Thanks to Scott Keffer for sending me coach John Wooden’s book Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success. John Wooden, a paragon of basketball and admired well beyond the sports world, did an outstanding job combining a kid’s book with an instruction set for adults. The book is based on John’s pyramid of success and is a great reminder of an exceptional approach toward life.
One block in his pyramid that I think is often key to a successful entrepreneurial venture is the element of team spirit. John says “The team comes first… the team’s the star.”
The problem with so many solo professionals is that they think they have to do it alone because no one else would be a fit working with them at their high level or they’re just too busy taking care of clients to figure out how to form a team. But if you take a lesson from champions, team is one of your greatest assets.
Al Berning and Mark Tebbe, two entrepreneurs who shared their stories in my book, How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America know the importance of a team all too well.
Al’s inspiration for his company Pemstar came when his former employer, IBM, decided to move disk drive operations to Asia in a major restructuring. Al was not in the market to go to Asia so he and 6 other senior managers started looking at ways they could keep the team intact and pursue new opportunities.
The team actually mapped out their individual skillsets and concluded that together they could create a new company that focused on outsourced design and manufacturing services. Al’s decision to combine forces ultimately led to landing their former employer IBM as one of the new company’s first three customers.
Al had the vision to see his greatest asset was the brainpower of his team. He recognized that asset and went on to grow Pemstar to an IPO, then later selling the company to Benchmark for $300 million.
Another one of Coach Wooden’s steps came into play here as well — the elements of hard work and preparation. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” Wooden says. Al and his partners prepared for entrepreneurial success by identifying specific areas where their business could provide a competitive advantage, and sticking to just that.
Mark Tebbe, founder of Lante Corporation and Answers.com also credits his success to having a good team. Seeing promise in microcomputers, Mark quit his first job at Arthur Andersen & Co. to pursue this new territory. He was young, and valued experience, so partnered up with a 38-year-old named Andy Langer. The two created the consulting practice Langer, Tebbe and Associates, which eventually became Lante.
Mark said Andy Langer was the perfect partner for his younger self. He would always consider not just what happened but why it had happened. “Don’t underestimate the value of experience,” Tebbe says.
I realize we’re all savvy and would never consider reading a children’s book to get inspiration. Make an exception for Coach Wooden, and after you finish reading it pass it along to a youngster in your life.
(Hear from Al Berning and Mark Tebbe who are featured speakers at the upcoming New York Entrepreneurial Bash at the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 3. Register at www.entrepbash.com)