So if the U.S. World Cup team scores a goal to win a game 1-0 with five seconds left on the clock, how much is that goal worth? The easy answer, of course, is that whether it was scored with five seconds left on the clock or 89 minutes, its value remains the same: it’s still a 1-0 victory.
But we know better. The circumstance defines the magnitude of the event. A goal late seems bigger than a goal early. A winning jump shot with no time on the clock in a basketball game is the only shot people will remember, even though 40 shots were made before it. The same goes for a game-winning touchdown.
Timing and circumstance are everything. That’s why such emphasis is given to those people and, quite frankly, those brands that can perform in the clutch. A company or individual that can perform when the stakes are highest and the spotlight is brightest are certainly the most impressive.
But at the end of the day, business success often happens under the radar. Just as the U.S. soccer team last September won their biggest game of the year (a qualifier in which they beat Mexico with no TV coverage and most Americans tuning out), positive comp growth on a slow Monday morning is surely more impressive than the same on Black Friday.
Walmart offers free delivery on orders of any amount, but specifically during the holiday season. But when Best Buy closes stores to protect cash, which at face value seems smart, remember that they’re doing it to stop the bleeding after Amazon has eaten their lunch, not to prepare for the threat of impending commoditization. A great goal, but too late in the game. Barnes & Noble embraced commoditization by introducing a dynamic new e-reader and using its soon-to-be-ghost towns, i.e. brick and mortar locations, as a platform to sell them. But the bookstore game was won in the first quarter by Kindle.
Last-second heroics are dramatic and memorable. But contests more often are decided early through advance planning and a whole lot of sweating of details. In this year’s World Cup, while the 86th-minute goal by the U.S. to beat Ghana was breathtaking, Chile simply scored its winning goal in the game’s 14th minute, which certainly had the same result. And while Brazil superstar Neymar himself beat Cameroon with his two first-half goals, it’s still Portugal’s goal against the U.S. with 20 seconds left on the clock that is perhaps THE most memorable of this year’s tournament so far. Ironically, the tie score in that case is even more impressive than a win.
Winning is about timing and the circumstance defines the magnitude of the event.
So by all means, save your company with a last-second turnaround. Introduce your most exciting LTO right before your leading competitor is about to launch theirs. Report Q3 comp gains a day before your board meeting. Run your category-defying ad during the Super Bowl and steal the show. But never forget that achieving goals isn’t always about what you do in the spotlight or late in the day. Your greatest achievements may be the goals you set early, the goals you reach long before there’s only a minute left on the clock, or they may even be invisible to your customer. Those truly are the goals worth more. Achieving them relieves pressure, allows for learning on how to succeed in the clutch, and gets you on the board, headed for a W. And, always, the win must be the ultimate goal.