unpredictable and impossible to scale).  You fundamentally have to be able to deliver your value…even when you aren’t there.

4. Clear idea of what’s going on in your business

Could you print out a list of your hot leads right now?  Do you know how much money is coming in and going out this month?  How about this week?  How profitable are your products or services?  What metrics are you tracking?

5. A short term and long term direction that’s clear and understood by all

Are you consistently evaluating where you are, where you want to be and how you’re going to get there?  Are you investing the time and effort to consistently lead your business and make improvements? Is everyone on your team using the same playbook (do they all know what’s going on)?

If you’re in good shape on the 5 fundamentals listed above, then your business is probably in good shape!

What fundamentals did I miss?  How are you faring on the ones that I listed?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach