Reflections on March Madness

By the time you read this, the 2024 NCAA tournament will be a memory. History was made and records were broken.

For many of us, the NCAA college basketball tournament is an annual ritual. It is virtually impossible to resist selecting your personal picks to make it to the Sweet 16 or even the Final Four—whether you bet in an office pool or online betting site.

Yet every year, brackets are busted early due to unexpected upsets. The odds makers will tell you that getting every game winner right is ridiculously difficult. But that is part of the fun. Surviving the first round, and then the second—up against ever more successful teams each time—is captivating, even if you are just a casual fan.

College teams leave it all on the court. They have to! It is one and done. Win or go home, deploying speed, hustle, physical play, remarkable athleticism, and sharp shooting skills. Then there are the Cinderella stories, where teams with heart take down giants.

Lessons for all of us.

As was the case in 2024, by the end of the tournament, the top seeds almost always battle for the championship. There is something to be said for the quality of the programs at the top schools: great coaching, good recruiting of talented players, hard work, no injuries, a winning tradition—and yes, a bit of luck.

So, when it comes to placing bets in your business, you might want to be circumspect. Have a range of bets on the table—some more risky (but smaller), some more likely to get the job done. Put most of your money behind your best ideas, your top performing products and brands, your tried and tested programs that regularly generate a positive return on investment.

By the time that spring rolls around, you likely already know which of the new ideas in your annual business plan are the winners. And you will also have a sense for those promising but unproven initiatives that are not meeting expectations.

Our experience suggests you will serve yourself well if you focus on the things that are working well. And then unwind or reduce the “burn rate” for the ideas that are not living up to the promised potential. Those can be hard decisions to make, as you and your team bought in, and you want to give new ideas a chance to succeed. Just do not wait too long. Redeploy that spending and focus! Fuel the things that you know perform well and breathe fresh life into them. It may seem heartless or harsh. You may even see a decline in spirit from the folks who brought energy and were the sponsors behind the new product or program. Challenge the team to do a thorough assessment of the primary reasons these initiatives did not deliver on the promise. And then get on with applying those lessons, so you can be smarter going forward.

The annual March Madness festivities are entertaining every year, with the top talent and the teams that work the hardest rising to the top. Cinderella stories are often just that—great stories that capture the imagination and stir the heart. Winners like to win, and they become good at it by observing and acting on what works.

At Forge, we thrive on helping clients get to the next level. We have worked with many clients building growth plans that are grounded in solid ideas, sound strategy, brand differentiation and consumer benefits. And yes, we are believers in reasonable bets and hard work.

Importantly, we are pragmatic, focused, and energetic. We get assignments done well, and quickly.

Take the first step to a more successful business today.

1.    Hit “LET’S TALK” to schedule a free 30-minute discussion. No pressure – we promise.
2.    We’ll provide real-world case studies showing the process in action.
3.    If we’re a fit, we finalize the details and get started!

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