What You Can Learn About Business From Hockey

Succeeding as a hockey team requires discipline, teamwork and intelligence. Likewise, transforming a business into a serious competitor requires many of the same traits. Here are a few lessons about business you can learn from hockey.

Early actions affect the futureBusiness opportunities will arise from good habits that are implemented early, and in hockey, plays you make early in a game can result in opportunities later. Wins are often the accumulation of many intelligent moves on the ice.

For instance, if you dump the puck to make the other team work for it, you can ultimately wear down the opponent, creating chances to score later in the game. In business, you need to envision a longer-term horizon. Make plays based on what will yield results down the road.

These techniques also apply to business, says Chris Stephenson, partner and co-founder of ARRYVE, a Seattle-based strategy consulting firm. Stephenson also played Division 1 hockey for the College of the Holy Cross and applies lessons from hockey to his business career.

"In business, the little things that are done also pay off in the long run," he says. "Sales occur by having many consistent client meetings rather than a sales push when running dry. Employees learn from constant feedback, more than a mid-year and year-end review process."

Cultivate a positive team cultureIf you've ever been on a hockey team, you understand how important a team's culture is to every aspect of your game.

Alex Roberts, president of Mr. Handyman, a national home improvement franchise, was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1989, and coached Team USA hockey in the under 18 division. Roberts defines "championship culture" as one in which everyone pulls in the same direction. "Everyone cares for each other like they were members of their family," he says.

Go where the puck will beWhen Wayne Gretzky was a boy, his father Walter told him, "Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been." Many businesspeople have taken this famous advice from the Great One's father to heart.

We often have sentimental attachments to the way things were done years ago, maybe even in a different era, but if you want to stay competitive in today's business climate, you need to give this age what it needs.

Think of how Steve Jobs changed numerous industries with his recent Apple products, including the iPod and iPhone. He wasn't merely making CD players or landlines, he was innovating and anticipating where society was going. He certainly went to where the puck was heading. When the puck caught up, it spelled great profits for Apple.

Strong game planIn business, one often hears the word strategy. But this concept can be overused and result in a bunch of hazy jargon and buzzwords that are tangentially related to the matter at hand. To run a success company, or hockey team, you need a concrete game plan. You need to define your game and figure out how you will win.

Stephenson explained, "By making the plan about a logical win/lose scenario, it forces folks to think about outcomes and make relevant and actionable plans."

HumilityOf course, some players are better than others, but having prima donna qualities is frowned upon in hockey. You don't want to come across as vain, so the best way to distinguish yourself is to work hard for the team.