What makes a losing business suddenly turn around and become successful?

Assuming the economy hasn’t changed and the competition is still as fierce as ever, what’s the thing that could make the difference?

As a marketer my natural inclination would be to say, “More effective marketing”, but that’s not always theswiss ice hockey team case, especially when the business is a sports team who needs to perform.

As some of you know, Barbara is still in Switzerland and this story caught her attention.

The Ice Hockey World Championships is on in Europe. The countries competing are a who’s who of the Ice Hockey world – including the USA and Canada.

And as you probably figured, Switzerland is fielding a team.

However, Switzerland has not been a major player and hasn’t won a medal since 1953 – 60 years!

However, this year’s been different. They won 9 straight games – even beating world champions, Czechoslovakia (who are 12 time world champions), as well as Canada and Sweden, which is no mean feat.

So obviously something’s changed. But what?

It’s been a rough few years for the team. It received a lot of flak with calls for the Canadian coach to be sacked. However, the head coach appears to have stuck to his guns and believed in the Canadian and his methods of small, but continuous improvement with a focus on team building and skill development.

And it appears to have paid off.

These are some of the points the Swiss head coach made in a recent interview… Points that apply to any business leader.

When asked if he got nervous during the games, he replied “Of course, but you have to have faith and trust in the team to do the right thing. Yes there is a portion of luck, but the wins were earned.”

The biggest danger with winning the first 8 games in a row was over confidence. It’s easy to lose focus, think you’re on a winning streak and come crashing back to earth.

Another major difference this time around was the lack of downtime. The players trained during breaks in the schedule. They kept their skills as well as their mental state at a peak level.

The head coach worked very hard to make sure his team knew they were elite performers while at the same time not singling out any individual stars. They were a 25 man team, each with their own particular skill set.

Each player had approximately the same amount of time on the ice, evenly distributing the workload. There were no favourites, no quarrels or petty jealousies or sub cultures which could threaten the overarching goal of winning the championship. Egos were firmly in pockets with a focus on teamwork rather than their own agendas.

Having everyone take an active part meant no one mentally disengaged and the whole team was focused on one thing – winning.

Being a team of equals, every game brought out extraordinary performances in at least one player. But as there were no obvious individual stars, everyone basks in the reflected glory.

So what are the parallels in any business?

The old saying, “No man is an island” is as true today as it ever was.

Success ultimately comes down to team work. And how you select and lead your team is crucial.

Teams need to have well-defined goals, know their individual as well as group responsibilities and be accountable for their actions and performance. Individuals need to look out for each other building up trust.

In my book, every member from the cleaner to the MD should be shown the same level of respect, regardless of their position or salary. Everyone has a job to do. Imagine working in a pigsty because there were no cleaners!

Cohesive teams don’t usually develop overnight. It takes time and shared experiences. Every win builds more trust and self-esteem. And a few losses don’t hurt either!

The Swiss coach went on to say, “Developing a winning team takes a lot of time and effort and most importantly a vision everybody involved needs to share, as well as a structure to achieve it. No success happens overnight. But commitment and hard work and good talent spotting are not to be underestimated.

Never stop, keep moving forward, and look for new ways and opportunities. Stopping is losing and missing out. Don’t sit on your laurels. And sometimes we have to go through difficult times and not give up. Just pull through it.”

Wise words indeed.

STOP PRESS: Just found out that the Swiss team won the Silver Medal – the first time since 1935! They lost 5-1 to Sweden who are one of the giants in the ice hockey field. No shame here!

And here’s a bit of encouragement for all of us who aren’t naturally talented in whatever field we’re in.

A New York Times article, “Beyond the Glitter, a Career Marked by Hard Work” points out that while David Beckham was talented, he didn’t come close to the likes of Pelé, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi, Ronaldo or Zidane. He was gifted; they were gods, in the sporting sense.

“A natural gift to strike a ball — to bend it as the saying goes — was honed by year after year, day after day on the training field.

A willingness to run until it hurt, and then try to run some more, was in his nature. That raw determination was drawn from him, and from the gifted apprentices Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, and Gary and Phil Neville, by Alex Ferguson, helping to forge the manager’s illustrious career at Manchester United.

Again, Beckham was not the most naturally talented of that bunch. Giggs was swifter and more graceful on the ball by far. Scholes had what is known as a soccer brain, a rare ability to make decisions for the whole team, as few in English sport ever could.”

Nothing comes for free. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Or at least success that lasts.

It takes vision, guts and determination to succeed. Where are you at?

Finally, over the years we’ve delivered a huge amount of sales training and coaching developing individuals and teams in the area of complex, specialised selling.

Some of the individuals and teams we’ve worked with have improved to the point of being worldwide leaders in their respective fields.

So if you and/or your team sell high value products or services where competition is rife and customers keep trying to beat you down in price, we can help you rise above your competition and close significantly more business.

Call us on (02) 9499-7958 to get your teams humming and more business in the door, sooner.

Barbara & Rashid.

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