For a Winning Strategy Blend These 3 Elements: Energy, Effort and Desperation
A revered basketball coach taught his team that taking nothing for granted is how you tilt the odds in your favor.
I had the honor of being part of the McGill University varsity basketball program during my sophomore and junior years. Triumphant championship runs during those seasons have now faded in memory, but what remains steadfast is the remarkable influence our stalwart coach has on my business decisions on an everyday basis.
David DeAveiro, our team’s head coach, consistently forumulated our game plan, regardless of the opponent, on thre principles: energy, effort, desperation. His outlook was that all of his staff’s oppositional research and diligent scouting would ultimately save a few possessions, at best. Ultimately, the onus was on the players to manifest those three words. Where other coaches I have had would furiously scribble elaborate plays on the whiteboard, Coach Dave would simply have us ponder his elegantly written nine syllables. He pushed us to dig deep to supersede our personal expectations, treating every play like it was the last time we would set foot on a basketball court.
At halftime, whem the other teams talked press breaks or baseline out of bounds plays, Coach Dave compelled each player to introspectively consider how he could have pushed himself further. Coach Dave used indicators that were unconventional as a means of benchmarking his intangible concepts. Energy was marked by offensive rebounds, reflecting the tenacity to never give up on a play despite a missed shot.
Effort was apparent by the number of steals and blocked shots, resulting from the seemingly unrecognized dirty work necessary to catalyze transition opportunities and get easy baskets on the offensive end.
Finally, desperation was measured by the assist-to-turnover ratio, reflecting disciplined care of each possession while simultaneously moving the ball to facilitate “great, not good” scoring opportunities. We could be losing the game at halftime, but if we held steady on the course and heeded Coach Dave's words, we were confident we had a damn good chance of winning.
Much more often than not we did. Coach Dave fostered a winning culture by not relying on key playmakers to get “hot” in games and shoot better than statistics would anticipate. Outliers, like a player on the opposite team getting lucky and having the game of his life, were out of our control but we never succumbed or ceded control of the game.
Indeed, Coach Dave lectured us that we were our toughest opponents -- self-discipline on both sides of the ball would determine victory or defeat. It was his selfless, defense-first European style of basketball, predicated on heart and hustle, which led to several consecutive championship banners proudly raised in the McGill athletic center.
"Not made for defeat" was elegantly scribed on my inner bicep shortly after my time with Coach Dave. It is my homage to my lifelong veneration for Ernest Hemingway (“But man is not made for defeat…A man can be destroyed but not defeated”) and a reminder that in business, like basketball, we can be destroyed but never defeated if we stay true to the principles outlined by Coach Dave. At ROYCE, I work tirelessly to build a championship culture “locker room” akin to my McGill days.
While the metrics on the white board are different, Coach Dave’s words remain eternal: energy (number of hours worked of overtime), effort (percentage of new product developments and revenue streams created by non-Bauer family staff) and desperation (the proportion of our overhead to sales, or how efficient we are in utilizing our capital and labor in our hungry quest for higher profit margins) remain an integral part of the winning formula.
Thus far, the formula is working. Our championship banners -- New Jersey accolades including top family business, best small manufacturing firm and fastest growing company -- do not hang in the warehouse rafters as they come in the form of fancy plaques, but still they are available for all to admire. For that, we thank Coach Dave.
William Bauer is the managing director of ROYCE, a handcrafted American accessories brand based in New York City. His small-business marketing and entrepreneurial acumen have been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, BBC, CNN Money, and other prominent publications.