The last piece in my series, “Lessons I Learned from Sports that Apply to Business,” covers a game that I love, Squash. The key points from squash that apply to business, in my opinion, are: (i) dominate the “T”; (ii) keep the other person on the defensive; (iii) not every stroke is a winning one; and (iv) when stuck in a war of attrition, change the game.

Dominating the “T”

In squash, the “T” is an intersection of lines near the center of the court where the player is in the best position to retrieve the opponent’s next shot. In business, the same is true. Corporate strategy is about managing uncertainty by creating a portfolio of necessary strategic and growth options that allow the company to respond to a changing environment – in effect, returning to the “T.”

Keeping Your Opponent on the Defensive

In squash, the aim is to keep your opponent on the defensive until you can hit a winning shot. In business, the key is continually keeping your competition on the defensive so they cannot attack. When you launch the winning product, your competitors are effectively neutralized and not able to muster an adequate response.

Not Every Shot is a Winning Shot

As the players’ ability improves in squash, the game becomes one of attrition. In business, while most planning assumes a ceteris paribus basis, the launch of a new product or strategy nearly always elicits a response from the competition. However, if, in responding to your strategy or new product, the competition has put itself in a position where they are unable to respond to your next move effectively, you can take a market leadership position or redefine the market.

The Follow-Up is the Winning Shot

In squash, the follow-up shot to some change or new move is often the winning shot. In business, if a company launches a winning product or redefines the market during periods of market turbulence and recession, the competition cannot respond adequately, and the company can take a market leadership position.

Changing the Game in a War of Attrition

In squash, if you get into a war of attrition, it is best to change the game to retake the advantage. In business, it is the same. You have to change the game by (i) changing the tempo of play, (ii) changing the height of the ball, or (iii) being unpredictable. This can throw off your competitors and move you into a more competitive position.


Keep playing, and remember to keep your competitors playing defense as much as possible, so you can take advantage when needed. By applying these lessons from squash to business, you can improve your competitiveness and adapt to a constantly changing environment.

© 2012 Marc Borrelli All Rights Reserved


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