The 2015 edition will go down as one of the best World Cups yet. It has had everything. There have been brave displays by the so called minnows. Close battles at the top echelon of World Rugby. Shock defeats and an embarrassing exit by the hosts. This display of rugby has given us plenty of opportunity to draw lessons from rugby and apply it to the world of work. In past articles we had a look at Home Ground Advantage, Leadership, and Keeping Perspective.
This weeks’ lesson: Playing with the best makes you better
In international rugby, two or three of the top three ranked nations play south of the equator. There have been some blips over the last 20 years since the readmission of South Africa to the international fold, but in general the top three reads: 1.) New Zealand, 2.) Australia and 3.) South Africa or some variation to that order. At the Rugby World Cup in 2007 Argentina shocked the world by beating perennial dark horses France in the opening game. France recovered to beat New Zealand in the quarter finals but lost again to Argentina in the bronze final.
Argentina had announced themselves as a real contender on the world stage. At the 2011 edition they were unfortunate to be drawn against eventual champions New Zealand in the quarter final and exited the tournament at that point. Many people thought the 2007 result was a flash in the pan and that Argentina had a “golden generation” of players who just happened to peak at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
The 2015 World Cup again saw Argentina overcome the odds to beat Ireland in the quarter finals to face Australia in the semi final. This will allow them to finish at least fourth at the 2015 World Cup. Our lesson today comes from what happened between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups. In short, Argentina have been playing against the best for the last four years in the annual Rugby Championship competition. Since 2012 they have drawn against and beaten the Springboks (there seems to be a theme there), as well as an historic win over Australia in Mendoza. This is incredible for a nation who only started playing rugby professionally after the 2007 Rugby World Cup. So by playing against the best consistently since 2012 Argentina has booked themselves a place at the top table of International Rugby.
The lesson in this is:
1.) Benchmark against the best
Often we tend to benchmark against similar local competition, but if you want real success in business you need to benchmark against what the best companies do. Talent management, training, recruitment and selection practises. Whatever it is, you need to check the standards of the best companies and try to emulate what they do. If you benchmark yourself against “normal” the best you can ever be is “above average”. By setting the standards higher you may achieve excellence.
2.) Competing against the best makes you fitter
Argentina has played against arguably the best three teams in the world more than 20 times in the last 4 year cycle. By doing this they have sharpened their decision making and handling skills. If you compete with the best in business. Your average operating range should be far greater than someone who is just trying to beat the local rivals. Local rivals are local for a reason, they only operate in the local environment. The real challenge in business are the multi national conglomerates who could put the local business out of operation at the drop of a hat. Take the recent takeover of SAM Miller. Don’t get me wrong, many people will make lots of money out of this deal, but ultimately when the dust settles SAB Miller won’t exist anymore. You may still be able to buy a Castle, but it won’t be made by SAB. The point is this, if you compete against the best, at the very least you may make a substantial profit if your business is taken over by multinationationals and in that process you will blow away the local opposition.
3.) Stop trying to do your best
This point may be counter intuitive, but bear with us. The point, in short, is this. Business is about averages. We work in annual and quarterly cycles. If your business does well in one month or quarter, you are not going to close down the business because you made enough. You have to keep going. So by trying to have a “super performance” in one month is not viable. Putting all your energy and resources into a end of season sale or something similar may raise your performance for a short while, but it may not be sustainable. The point is this, you need to try to raise the average. Take turnover over a certain period of time and calculate the average. Then try to improve on that average. Analyse what went well and what could have been done better and try to beat the average. This way you also won’t suffer the inevitable downs that come when you didn’t make budget.