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Recruiting: The Butler Did It

Believe it or not, there were some valuable recruiting lessons to be learned from this year’s NCAA Basketball tournament. National powerhouse Duke barely edged out Butler (a small, private university with 4,000 students in Indianapolis) to win their 4th National Championship. This was Butler’s first trip to the Final Four — an unlikely story given the limited size, exposure, and level of talent the school’s basketball program normally attracts.

A quick breakdown: Duke is like a “Google” or “Goldman Sachs” — they are going to attract top talent every year, no matter what. They have established their reputation and their recruits can only hope Duke calls them.

Butler, meanwhile, is not a national powerhouse. They are like the small start-up tech firm that has found some regional success, but is still hoping for that breakthrough into the national marketplace. Despite smaller flashes in the past, this year finally brought that major break-through. The championship game, the national spot-light, and all eyes on Butler.

But, having reached the pinnacle of the college basketball world, 2 questions have emerged about Butler:

  1. How did they reach the mountain top?
  2. How will this change their recruiting in the future?

Tim Gardner wrote in this morning’s USA Today that Butler still has an uphill battle in terms of recruiting top talent:

“It’s hard for Butler to pull five-star talent. Those types of players want the bright lights of a national television audience. Teams like Duke play nearly their entire schedule on national television. Teams like Butler don’t.”

In recruiting terms: It’s hard for the small tech firms to attract top talent because they may not have the name recognition/payroll to bring in the 5-star recruits.

So, what will Butler — and small-to-mid-sized companies — do?

Exactly what they have been doing to find success: Looking for under appreciated talent and players willing to buy into a team game-plan, an opportunity to prove their skill set, and a chance to shine in a smaller office environment.

Said Butler Coach Brad Stevens (who, by the way, fits the Butler mold: he’s 33 years old): “We’re going to evaluate and recruit to who Butler is and not worry about what everybody else says about it… We’ll try to put together a team that can compete like this one.”

It’s that type of mindset that can help smaller, growing companies achieve success on a national level without the fruitless attempts at trying to attract 5-star talent at a high price tag. Even with a level of success, finding the under appreciated talent can create a more cohesive, productive, and successful team. And doing it all with a smaller price tag. Butler did it… so can you.

Who knew a basketball game could teach a good business lesson?