Summer is well and truly here. The parks up and down the country have the familiar sight of a game of cricket at the weekend. Which got me thinking. Running a business is just like cricket.
Now, if you don’t like or understand cricket, or have an interest in the benefits of being consistent, then you will have to stick with me on this one. A cricket game can last for up to 5 days. It is the only recognised sport in the world that has scheduled meal breaks. To the untrained eye, not a lot happens. For most of the time.
But dig a little deeper, and there are a lot of parallels with running a business, or to be more exact, how you get things done in a business.
Let me use the example of our own accounting firm. Every year we have to prepare and file a few hundred self-assessment tax returns for our clients. The filing window runs from 6th April to the 31st January the following year. So we have a starting point (zero) and an end target (lets say 350) that we have a set period of time to complete all the work. Cricket is the same. The side batting second knows the target number of runs that it needs to score to win the game.
Ones and Twos
In cricket, there are usually some easier shots where you don’t have to hit the ball too hard to score one run, or two if you place your shot well. Same for a business. There are some easier pieces of work you can achieve which all add revenue, or help you towards a target. Sell a few small items or complete a simple salary & dividend tax return. Not too exciting, but you need to be focused and alert to get that done.
Beware of drifting….
Sometimes during a game of cricket, nothing happens. The batsmen go into their shell. Half an hour goes by without a run being scored. This is what gives the sport a bad name. This can happen in business too. You wake up on a Monday feeling lethargic so you choose a few easy things to do.
- Answering emails
- Completing an expense claim
- Googling for a new rollerball pen
You feel busy. Tuesday is full of admin work. And before you know it, half the week has gone and you haven’t made a sale or spoken to a customer. With our tax return preparation, it is easy to ignore doing the work in April and May. As the deadline is like, months away. Right?
The highest score in cricket is a six, and involves the batsman clubbing the ball in the air for miles and miles so that it goes over the boundary. To do this involves opportunity, skill, and some luck.
And in business? Well, you may have experienced a great sales day where you get a prospect to accept a five figure quote. Or get a big order through your e-commerce site. How about getting your ideal job candidate to say yes to your employment offer? If you have a day like this, you might think that business is easy. You’ve cracked it! Wake up tomorrow and the same thing will happen again. For our tax return preparation, it is when we get a batch of tricky returns out for signature, just before we go on holiday. Such an adrenaline rush!
Keeping the score
In cricket, and business, you need to know where you are right now in relation to your target. Are you ahead? Or behind? You do remember what the target is? And that you have it written down and refer to it often? Yes?
(If the answer is No, then you might want to find out more about why budgeting is good for business).
Back to our tax returns. Here is how we manage them and ensure we hit the target.
- We create a target for each month for the whole team
- Each team member is then given their own monthly target
- Every time we file a tax return, that person pops a message on our internal chat thread (a bit like ringing a bell when you make a sale)
- Every Friday morning we review our progress against the target. Are we ahead? Or behind?
- And then each team member plans in the work they are going to do next week
- As we get towards the end of the month, it’s not unusual to have to get half dozen returns filed in a day to get us over the target line. A six!
So, what can we learn from this? Why is running a business just like cricket?
- It’s a team effort.
- Everyone needs to know their role, and be able to contribute towards the target.
- Consistency is key. Getting small tasks (ones and twos) achieved gets you in to a rhythm and keeps you on track. Not glamourous, it can be a grind. But the work gets done.
- You can get bogged down. Make sure you recognise when inertia sets in, and have tactics to get out of the rut.
- A six in cricket gives an adrenaline rush and puts you on the front foot. What are the ways you can ‘hit a six’ in your business?
- Make sure you have a target, write it down, and measure your progress towards the target. Management accounts are a good tool for a business to manage this process.
- Make sure you celebrate success with your team. Ring the sales bell!