Why March Madness is Good for Business

Since the early 1980’s when CBS began televising the NCAA Tournament, March Madness has taken on a life of its own. Today, in offices across America, there will be long lunch breaks as employees gather to watch the opening round games. All week, offices have been inundated with everyone filling out their brackets. The online options are enormous and thanks to technology, the games themselves can all be viewed right on the desktop.

Many feel that March Madness is a distraction and hampers productivity. That may be true for the first two days, but in the long run, I believe that businesses benefit from the enthusiasm and interest generated from the NCAA Tournament.

While an event like the Super Bowl transcends sports and creates the largest television audience in the country, it still is just one game and one event. What makes the NCAA Tournament so special is that it brings employees at all levels of the corporate ladder and at respective businesses together with a common interest in who will win the office pool. The CEO graduate from Syracuse can bond with the Villanova account executive as they pull for the Big East while the secretary from Kansas can relish in her Jayhawks beating Lehigh in the opening round. Even President Obama has chimed in by picking Kansas to win it all.
What business can learn from March Madness is the following:

Teamwork – all businesses try to foster good teamwork but it’s not always easy. The NCAA Tournament allows all employees, regardless of their position, to bond and become involved in a common cause. This can be incorporated throughout the year, not just with March Madness. Keep all your employees involved, whether it’s with fostering ideas, developing new business pitches or conducting research. They don’t have to sit in on a planning meeting but their opinions should be solicited. Making them feel part of the team at all times, and not just for a special occasion or an off-site mandatory group session, will go a long way towards improving productivity and teamwork.

Make it Fun – Filling out the brackets and tracking your progress against your co-workers is a lot of fun. It gets employees talking to each other. Why can’t work environments be fun year-round? I’m not propagating watching television, signing up for pools and ignoring work on a daily basis. What business need to do is capture some of the goodwill created by events like March Madness and have them extend into the way they conduct business. There should be regular events scheduled whereby employees can get together and talk about subjects other than what they need to do to service a client. Schedule ideation sessions where interns, secretaries and junior staff can join in and offer ideas for new business proposals or for existing business challenges. If you’re a private business or store owner do something creative and fun for your customers. Make them feel special. Let them win a chance to be an employee of the day with your company or hold your own Madness promotion. The more you involve them, the stronger their loyalty will be to your company.

Go for the Long-shot – It’s easy to go with what’s always worked. Just like picking the top four seeds in the Tournament, many companies, managers and small business owners are afraid of going out of their comfort zone. My opinion is that it pays to “think big.” Be creative in fostering ideas for your business and don’t be afraid to go with the long-shot type idea. That out-of-the box idea may net you a new client, help you land new customers or retain existing ones. San Diego State may not make the Final Four, but that big promotion or viral concept may create the “Madness” that sets you apart from your competition.

Tom Cosentino

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