Business with the rules of Cricket

Two of the things that I am very passionate about are Business and Cricket. Both these things have a very important role in keeping me sane and I can’t imagine my life without either. So, when I am traveling and not really doing much, I think about both these. And then this idea that ‘Business is like Cricket’ has come to my mind more than once and I thought that I will write a post on the same which will just help me organize my thoughts. The idea is not to make it funny but it might turn out to be funnier than my other posts (look, the bar is really low there).

And then the choice of the title stems from the fact that Bill Gates is one person I admire a lot. He authored “Business @ The speed of thought”. I can at least write “Business with the rules of Cricket”. Let me elaborate and I will again use bullet-points to do that:

  • Starting small and having bench-strength: When a team starts to play cricket, their team size (not limited to the playing 11) is really small. The total number of players playing the game in that particular country (Kenya is an example) is so small that there isn’t much of a concept of bench strength. The better you are at the game, the better is your bench strength (Australia is the best and they have the best bench strength). Similarly for the business, the team doesn’t have any buffer (if not under-staffed) in the beginning and this only changes with time and once the team starts becoming big. The bigger team / business can also utilize the bench that much better as they can afford to spend time / money / energy there.
  • Flamboyance is exciting but substance is preferred: In cricket, we all love to see Sehwag / Afridi in action more than we want to see Dravid. This is because there is an element of unpredictability / flamboyance associated with them. They can play the most atrocious shots and provide immense entertainment to the spectators but when it comes to crunch situations, Dravid is preferred over his more exciting colleagues. This is because Dravid symbolises comfort, maturity, reliability – it doesn’t mean that Sehwag / Afridi are not competent. Similarly when it comes to creating some life saving drugs, vaccine, the doctors prefer Ranbaxy more than they will prefer the smaller companies – even when there are quality checks in place. Again, this does not mean that the products from the smaller companies are any inferior – it is just the ‘comfort factor’ that makes a small company lose. And this is true for any business, not just medicines.
  • Planning: This is my favorite point. Since I am most aware about the software sector, let me ask this – what do the companies like Flickr, del.icio.us, YouTube provide? Features – yes! These companies are essentially ‘feature companies’ – not product companies. The success for these companies is determined by the amount of dollars they were acquired for. Mind it – I am not showing down these companies – I am just trying to emphasize that the smaller companies do not (cannot) plan as well as the bigger ones. If Flickr was not acquired by Yahoo, they wouldn’t have been called as successful as they are now. But the same does not apply for Apple or NVidia or Sun or even other medium sized companies. A lot of these smaller companies really don’t have a strong traditional business plan and people are okay with it. Similarly, the smaller and weaker cricket playing nations put in a much smaller effort planning as compared to the actual execution. Don’t they say that Australia wins half the matches before a single ball is bowled in a match of cricket? It is that planning only which makes them do that.
  • You are hated for being the best / biggest: Microsoft is easily the most hated software company in the world. Similarly, Australia is the most hated team in the world cricket. Yet – people are trying various ways to walk on their path and reach as close to them as possible. And if you are the one who has the best credentials / chances of toppling the best, everybody will love and help you UNTIL you reach the top spot. Just a human nature – it is fashionable to hate the best / biggest.
  • Interest among others and cost of get-togethers: This is funny and people have this complaint that the big conferences are always paid and expensive. On the top of that, there are many sponsors for that who end up paying big bucks for the big banners they put up at those conferences. On the other hand, the smaller companies like ours organize barcamps where we pay from our own pockets to sponsor the event. Similarly if a cricket player is from a team like India or Australia, there is a big queue for the businesses to sign them for advertisements while the players from Kenya / Bangladesh have to do another job to make sure they can have a decent living.

I have a few more ideas to support my point but I will save it for when I actually write a book on this ;-) To sum up – I think both these things have a lot of similarities. You start with being small in both, be more flamboyant but you always aspire to be more mature, more sophisticated, more organized and more planned. One can either be a part of the more organized and more planned organization / team or choose to start small and take the journey of maturing from a more exciting / flamboyant to more matured / reliable / planned team / organization. The choice will always remain with the individual!