1. Anyone can play from the fairway, but only the best can play out of sand and the rough. Similarly, good companies can do the day-to-day, but only great companies consistently overcome the hazards and traps that the great game of business throws in their way.
2. No matter how great your lead on the competition is, you’re always in danger of losing it to distant rivals.
Consider the case of PGA veteran-turned-entrepreneur Greg Norman, whose many Sunday-afternoon collapses in major tournaments gave rise to the term “Saturday Slam,” because he would have won them all if they had ended on Saturday. Norman’s most legendary choke: blowing a six-stroke lead in the final round of the 1996 Masters, which he proceeded to lose by five.
3. New technology can level the playing field for smaller players. Just ask any heavy hitter who’s been outdistanced off the tee by a 98-pound weakling wielding the latest plasma-welded, titanium-alloy driver. Or take a look at former long-baller Norman. His career decline coincided with the widespread adoption of metal woods, which gave his competitors ample distance with better accuracy.
4. Just as every professional golfer has a coach, effective executives seek the counsel of colleagues, mentors and other advisors. More important, they take their coach’s advice. And if it doesn’t work out, they fire the guy.
5. Be gracious in defeat and even more gracious in victory, and you’ll never be short of partners to play with.