By Rich Figel
When the UH basketball team lost Saturday night, my wife and I were among the 6,000 fans who walked out disappointed. What hurt most was how they lost. The Bows led all the way to the end, and then a combination of missed free throws/bad decisions/fatigue, or just choking under pressure, allowed the University of San Francisco to steal the win. Correction: the USF Dons earned the victory. The visitors stayed close, hung tough and stepped it up in crunch time.
That's the takeaway I got from the game. In business, you still need to do the basics and little things from start to finish. All your good work will be for naught if you get sloppy or rush to complete a task. If you're competing for a job or up against a rival business for a contract, it means don't give up until it's over, no matter how bad the odds look. Your competitor might get complacent or fail to check one small detail that opens the door for you.
But what I really wanted to comment on is the turnaround in the UH basketball program. I had season tickets back when Anthony Carter and Alika Smith were packing the arena and beating big schools like Indiana and Kansas. Under Riley Wallace, there were some pretty good teams and at home, the Bows were rarely out of any game. Unfortunately, in his final year and the next three seasons under Bob Nash, the electricity was gone. However, that's not why we stopped buying season tickets for basketball.
The real reason was the atmosphere at the Stan Sheriff Center. By and large, the SSC does a great job of being fan-friendly. It's the little things though that turn off people, or conversely, get them excited about attending sporting events. Whether it's football or basketball, a common complaint is parking problems -- usually because crowds tend to arrive less than an hour before game time. So to avoid that situation, my wife and I used to get there early. If you're a business-minded person, you'd think this would be an ideal opportunity to take advantage of a captive market, right? Instead, that extra hour before tip-off became an excruciating headache due to the mind-numbing rap/hip-hop that was being played game after game, with no regard for the fact that most of the fans were over the age of 45 or parents with young children.
Look, I'm no old fuddy-duddy, who hates all new music. On the contrary, I'd love to see a mix of old and new, along with mash-ups that blend R&B, pop, rock and hip-hop. Music can set a mood from the moment you walk in the door. It can make strangers smile and nod at each other. Watch the opening of any Ellen DeGeneris show -- she gets her crowd up on their feet dancing. And they love it, because motion is emotion. We've seen it before at UH volleyball matches when a couple of students would start dancing in the aisles between breaks. The key though was it came from the students, and it was largely spontaneous. That's not something you can easily manufacture. But the UH is starting to bring back students to the games, and for that, they are to be commended.
Anyhow, at Saturday's game, the music levels weren't ear-splitting and the rap stuff (which sounded more like angry dogs barking non-stop) was mixed in with a couple of local tunes, and then some old school Motown like "Signed, Sealed, Delivered"... but it was as if the music guy wasn't even there. Go to a club and watch real DJs in action. They try to pump up the crowd. I happened to be sitting next to the area where DJ Slacker was "programming" music, and the young dude seemed utterly bored. He slouched down, pressed a key on his laptop, and that was it. His body language said he didn't care, and the fans were pretty flat when the game began. Can't they find someone who actually loves music and knows how to play to a crowd?
This goes for businesses too. You can't fake passion or enthusiasm. Find people who love what they do -- people who want to grab that cowbell and bang it for all its worth to sell themselves or your company's services! Then reward them for it, because those are the ones who will keep customers (and fans) coming back for more. That's what UH coach Gib Arnold has brought back to the basketball program: enthusiasm and a sense of fun. He even smiles on the court once in awhile. Now, if only the sports marketing people can tap into that renewed energy and liven up the pre-game atmosphere, we'll really have something to get excited about for next year.
Thanks for the comments on my "Made in Japan" blog post and name suggestions for the motor-cooler. Although comments are closed for both due to the barrage of spam-bot comments, you can still email me name ideas for the cooler at firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners won't be announced for awhile. I'll also have more to say about the growing wealth inequality in the U.S. that some of you wrote about. It's real, but why aren't more people outraged over it?
And I'd just like to bang the cowbell for my Career Changers TV show. The current episode, which features segments about Wilhelmina Hawaii, plus Judy Bishop's excellent interview and resume tips, airs through next week on OC16 and their interactive on-demand Channel 96. Click here for daily viewing times and links to our CCTV YouTube Channel.