Teamwork or Superstar?

I must admit that I’m not much of a professional basketball fan.  But, being a native Texan, I couldn’t ignore the NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.  As I’m sure you know, San Antonio won the series four games to one.

The recent contest has created a great sports metaphor related to how you run your business.

The debate, which commentators have exhaustively discussed before, during, and after the finals, centers on the topic of what is the best type of team to have.  Miami is renowned as the team built around a superstar – LeBron James – arguably the best professional basketball player in the game today.  Mr. James famously left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to go to Miami where the owners brought in players to support him in his bid to win a championship (the Heat have won two).  In essence, when you think of the Miami Heat you think of LeBron James and when you think of LeBron James you think of LeBron James.  The Heat, as a team, are secondary to Mr. James.

The San Antonio Spurs, on the other hand, are held out to be the consummate team.  Although they have recognized players, there is no real superstar.  The team is thought of, and considered, as a whole holistic organism.  Their style of play emphasizes working together to make opportunities happen.  The spread the opportunity and the responsibility.

When you look at game statistics you usually see Mr. James with the majority of the numbers for his team.  With the Spurs, they are usually spread out amongst several people.  When the Heat get into trouble everyone asks specifically what Mr. James is going to do and stress that it is up to him to either lift his team or make something happen.  When San Antonio has a difficult time, the commentators don’t focus on one solution.

So what is better for the retail environment?  A superstar or teamwork?  I think that a team always does better than having just one or two superstars.  There are several reasons for this.  In retail, everyone isn’t on duty all of the time as they are in a game.  Therefore, every member of the team needs to be able to perform all of the functions whenever they are on duty.  In addition, each team member needs to be confident that the other members of the team are going to do what is expected of them.  There are different duties for different shifts and personnel.  If someone drops the ball it affects everyone and will mean either more work for the other team members or a failure in customer service.

To stretch the sports metaphor to its breaking point – to be champions, we need our customers to win the game and only through a team effort can we help them to do so.

In the end, I suppose the optimal solution would be a team of superstars. That should be our goal.  But the team comes first – then we train and develop our stars.  It is through having the right people and coaching that we create the winning team.