Five Business Lessons From Fantasy Football

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Although I am an avid Chicago Bears fan, I have not succumbed to the lures of Fantasy Football as the rest of my family has. I prefer to watch the Bears play and leave it at that.

However, according to Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) — the fact that such an organization even exists shows how big fantasy sports are — there are an estimated 41 million people playing fantasy sports in the United States and Canada. The average fantasy sports player is a 34-year-old male who cites football as his favorite sport and spends almost nine hours per week working on his fantasy team, the FSTA says.

The game is growing in popularity with women. About 6.4 million women played Fantasy Football in 2013, an increase of 462,000 from the previous year, according to the FSTA.

As the frenzy has settled down a bit around my house from the drafts and the first few weeks of games, I have decided there is something to this game. I’m not going to start to play, mind you, but over the past few years, I have noticed there are some direct parallels that can be drawn to real life – especially to business. Here are five business lessons that can be drawn from Fantasy Football.

Five Business Lessons from Fantasy Football

  1. Do your homework.

The Internet is filled with people making predictions about what players will play and how well they will do. They offer rankings and detailed advice on players on a daily basis. A successful Fantasy Football player will consult these experts, conduct some of his own research and then come up with his own roster.

When you run a business, it also is important for you to do the needed legwork on your competitors and on your customer base. Many small businesses fail because their owners have not done effective market research, for example.

In an article in The New York Times, writer Jay Goltz cites this lack of planning as the number one reasons small businesses fail. “The math just doesn’t work,” writes Goltz. “There is not enough demand for the product or service at a price that will produce a profit for the company.”

  1. Keep current.

Teams’ bye weeks can wreak havoc on your Fantasy season. You must take bye weeks into account and also keep current on players’ injury statuses to make sure your roster is the best it can be. When you don’t check the latest news on players and teams, you can get caught off-guard come game day.

Similarly, in the business world, current events can have a big impact on your business. Instead of being complacent and waiting to see what happens, use these social and economic changes to retool your brand and your brand image.

“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks” is Warren Buffett’s advice.

  1. Be a team player.

As the football season progresses, you will find both strengths and weaknesses in your Fantasy team. Look for ways to add value to your team by trading with other Fantasy team owners. Negotiate fairly, so the both of you will feel you obtain something of value in the trade.

Just as in Fantasy, you can’t go it alone for long in the business world. Surround yourself with partners and look to establish a mentor relationship with a more experienced colleague. Terri Scandura, a professor of Management at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, says mentoring benefits the mentor, the mentee and the overall organization in terms of higher job satisfaction, and lower turnover and increased loyalty, according to Scandura.

  1. Use your instincts

Many decisions made in Fantasy are made before opening day kick-off. To choose the best players for the team, you not only use your knowledge but your instincts. Sometimes you win Fantasy by going with some new players who have not made a name for themselves. Sometimes you put your faith in an older player who others think has seen better years. You make these decisions by trusting your gut.

People who are successful in business often make calculated risks. In her book Trust Your Gut: How the Power of Intuition Can Grow Your Business, Lynn A. Robinson calls intuition “a resource that, if nurtured, can lead to increased sales, profitable investments, creative inventions, successful hires, advantageous negotiation, bigger profits and increased accuracy in forecasting business trends.”

  1. Have a back-up plan

What happens if your star quarterback in Fantasy gets injured? Do you have a good back-up? Part of playing Fantasy is dealing with the reality of injured players. Some may be out for a game; others may be out for the season. In order to do well, you need to have strong players ready to put in as replacements.

When you run a business, you also need to have depth in your team and to be prepared for unexpected circumstances. In an interview with The New York Times, Ilene Gordon, the CEO of Ingredion, a company that processes corn, wheat, tapioca, potatoes and other raw materials into ingredients for the food industry, explains the value of being prepared.

“It’s about tenacity. It’s never giving up,” she says. “It’s having a Plan B. And that’s one of my favorite expressions: Have a Plan B, because Plan A doesn’t always go well, or maybe it’s derailed by a competitor or somebody else’s new product or some type of regulation.

Whether you play Fantasy Football with your family, friends or co-workers or not, you would be hard-pressed to have not heard about it. What started as a pre-Internet game for football nerds has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Like many successful enterprises, it can offer us some interesting life lessons.

Excuse me; I have to get off the computer now, so my son can update his Fantasy team.

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