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Special to | March 19, 2014

Small lessons bring big wins


Jay Bilas shares how small lessons can be leveraged for big wins in both sports and business.

One of the most memorable teaching moments for UPS Brand Ambassador Jay Bilas didn’t come during an NCAA Final Four. It didn’t even come during a regular season game that would determine his team’s postseason path. It came, instead, during a road game on the West Coast during his freshman year of college.

It was perhaps his third game as a college player -- Bilas recalls the exact moment when he learned a lesson that stayed with him the rest of his basketball career and beyond. There was a loose ball during the game. A player had lost concentration for just a moment, and in that instant, had lost control of the ball. It was a small thing and a small moment that could ultimately have a big impact on the game. It was what players and coaches call a 50/50 ball, meaning Bilas should have recovered the loose ball 50 percent of the time. He admits that this ball was an easy one to recover, more like a 72/25 ball.

Bilas bent over to pick up the ball, as he had all throughout his high school playing career, a player from the opposing team dove on top of the ball. The other team gained possession, drove down the court and scored. When the final buzzer rang out at the end of the game, his team had lost by just one or two baskets. To Bilas, that one small moment where a lack of passion and toughness took over had decided the game.

“After that, I can't tell you I got every 50/50 ball because I didn't, but I was diving on the floor,” Bilas said. “That was my focus -- when that ball is loose, then I'm going to be on it.  It changed the way I looked at the small details of the game, because they're not small -- they're big.”

Bilas learned that day how much the small moments and superior effort could impact the bigger picture for his team. Learning moments come along every day in both basketball and life if you are looking. Bilas learned from his coach’s reaction after that game, and he continued to take in expert advice from his coach and teammates over the course of his days on the court.

“The coach of a team,” Bilas said, “is like the CEO of a small business. They are the guardians of culture for your team. When you believe in your coach and they believe in you, then that is a really powerful thing. “

Beyond tips from coaches, though, there may be times that expert advice from teammates can play an even bigger role in professional development as a player or an employee.

“When I was a young player and you got a chance to spend time with the older guys, then you got to ask them for advice,” Bilas said. “The little things they would share with you that gave you confidence that you could step up were really important. We were better because as each individual improved to better help the team, then the team improved.”

As Bilas watches teams prepare for the NCAA basketball tournament every year, he sees which teams have learned the little things from their coaches and teammates. Those teams that find the most success, Bilas said, are the ones who have five players on the floor that are all playing as one. This helps them as they prepare for the stress of the tournament, and Bilas feels it is similar to the everyday preparation that most successful small businesses undertake.

“You have to have a ‘we first’ attitude rather than a ‘me first’ attitude, which is the same as it is in any business,” Bilas said. “When you understand that there is no task too small for anyone and that every player, or employee, is important, then you’ve got a chance to not only be successful — you’ve got a chance to be a champion.”

Even elements that seem small and inconsequential in the big picture can add up to a large reason why a team or small business is successful.

“I think the great teams, whether it is UPS, great college basketball teams or top professional teams, all understand that everybody plays a huge role,” Bilas said. “You may not be in the headlines, but you still play a big role. For UPS, their role on your team may be to stay accountable to the mission of delivering your package on time safely and soundly, since it’s important to the sender and recipient and everyone in between. That’s the same on any team — everybody’s job is important to teammates, coaches, coworkers and CEOs.”

UPS is a member of many small businesses’ teams across the country, playing roles that are both big and small. We strive to continue to offer the expert advice that will help elevate your small business team to a championship level, from simple services like deliveries to more complex logistics solutions, while also contributing as a key player and teammate for your CEO and team.

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