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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Anton Volchenkov scored a goal and assisted in game 3 of the finals. He is not a leading star -- but his team is in the Stanley Cup finals

Winning teamwork

Few metaphors are as strong and evocative as those linking high level sports and business. Teamwork, energy, determination, creativity, support and power are all words that come to mind and apply in both circumstances. And (though I would be careful to claim a tax expense only when there is solid and specific justification) I certainly can see genuinevalue for any business person in attending a 'final' supporting event, whether it be the World Series, Word Cup, NBA Championship or, in my case, a Stanley Cup final Hockey game.

Ottawa, of course, is not that big a city -- but it has proven it can support at least one major league team in a sport that is passionately followed in Canada even though it is more on the fringes in the U.S. Nevertheless, the Ottawa team is fighting with the Anaheim Ducks for the finals.

Through some luck (and logical persistence) I snared a couple of last-minute tickets for the game to attend with my hockey loving (and playing) 10-year-old son, Eric. While we were late in buying the tickets, we were among the first in the stadium. It turns out we had lucked out -- the Senators had set aside a media overflow section but realized it could release a few seats to the public, and I went on line looking just when these seats were released. (Of course, I knew beforehand that it would make sense to keep checking online -- as various held-back seats would quietly go on the market before game day.)

So, no need to pay the scalpers -- nevertheless, the tickets were appropriately (highly) marked up for the special game, and the stadium was packed to capacity.

As the Senators fortunately won, I saw clearly how the game is won -- in business, as well as sports. Elite personal abilities combine with team respect, trust, and connectivity. You have to know when to let go for the team-mate to carry forward either with glory or the pain; but you need raw talent yourself. And the fans (customers) indeed have a place in the team's success. Besides the cash to pay the bills, they provide a critical amount of energy for everyone to enjoy. As well, I sensed the importance of the 'worker bees' -- those in the concession stands, or on the Zambonis; not much credit for them, and their skills are relatively easy to find, but everyone needs to know their role, and do it well.

Finally, of course, we come to marketing. When you get to this level of success, you have the pleasure of controlling the market. The Senators of course knew they could extract revenue by holding back tickets and making them available only to Seasons Ticket purchasers; and they did. And they could charge premium prices for 'ordinary' seats,and truly earn their money -- while selling advertising in various formats without problem to all kinds of buyers. If you are the best at anything truly competitive, you don't need to scrape for business. It helps to be great at what you do.

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