Vail Daily column: Business lessons from sports |

Vail Daily column: Business lessons from sports

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership
Vail, CO Colorado

The business community has much to learn from sports – from teamwork and collaboration to leadership and ethics and the impacts of hard work and the results of greed.

Some examples:


Nick Saban, Alabama football coach: One the great lessons from Nick Saban is his “process.” A key part of Saban’s “process” is scrutinizing what he did wrong when he wins. Most everyone examines their losses, but the key is that “winning” is rarely perfect either. Saban’s belief is that the way to get better is to study your success as well as your challenges and ask: How could I have done better? Although I have no love for Mr. Saban, his “process” and application to business are nearly endless.

The business lesson? Strive for continued improvement in all aspects of your operation, and take the time to learn from your victories as well as your defeats.

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Baseball Hall of Fame: earlier this winter, the Baseball Writers Association did not elect anyone into the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996. Kudos for keeping known steroid cheaters out of the Baseball Hall of Fame as these men made conscious choices to cheat the game and cheat the customers.

The business lesson? Cheating may have short-term impacts, but eventually you’ll get caught and will need to face the long-term consequences.

Lance Armstrong: Armstrong had denied doping allegations dating back to 1999 and had a seemingly storybook ending with cancer recovery and numerous Tour de France “victories.” Turns out he was a notorious cheater, a world-class liar and the biggest bully around.

The business lesson? It takes years to build your brand, but you can lose all your equity quickly if you think the rules don’t apply to you.

Hard work

Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson: The NFL this past season saw two of the most remarkable comeback seasons in memory, with Denver’s own Peyton Manning recovering from four neck surgeries and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson recovering from an ACL knee surgery to have arguably the best years of their respective (distinguished) careers. How did each of these men rebound from the surgeon’s table to lead their teams to the playoffs and collect individual awards? Hard work. As an employee, work harder than everyone else and you’ll earn the results and the resulting accolades. As an employer, reward those that work hardest for your organization as their leadership will pull up the rest of the team and result in increasingly better results.

The business lesson? While the buzzword of “work smarter, not harder” is all the rage, it’s uncommon to have a top producer that isn’t among the hardest workers, putting in the time to dedicate themselves to both individual and team success.

Teamwork and collaboration

Teams, be it in sports or in the workplace, require collaboration in order to be successful and reach their potential. When the going gets tough and everyone goes in different directions, the sum of the parts does not equal the whole. Look no further than the recent self-described “Dream Team,” the Philadelphia Eagles, who self-destructed and resulted in the firing of their longtime coach. Or look at the current Los Angeles Lakers, with multiple future hall-of-famers and all-stars, who may be the most selfish team in history and who’s record doesn’t nearly match their talent.

The business lesson? Quit spending time and effort on non-productive activities such as finger pointing and blaming others and instead work as a team to “fight above your weight class.”

Greed vs. pride

NHL: The National Hockey League had a lockout that cost the sport about half its season this year, which followed a lockout in the late ’90s that cost them a season. They’ve never fully rebounded from this and lag far behind football, basketball and baseball in the sports realm. At the very core, what happened is that player greed clashed with owner pride – with no winners. Similarly, in a business setting, employees and management can clash over pay rates, benefits or service levels, resulting in equally negative impacts to that business.

The business lesson? There are no winners when employee greed continues to clash with owner pride and the likely result is a diminished product with less customers and ultimately no winners.

Ultimately, sports are not business, nor is business sport. Nonetheless, these analogies and lessons from the sporting world can be applied to our business environment. The overarching lesson to be learned and applied to our business is that it’s important to build a culture of collaboration and teamwork for the good of the organization and to avoid a culture of “win at all costs” or selfishness.

Chris Romer is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.

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