McKinsey and BCG got nothing on this guy.

For tips on building our business, we turned to a hot new consultant: LeBron James.

Over the past few days my partners and I have been working on a business plan for our small ad agency. None of us are MBA’s — far from it, in fact — so this has been a bit of a struggle.

But then realized that we had just witnessed the perfect execution of a thoughtful plan and that we could use it as model.

What plan am I referring to? That of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here, as we see it, were their steps to success.

  1. Articulate a specific goal. When LeBron returned to Cleveland two years ago, he announced his aim to bring the city its first NBA championship. This was pretty outlandish, considering Cleveland had never come close to winning a championship before. But as LeBron knows, the first step in reaching a goal is setting one. So — does my agency want to win a Cannes Lion? Snag a project from Apple or Coke? Hit a million bucks in revenue? It almost doesn’t matter what our goal is, as long as we have one. I can’t tell you how many advertising agencies I’ve worked for that never got around to doing this. Or if they do have a goal, they don’t bother sharing it with their employees. Sad. How can you expect people to work with a sense of purpose if they don’t know why the purpose is?
  2. Assemble the right team. LeBron knew he’d need help on defense, so he got Cavs management to trade for J.R. Smith and Aman Shumpert, two ace stoppers. My partners and I have the strategic and creative sides of our business covered, but we need a closer — someone who can get our clients to sign on the dotted line. Thanks to LeBron’s example, we’re on it.
  3. Involve your community. LeBron understood that the Cavs’ path to the championship would have its ups and downs, and that they’d need all the support they could get. So he did everything he could to get the people of Northeast Ohio on his side — through his academic mentorship program, his summer tech camp for middle schoolers, and his pledge to send 1,000 high schoolers to college. Plus, he worked with Nike to produce powerful, pro-Cleveland TV spots like this one (as someone who was born and bred in Cleveland, I tear up every time I see it): https://youtu.be/n6S1JoCSVNU. What does this mean for my business? Should we do pro-bono work for local charities? Join outreach groups like Kiwanis and Rotary? Volunteer at neighborhood schools? I think it’s all of the above.
  4. Don’t be afraid to tweak as necessary. Midway through this past season, the Cavs — even though they were in first place — knew they weren’t clicking on all cylinders. So they fired their coach and replaced him with a career assistant. I thought this was a head-scratcher at the time, but you can’t argue with the results. Under its new leadership, the team cranked things up to a whole new level in the playoffs and their innovative schemes and lineups in the Finals completely flummoxed their opponent.

I don’t imagine my agency will be winning our industry’s equivalent of an NBA Championship anytime soon. But thanks to LeBron and his team, we’re on the right track.