60 points; 20 seasons; 18 all-star games; 5 championships; 1 MVP. Not bad for someone just 37 years old. So what business lessons can we learn from Kobe?

Have a goal in mind: Kobe said he always wanted to be a Laker. He was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, yet, Jerry West traded the Laker’s starting center, Vlade Divac, for Bryant’s draft rights. Had Kobe communicated to the Lakers that he would be one of their superstars for the next 2 decades?

Take a stand: No one succeeds very long by taking the easy, middle ground choice every time. There are challenges that arise each day in business & you must make a decision, plant your stake in the ground and make it work. Even when things don’t work as planned, decisiveness is essential to success.

 Practice, practice, practice: no one can succeed without practicing what they do. The more you practice the better you get; if you practice the right things. Kobe was known as a gym rat; constantly working on his game. A 1st ballot Hall of Fame, no doubt.

 Continuous Process Improvement: Endlessly making adjustments to do what you do better than you did it before is crucial. Just look at the American auto makers. Ford, Chrysler & General Motors, no matter what you think of them, all make much better cars today than they did 5, 10 or 25 years ago.

 There is no “I” in team: Yeah, we all heard this before, but it took Kobe years to figure it out. Remember the battles with Shaq over who would be the focus of the team in their heyday? Perhaps Kobe’s ego got the best of him, ending the potential for several more immediate championships. [yes, they recently made up]. But oh, what could have been?

 Evolve or Die: Business literature is littered with stories of organizations that chose to stick with the proven rather than venture into tomorrow (see http://goo.gl/mGwHVz for more on this). Most of them are no longer around. Kobe’s game did gradually change as he aged, but it took a long time.

 The team is more than the sum of its parts: “We are all smarter than anyone of us is smart”, is the old passage from Think & Grow Rich (http://goo.gl/AtTMj4). “We can do more together than anyone of us can do alone”, is why the organizations exists. No player, not Wilt Chamberlin, Bill Russell or even Magic Johnson, ever won a championship without the other 11 team members.

Balance strategy with tactics: In the 5 championships Kobe won, the strategy was to do what was necessary to win the championship; the tactics were the games. Broken down further, each game had a strategy & the tactics were executing the individual plays. The best businesses have a strategic plan with a Vision, Mission, Values, Goals & Action Plans. The Action plans that are implemented [the tactics] properly are what makes just a few organizations best in class.

 Know when to exit (don’t stay too long at the dance): Kobe’s body started to breakdown well before he tore his Achilles. That was 18 years into a career that typically lasts less than 5. And he just signed such a large contract the Laker’s became handcuffed & didn’t really have the money to go after other quality players. The result will be a subpar Laker’s team for many years after Kobe’s retirement.

 Exit gracefully: When it is time to go, go! Even though Kobe may have waited too long, man, did he go out in style (60 points). When you exit your business, make sure you leave it better then when you got there. If you started it, prepare your succession plan so you can proudly look back at the legacy you created & let the next group take it to another level. Leaving 1 day too early is better than 1 day too late.

 For more on strategic planning, succession planning or exit strategies contact me at DanielFeiman@BuildItBackwards.com

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