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The Only Way to Win in Business

Have you ever watched 5-year-olds play soccer?  It should be called “Follow the Ball,” because that is what happens the entire game.  The beginning of the game starts with players in assigned positions.  However, as soon as the whistle blows, all the kids form into a big heard guided by a little checkered ball.

High school soccer is an entirely different experience.  The players start in the same positions as the 5-year-olds.  This is where the similarity ends.  The whistle blows to start the game and the players…play their positions!  What a difference a decade makes.  As the players grow older and wiser, they learn that they must play their positions in order to be successful.  If the defenders run up to play offense, then nobody is playing defense. 

Even to non-soccer players, it makes sense advanced players learn the importance of playing their positions.  When you have a defined position, your team knows what to expect from you.  It is your job to deliver on those expectations.  Although the thought of chasing the ball is tempting, strong soccer players play their positions.

Soccer serves as a great analogy for small businesses.  Far too many owners want to chase revenue, much like the 5-year-olds chasing the ball.  We all want to believe if you work hard at growing your business, you will be rewarded.  We want to believe it, because it seems like it should be that way.  Unfortunately, hard work does not guarantee business success.  Smart business owners clearly define their position (or brand) in the market and remain committed to meeting the expectations of their customers.

Much like a soccer coach picks players who are strong in a certain position, customers pick businesses that are strong in their position.  If the need is defense, the coach picks a player who is strong in defense.  He doesn’t pick a defender who has a history of running all over the field chasing the ball.  When customers want a specific service, they pick the business that has defined itself as a specialist in that area.  Customers do not trust (or pick) a business that does everything and anything. 

If you want your business to be “picked,” these are the two things you need to concentrate on now:

1) Select Your Position – Customers need to know what you stand for and be confident they can trust you.  Having a defined position and remaining committed to it is how you establish the much needed trust.  Can you easily and clearly articulate what position you play?

2) Play Your Position! – K-Mart used to be one of the largest discount-retailers in the country.  Along with (and possibly because of) stiff competition,  K-mart tried something new.  They started using celebrities to sponsor higher-end products.  K-mart played the discount-retailer position since it started in the early 1960s.  By leaving their position, K-mart confused its customers.  Sadly, K-mart must now merge with Sears just to stay in the game.

Much like the 5-year-olds that score a goal because they left their defense position to chase the ball, the company that chases revenue may become excited about a new service or product outside of their position.  Immediate profit does not always equate to long term business success.

This Marketing article was written by Kevin Kearns on 7/6/2005

Kevin Kearns is a small business branding coach from Colorado Spings, Colorado. Visit to join The Branding Bunch – a community of small business owners wanting to Become the Only Choice.

As a founding partner in “”The World’s First Snowboarder Hotels”” (, Kevin has experienced success only true branding can bring.