Winning the Small Business Championship

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Because I write a Q and A column for USA TODAY every week, I necessarily hear from a lot of small business owners. Sometimes they have questions, other times a beef, and happily, still others, a compliment. But of everything I hear, and all of the stories that are shared, one question and one answer seem to come through most often:

How do other people grow their businesses and how can I grow mine?

The answer: Well, of course, there are a lot of different answers, after all, how could I write a column on the subject for more than a dozen years if there were not? But that said, the common denominator of those companies that do best is . . . what?

Yes, they have a great product or service, and yes, they may have some secret sauce, a great location, or a superior plan, but that’s not all of it. From what I see, the shared quality that sets the best apart from the good and the good apart from the mediocre is one thing: A great team.

When VCs look to invest in a startup, what do they look at first of all? The management team. When a company beats expectations and grows, who actually beats those expectations? The people in the company. And when I see a company that has navigated the sometimes choppy waters of business and has gone on to create something special, the main reason is usually the team.

And I bet that if you think about it, it is the people around you and the quality of your relationships that is a main reason that you are successful in your profession too, whether you are an entrepreneur, employee, manager, or what have you. Great teams create great businesses.

The upshot of that is that you need to be very discerning about whom you let into your circle and onto your team because the inverse relationship is also true: If you surround yourself with mediocre players, your team is not going to win the championship.

Indeed, this is one place where a sports analogy really works:

Your business is a team. You are playing to win. And like a sports team that gets to play for the championship, you too need to have great players who know their roles, who are dedicated to the whole, who share the same vision, who makes their teammates better, and who are willing to pass the ball so that everyone wins.

Do that, and the small business championship will be yours.