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What businesses can learn from pro sports’ farm teams

Sports teams run very differently than businesses operate, but there is one method they use that businesses typically overlook or do poorly.

farm teams for business

farm teams for business

Comparing a sports team to business – ludicrous?

As a business, the thought of being compared to a sports team might seem a little outrageous, but there is something to learn from professional sport teams that could truly take our businesses to the next level.

Almost every professional sport (other than the NFL) has farm systems that they use to foster talent. A farm team’s role is to act as a training ground for young players to gain experience, and ultimately move to a higher level. It is a formal way to identify top performers and groom professional athletes. To their benefit, the farm teams practice regularly, engage in competition, and learn the culture of the sports franchise.

Why don’t businesses have farm systems to identify future top performers? Sure, business school can be considered a farm system, but are business students really learning the culture of a particular organization, and is the company really able to identify high potentials? So what can businesses do to have their own farm team?

Building the farm team

Are you ready for the answer? Internship programs.

No, not the intern that fetches you coffee and makes copies. It is unfortunate to realize that what most interns are used for is not conducive to the “farm team” analogy, but actually quite the opposite. An internship is supposed to be a formal or informal program that provides on-the-job training to gain practical experience in a given field. Now that sounds a lot more like a farm team.

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The obvious next questions is, what do we need to be doing to create an internship program that serves as a training ground to identify high potentials and create future employees? You need structure, training, management, and metrics

  • Structure – Who is responsible for the intern(s), what will the intern(s) be working on, how will they be completing their tasks and where will the intern(s) be working?
  • Training – Create and implement an on-boarding process for your intern(s). Acclimate them to the culture, workplace, responsibilities, people, and systems.
  • Supervision – Set up schedules, create best practices, identify and train management and identify mentors.
  • Metrics – Set benchmarks and evaluate regularly.

Having a well-organized and well-implemented internship program is like having a farm team at your organization. The key is to provide structure while allowing some leverage for creativity. The benefits of an internship program are lower recruiting costs, increased productivity, improved morale, and raised company public profile. Not to mention, having a team of people working on real business projects in an environment for learning and identifying top talent.

It turns out that businesses can actually learn a lot from sports teams. Who knows, we might start seeing sports teams learning from us.

Written By

Adam DeVos started working in his family business at the age of 10 and knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur.  Earning a BBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship, along with receiving the Presidential Award at his University, Adam is now the founder and Chief Building Officer for Internship Builder Inc., and the Chief Relationship Officer  As the former Executive Director for the Student Leadership Team and Dean’s Leadership Council, along with having been honored as a Hesselbein Fellow, Adam breathes leadership and business.

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