Do Not be a Victim of Your Own Success

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June 22nd, 2011


In sports, great success creates great expectations. I have been a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan. When I was a child, I loved watching Magic Johnson play. A brilliant distributor of the basketball, endlessly entertaining to watch, and an extremely likeable person – I chose Magic instead of Larry. Over the roughly 30 year span I have followed the team, they have won a staggering 10 NBA Championships. Significantly more than other elite team in any major sport during the same time frame: Chicago Bulls (6), Detroit Red Wings (6), New York Yankees (5), or San Francisco 49ers (5). So this year after they lost in the Western Conference Finals, I was sorely disappointed. Why wasn’t I satisfied with their record breaking success that has spanned my entire life?

In sales, great success creates great expectations. 2010 was a record breaking year for StartUpSelling. We signed more clients, generated more revenue, and retained more long term relationships than ever before. This was topped off by another record: the first quarter of 2011 was our best quarter in company history. The best year, followed by the best quarter – a great recipe for high expectations. However, the second quarter has only been… well… good. Far from bad, better than OK, but not record breaking. So why am I not satisfied with 18 months of overall success?

This is a great challenge of human nature. Our perception changes with success (or failure), and we are negatively impacted when tremendous (or even unrealistic) results are not attained. Examples: the tech and real estate bubbles, any horse attempting to win the Triple Crown since 1978, my sixth consecutive quarter of record breaking growth. I do not have an effective suggestion for managing expectations with sports franchises – however, I will share what has effectively worked for me in managing my own expectations for growth:

  • Review Annual Goals – Even though my second quarter has only been a B or B+, we are still on pace to meet the aggressive annual goals I set for the year. This is much more important than high-fiving around the conference table before we all leave for 4th of July weekend.
  • Get Back to the Basics – During times of strong growth, companies can drift from their core marketing and sales initiatives. Salespeople are so busy bringing in the cash (as they should be), that long-term focus can be lost. As the firestorm of success slows, gradually revert back to your bread and butter, the building blocks for sustained growth.
  • Take a Day Off – Its easy to reward yourself or your salespeople with a Friday afternoon off after an excellent week. But remember that time off will help your mentally refresh and rejuvenate, and this could be needed for the salesperson looking to improve from a B+ to an A over the next quarter.
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