There are critics who argue that sports pay hommage to inflated salaries and offer a distraction from real life but when it comes to business - sports might have a few points worth taking notice.
Goal Oriented Excellence
Every year, thirty-two NFL teams compete for the chance to be in the Super Bowl (one of the most watched televised events ever). Thirty MLB teams take aim at a shot of playing in the World Series. For Basketball, it's all about the Finals and for Hockey, the Stanley Cup reigns supreme. The winners receive praise, parades, record book titles, tons of confetti and possibly a shower from a cooler full of gatorade.
How does this translate to business? These teams all set out with a very clear goal in mind. Sure, for some teams it's a more reachable achievement but even for the lowest ranking team - it's a tangeable and measureable objective. Does your business have this kind of focus every quarter? year? Do you give your team (employees, managers, sales force) clear direction to achieve excellence? Most businesses just focus on the daily, weekly or monthly sales figures but employees are more likely to work together and perform consistently (or even raise their level of performance) if there is a substantial goal in sight. AND the reward has got to be worth it. People don't perform for a pat on the back. They like to feel like their efforts are appreciated and important.
Business Take-away: Give your team a measurable goal that offers a substantial reward if achieved.
We cheer on our teams to win but lets not forget that we equally celebrate individual performance. Awards are given for specific achievements in team roles (offense or defense or position) as well as overal 'valuable' contribution to the season and usually results in...drumroll...more money. Ooooh yes, we did just use the 'M' word which we understand every small business owner obsesses over. We know you might be cringing at the idea of offering a monetary bonus for individual performance but hear us out.
Fran Tarkington, NFL Hall of Famer and Entrepreneur says, "The best in sports are celebrated because they've earned it. It's a pure meritocracy and if you can perform, then you will be rewarded."
This is what you are already doing. You started your business believing that if you came up with innovative ideas, put in hard work and long hours to build a business that delivers value to customers - that you will be rewarded. People will continue coming back to your business for it's value and customer experience and you will actually make a profit and possibly grow into a bigger business. You already believe in meritocracy! You're employees believe it too and most will be willing to step up their game if they believe you'll notice and reward them for it.
Business Take-away: Give your employees individual goals as well as group goals.
We can hear you. "Yes, but I don't have the money to offer financial incentives." We understand. We're all in the same boat. Is there an easy answer? Yes, though you may not like it.
If you want to be a big(ger) business - you need to think like one FIRST.
Becoming a bigger and more successful requires you to think outside of your small business box. Push your standards of thinking. What would you do differently if money wasn't the issue? We're not asking you to go broke. We're asking you to think about ways to motivate your team to perform beyond their current level. That requires an incentive. You could even create levels of incentive.
For example: "If we hit this sales goal - you get this bonus but if we hit this higher level - a bigger bonus." Crunch the numbers. If your team is increasing productivity, you're business is making more money. And these new customers are going to stick around if you guys keep up the effort so the rewards can compound. You're the team owner and you have to get your coaches (managers) and team (employees) to want your business to grow just as much as you.
Cheaters Never Prosper
One thing to remember is that if you try to short-cut or cheat this process - it could backfire on you. As the team manager of your business, you need to offer development and training programs (just like the big businesses do) to give your employees the tools for success. Setting someone up to fail - especiialy to avoid paying out the incentive - will backfire on you. You may think your reputation among your clients is important but it is equally imperative that your repuation among your employees is golden. That doesn't mean that they have to like you personally but you want them to WANT to perform for you.
Business Take-away: Start out on the right foot and your small business is sure to score big points not only in your bottom line but among your team as well.