Why business is getting harder

First, I want to apologise because this blog post is quite long – but necessarily so. It’s an excerpt of an email I received from a US-based financial “advisory” firm. The story is so well told – I have chosen to make only minor edits, so bear with me and the story for the priceless lesson it provides you as a business owner-manager.

I finished high school in a small town back in the swamp in southern Louisiana. We had 89 people in our graduating class, and the entire school had less than 400 students.

While we missed a lot of things because of the size of the school, there were some positives.

For one, athletes got to play several sports. In fact, my best friend was a four-sport letterman. He was fast, strong, and smart, so he was a free safety in football, point guard in basketball, 2nd baseman in baseball, and a sprinter on the track team.

Now, he is simply a relic…

The government has made his achievements almost obsolete. It’s nearly impossible for kids to pursue more than one sport today and still make a high-school team… because it’s all about the money.

Scholarship money, that is… and Division 1 in particular.

My friend’s achievements come back to me as I sit in the stands and watch my daughter play volleyball. She’s not playing on a school team this time of year, because volleyball season is over. Instead, we’re at a private facility where we pay too much for her to pursue this sport outside of her school. This is the world of “travel ball.”

Like most players, our daughter tried out for more than one organization, which then ranks the players. Then some of the players are offered a spot on a team at different levels (open, regional, state, local), representing where the team will compete.

Once on a team, players practice three times a week and play in six to 10 tournaments over the course of four months. There are also optional mini-camps… but keep in mind, in sports, practice is never optional, no matter what the coach says.

When the travel season ends, it will be summer, when the girls are expected to attend at least one three-day and one week-long ball camp, and there are other “optional” opportunities to play and practice as well.

Once school starts, the girls will try out for their respective school teams during the regular fall season. In October and November, travel-ball tryouts occur and the cycle starts all over again.

This process exists for baseball, volleyball, lacrosse, and probably every other sport.

Families spend thousands of dollars every year to pay for their spot on a team, for travel to tournaments (which can be across the country), for gear, and for camps. The costs easily can reach $6,000 per year.

While some players truly do it for the love of the game, there’s a different motivation for most. It’s all about Division 1.

Parents and players have a laser-like focus on making it to the big-time: scoring a Division-1 college scholarship to top level schools, like Duke University and University of Southern Carolina.  

Everything about their pursuit of a single sport centers on the possibility of being selected to play at a great college, thereby obtaining a “free” degree.

With the cost of college outrageously high, sports scholarships are one way for kids to be able to attend pricey schools. So families do what they can to bolster their kids’ chances. The kids play all year (school and travel ball)… they go to camps… they go to all of the practices. And they focus on only one sport in order to master the skills necessary to get selected.

The years of multiple-sport lettermen are over… thanks to a larger force that’s driving everything.

It’s the force that has driven college costs outrageously high, bringing us to the point where it’s impossible for a median-income family of four to afford it.

I hope we’ll find a way to reduce the price of college, and thereby relieve some of the pressure on high-school athletes who are trying so hard to get scholarships at the expense of pursuing, or even trying, other interests.

Here is the lesson for business owners:

Every single industry has gone through a transformation like the one that has afflicted (hopeful) US college students… It is getting harder and harder to compete because successful companies have specialised with laser-like focus out of necessity, to stay in the game so-to-speak.

So what can you do to counter-act this?

You need a DIFFERENT approach, to get DIFFERENT results.

Ignoring what has changed will not make it go away any more than a US student who doesn’t pick his or her sport in middle school or at the very least at the beginning of high school. Otherwise, it’s “game over”.

That’s today’s lesson – if you THOUGHT the game of business had changed – it has and continues to change at an alarming rate.

We offer business coaching and mentoring services to help you stay “ahead of the curve” and leverage these changes to your advantage rather than becoming victim to them.

Contact us when you’re ready.

 

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