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What the Arizona Cardinals season can teach Phoenix entrepreneurs

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In some sports (e.g., boxing), a 10-6 record is not good. For Arizona Cardinals fans, who have enjoyed only a few winning seasons during its quarter century in Phoenix, this record is nirvana. Arizona entrepreneurs can glean at least five lessons from the Cardinals’ season, to apply in the New Year.

1. Leadership: A business can have great products or employees, but without executives, who know how to manage them, may fail. The Cardinals hired new General Manager Steve Keim. Then, in possibly their best move ever, they acquired last year’s NFL Coach of the Year—Bruce Arians. Preparation, time management, and experience made the Cardinals a winner and Arians a contender for a second title. The vision and management skills of the executives will ultimately determine the long-term success of a business.

2. Discipline: In the past, the Cardinals had a poor reputation as a bunch of “players,” who liked to party rather than practice. Arians and the team’s no-nonsense approach have garnered new respect. Entrepreneurs, committed to hard work and consistency, will gain the respect of clients, customers, and competitors.

3. Teamwork: One could never tell who was going to be the MVP of any game. When injuries (e.g., Tyrann Mathieu) took out some players, others (e.g., Justin Bethel) stepped up. The most successful businesses will be those (e.g., Apple), where integration of team members and innovation from all ranks, are encouraged.

4. Comebacks: This year, fans did not throw up their hands when the Cardinals fell behind. There were impressive come-from-behinds (e.g., against Seattle to win, making up 17 point deficit with the 49’ers). Carson Palmer could have been crowned the “Comeback Kid,” as he shook off interceptions to make big plays. The new year represents a great opportunity for small businesses to continue their recovery from the recession. Staying calm and persistent are keys.

5. Planning for Change: The 2013 Cardinals were not averse to risk-taking. They hired 28 new players, including other teams’ cast-offs. To succeed in 2014, entrepreneurs must also take risks be innovative and increase profits. They should be open-minded in hiring older, “overqualified” workers still wanting to make a difference.

Though they did not make the playoffs, the Cardinals were happy and looking forward to next year. Even though they may not have achieved pre-recession profits, Phoenix entrepreneurs should be happy with progress made in 2013 and be optimistic about 2014.

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