My fourth son, Justin is a great soccer player. We are doing something that we said we would never do: Travel Soccer. We are one of those crazy families that spend time and money traveling the Midwest (and beyond) on weekends for soccer games. Hilton and Marriott know us by our first name…Sucker (sounds so much like Soccer). It’s not about living out the parent’s dream of having a collegiate athlete or getting a scholarship. It’s because we love our son and we want him to have all the experiences he can have as a young man.
I strongly believe that every day is a life lesson and you sometimes need to look for the lesson, as it’s not always obvious. Take the fact that Justin just spent an entire season last year on the state’s top soccer team and never saw the bench. This year it’s a different story, as he finds himself coming off the bench to play instead of starting, resulting in much less playing time. As a parent, we are not permitted to talk to the coach about playing time. So, it’s a good time for my 6’2” tall 15-year-old to learn how to talk to his coach with confidence. I mean, if a coach is not approachable, then, is he really a “Coach”? So, herein lies my first Business connection to this story.
Are you, as a leader (Coach) within your organization, approachable? If you aren’t approachable, Why? How do you lead if your associates fear you or fear repercussions? Are you, as someone rising in your organization (athlete), willing to fight for yourself?
I tell my kids that the best place to play a sport is from coming off the bench. If you are a good athlete, but a bench player, it’s because the coach doesn’t know that you are good yet, or, your coach doesn’t believe you have what it takes. Both are opportunities.
Justin loves to play offense, but his quick speed and size relegate him to primarily a defensive position. Late in the season last year, he had a shot at offense as our team was struggling to finish and put goals in the net. In the first opportunity to be an offensive player from the “Defensive Bench”, he scored three goals and ended up being the team’s top scorer for the season. Herein lies my second Business connection to this story.
A bench player has more to prove and more energy to prove it. If you are a bench player and have the company’s worst accounts, territory, etc. then do your very best with these accounts so that you are ready to perform at the top level when you earn a chance at the big accounts. It only takes one good play to go from the bench to the MVP.
When you travel, it’s attention to detail and experiences that make the trips memorable. The most appreciated person on the team is often the one who handles the most difficult task: Where do we eat tonight? Does anyone know a good restaurant and one who can seat 30 people?
This year’s travel has included cities like, Raleigh, Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Madison, and others to follow. We decided to make this season the season of Bar-B-Q! To highlight a few locations: Dallas brought us Hard Eight Bar-B-Q, Kansas City brought us Joe’s Kansas City and Jack Stack, St. Louis (St. Charles) brought us Sugarfire, and Madison brought us North and South Seafood and Smokehouse. It’s hard to pick a winner here. This is my third and final Business connection to this story.
Some cities are known for great Bar-B-Q. What surprised all of us was the unbelievable experiences in the unexpected places. How are you doing in your business? Are you earning your customers’ Five Star Yelp ratings with unexpected high-quality solutions and the very best customer service? Are you getting referrals from your customers? Are you serving up the very best that you can do?
It can get old traveling so many weekends back-to-back while the shrubs need trimming and projects at home fall behind, but it is a time we will always cherish. I love looking for the daily lessons, seeing how the unknown are making themselves known and how the underdogs seem to be winning. None of this is about soccer, it’s about life. I guess it’s the same for all of us in life and business. Unless we stay focused and on our A game, we can come up short. But, even after a loss, we know there is a good meal ahead with this season’s Travel Bar-B-Q team.