What Business Can Emulate From the San Antonio Spurs Success.
Okay, I know that writing about the San Antonio Spurs right after their NBA championship win over the Miami Heat might make me a “Homer,” but there are so many invaluable lessons that organizations aspiring for greatness can take away from the Spurs success.
Since the Spurs began play in the now defunct American Basketball Association that merged with the NBA in 1976, they have won FIVE (5) championships. They are fourth on the list of all-time franchise leaders in basketball championships behind ONLY the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls. In the Spurs 38 seasons since the 1976 merger, they have captured 20 Division titles, made the playoffs 24 of the last 25 seasons (since 1989-1990) and 17 times in Tim Duncan’s 18 years with the Spurs.
So, what lessons can organizations wishing to be great learn from the San Antonio Spurs organization success over their last four decades?
Great relationships between ownership, management, and employees (the coaching staff led by Head coach Greg Popovich) are absolutely critical for success. The Spurs are led by their core three players Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who have played together for 12 years. Leadership is top-down, and begins with ownership headed up by Peter Holt , and trickles down to the General Manager R.C. Buford, and Head Coach Greg Popovich.
Just watching this team the past few seasons, it is clear from the relationship that head coach Greg Popovich has with not only his core three players (Parker, Ginobli and Duncan) but extends to all of the players as he emphasizes trust and tremendous loyalty.
The team exudes an aura / sense of family through the outward affection displayed and the entire team’s on the court intensity.
All players are expected to contribute. Every player has a role as evidenced by the fact that the Spurs bench players (non starting 5) are the highest scoring bench in the NBA. Players one through twelve ALL contribute. In an era of individuals moving their team mates out of the way so they can play one-on-one ball to gain highlight footage of themselves, the Spurs game is predicated on constantly moving the ball, giving up good shots for great scoring opportunities. Further, every player is required to commit themselves in playing aggressive, intense “TEAM” defense.
Recruit top talent, but have a culture and consistent approach to talent management by seeking out a certain kind of player (employer.) The Spurs organization aggressively seeks out players (from all over the world) who understand their roles. It takes a tremendously confident individual to compete at the professional sports level yet who is willing to check their egos at the door, by placing the good of their team ahead of their own self.
The Spurs top 3 players are significantly under compenstaed relative to league pay scales, but take lesser pay for the benefit of staying with the team. They have played together for 12 years, and Coach Popovich has been with Tim Duncan for 18 years. Popovich is the elder statesman of pro US sports coaching. His 18 year tenure as head coach of the Spurs leads all four U.S. pro sports leagues. In this era of players (and employers) showing almost no loyalty, this type of loyalty between team, coach, and players might never be seen again.
Over the past 3-4 decades, the Spurs leading players have passed the leadership torch down from team to team, from greats George Gervin to David Robinson, the triumvirate of Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott, and Tim Duncan to their heirs Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, and Danny Green.
Keep your core team together to buid tremendously strong relationships. In this day in age of constant layoffs and contract based workforce, it is refreshing to see a successful franchise that values keeping its team intact to build unrivaled esprit de corps and sense of togetherness for a shared mission.
Create a culture of pride in your team with your fans (employees, customers) to validate a lasting legacy. The Spurs don’t just give lip service to caring about their fans and their community. They live that credo. It starts with ownership setting affordable pricing so blue collar folks can go to games, and their players are consistently recognized as most active in giving back to their community.
Cultural diversity is a central tenet of this team’s roster construction. They field players from all over the world. That ethnic diversity contributes to open mindedness, a willingness to embrace other life styles, philosophies and willingness to embrace others as individuals.
So there you have it. Take a lesson from the Spurs play book. Create a recipe for success that focuses on organizational excellence, a commitment to a winning culture, finding true leaders in management and exceptional employees that exhibit the very best qyualities you could hope for, in order to achieve lasting competitive advance.
Congratulations to this year’s NBA Champ San Antonio Spurs!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
No Organization is Too Small to Plan Big.