Harbaughs show business owners need to choose new, uncharted path

sailboatThe upcoming Super Bowl, pitting the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers, offers a great lesson for business owners. Both teams’ head coaches, brothers Jim and John Harbaugh, took big chances, which led to their teams’ eventual success.

Fans, opponents, the press and football experts praised and criticized John Harbaugh, the Ravens’ head coach, for replacing his offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, late in the season. His brother Jim, head coach of the 49ers, drew a harsher response for benching his veteran starting quarterback, Alex Smith, 28, with Colin Kaepernick, 25, a second-year player who had none of the seasoning of his predecessor. In both cases, the coaches and their teams can connect the dots between those decisions and the fact that they each will be playing in New Orleans Feb. 3.

Business owners and entrepreneurs are no different than head coaches; the direction and future of their companies depend on them as much as an NFL team’s results are based on the decisions of the head coach.

Like head coaches, businesses have similar opportunities to make important decisions leading to wins and losses. But many entrepreneurs and business owners choose to sit on the sidelines, allowing others to take on the risks and obtain the potential rewards for taking chances.

Fear stalls them. The best route, most business owners reason, is the safest one, the time-tested one. Charting a new course could be disastrous and scary. It’s safer to stay the course.

But it is often that aggressive approach that leads to new discoveries and unexpected rewards.  Those new discoveries may not be what was planned or intended, but they often are the keys to new business models, new markets, and a general reinvigoration of the business.

Within the last year, I can attribute most of the growth of my business to the risks I have taken. Those risks have rewarded me with free office space, exciting projects, new contacts, new clients, the opportunity to cohost a radio show, a published business e-book and several new business offerings for my clients.

The path of success for businesses is not linear. It’s a zigzag line, with fits and starts, highs and lows, ups and downs, shifts left and right. If it were a straight line, everyone could do it.

True entrepreneurs accept the zigs and zags, and they recognize the need for changes, even dramatic and unexpected.

If two football coaches whose every decision is reviewed and critiqued by millions of people every day can do it successfully, what’s stopping you? If you don’t, who will?

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