Success in any endeavor is rooted in the fundamentals.


Steve Wynn' Secret to Success: Doing the Basics Better
The team that wins is the team that does the basics, better. (Click to Tweet)

Steve Wynn, the hotel and casino magnate, realized as they were about to break ground on the first hotel bearing his name that there wasn’t much “newness” that he could bring to the hotel business. So, he went back to the basics. He focused on the fundamentals of a great hotel.

Everything about the project from that point forward was, in Wynn’s words, about “doing the basics, better.”

The best quality sheets. Each room close to the elevators. Cleanliness. Good food readily available. Great service.

Those are the basics in the industry. And he set out to do them better than anyone else.

Fundamentals are not cool

Innovation such as the new $40,000 CRM and high-tech help desk software are a whole lot cooler than answering a call by the third ring and smiling at customers. They require special training that can only be taught by high-priced consultants, new lingo, and upgrades every 90 seconds. But without the basics, they are utterly useless.

Technology will never replace intention. Technology will never put a smile on a customer service rep’s face. It will never force a call to be answered quickly or help you handle a rude customer with grace. Only sound training in the basics will.

A lesson from sports

This focus on the basics is will successful sports coaches drill fundamentals so much, even late in the season.

Find a coach on the eve of a championship football game and what is their team working on? I assure you it is not the exciting new play they have never run. It’s blocking, tackling, holding on to the ball, and making sure everyone is in the right position on each play call.

They’ve been through preseason training and a 14-20 week season, but the they are still drilling the fundamentals.

Why? Because…

The team that wins is the team that does the basics, better.

Business world basics

  • Customer Service: Answering the phone quickly, smiling, the Golden Rule, asking the right questions, and so on. Your CRM or help desk program is irrelevant without the right hiring and basic training here.
  • Communication: Making sure your team is communicating with each other effectively. Yes, this must be taught. Here’s how.
  • Storytelling: Notice I didn’t say “marketing.” Telling your story to potential customers is a basic. The companies that do this better, like Apple, win.
  • Money Management: Spend less than you make. It doesn’t get much more basic than that. Successful companies spend less than they make, save for a rainy day, and reinvest wisely into infrastructure and people.

None of those shocked you. There were no revelations in that list. Nothing that would cause you to suddenly write a memo to the entire company announcing some grand new initiative. There is nothing to buy or read and no class to take.

If you want to mimic the most successful organizations, in business, sports, or anything, focus on doing the basics, better.

Learn them, drill them repeatedly, then find ways to tweak them to make them better. Then do them again. And again. And again.

What are the basics in your business, department, or organization that you need to do better?


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10 thoughts on “Doing the Basics, Better

  1. Bob Winchester says:

    I love the story telling idea! That’s such a valuable point! This not only goes for customers, but for the employees as well. Buying in, believing, and verbalizing the story can make all the difference in the world.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Who wouldn’t rather be told a story than marketed to?

  2. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    Fantastic Matt. Basics, fundamentals, principles. You’re so right, those things are exciting, or sexy or new. But they are so, so important.
    The basics in my life that I need to do better is genuinely connecting with people. Its so important, and I’ve slacked on it in the last month or so.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      From what I hear, you’re doing great with it…so get back to the basics and keep it up! It’s worth it in the long-run.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        haha, I was. I’ve slacked in the last month…back to basics! I’ll get back into after things settle next week!

  3. Shane Mackintosh says:

    You’re spot on with this post. I see too many businesses try and get to complex with what they’re trying to do and miss the basics of customer service and storytelling.

    I’ve got to focus on the basics of communication more. I’m inconsistent at the moment and it works against me when trying to maintain the personal and professional relationships that I have and especially when connecting with new people.

  4. Jon Stolpe says:

    In Andy Stanley’s most recent podcast, he shared a story from ChickFilA. When they were facing competition from Boston Chicken (who became Boston Market), ChickFilA was concerned about how they would compete. Some of the leaders were asking how they could become bigger. The president of ChickFilA responded that this shouldn’t be the focus. The focus should be on how can we become better. When we become better, our customers will demand that we get bigger.

    The basics where I work starts with quality and competency. Our customers know that they will get a job well done and that we will work through any problem.

  5. Katherine Leicester says:

    Another terrific post, Matt. This idea has long been a big one with me.

    Where I see many organizations fall is they focus on getting more sales, expanding the business, but the support structure necessary to treat these new customers as prized and special is lacking. So, yeah, you get more business, but the back end can’t take care of them, so they get hacked off, leave, and tell people that your organization isn’t all the salespeople say it is.

    “Gentlemen,” said Coach Lombardi “this is a football.”

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