As the owner of a contracting company, do you lead like Larry Brown? Do you see employees in your company showing the same dedication, hustle, and teamwork as displayed by the Detroit Pistons, the 2004 National Basketball Association (NBA) champions?

Hey, don't laugh. There is a lot to be learned from this professional basketball team, which, before the tip-off of the NBA finals, seemingly didn't have a chance against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Even the most faithful of Pistons faithful had some doubts in the back of their collective mind, and worried that the all-star cast from L.A. would bump off their beloved squad. The two biggest obstacles looked to be a smooth-shooting sensation named Kobe Bryant and a 7-foot-whatever mammoth inside force named Shaquille O'Neal.

But, as Pistons guard Chauncey Billups (voted the finals' Most Valuable Player) will quickly tell anyone, five will beat out two. "We came into this series, nobody gave us a chance, but we felt we had a great chance," said Billups, who has found a home with his seventh team. "We knew as a team, we just felt we were a better team."

In my managing book, that is lesson No. 1 from watching "Bad Boys II" (as the Pistons organization dubbed this year's team): Teamwork can overcome a lot of obstacles.

What Can Brown Do? Plenty

As a contractor-owner, you should already know that teamwork is what your company needs in order to be successful. Teamwork is needed on projects, in the office, on the road, every time, and everywhere. Knowing it and getting it, however, can be two different things.

In order to achieve teamwork within your company, all involved have to participate and buy in on the leader's direction. As contractor-owner, that means you. You have to be the leader, providing encouragement and guidance when needed.

In the case of the Pistons, the leader was, without a doubt, Larry Brown, the nomadic coach who fronted for a group of cast-offs and convinced them they could overcome tremendous odds by playing "the right way." Brown's way began with defense, the staple of "DEE-troit BAS-ket-ball!" The smothering performance turned counterpart Phil Jackson's vaunted triangle offense into a new, disfigured shape.

In answer to the question, "What can Brown do for you?" my answer is this: He showed everyone how to provide leadership. And that is lesson No. 2: In order to get teamwork, one has to provide leadership.

Like a true leader, Brown praised his employees after a job very, very well done. Leaders should take note of that, too. "It's about players," he said, obviously drained from winning his first title. "This sport is about players playing the right way and showing kids that you can be a team and be successful."

Big Ben's Lesson

Contractor-owners and employees alike can also learn plenty from Ben Wallace.

Fittingly, Detroit's leading man was its man-in-the-middle, who baited O'Neal into early foul trouble from which Los Angeles never recovered. A throw-in in the deal that saw Grant Hill leave town four years ago, Wallace had 18 points and 22 rebounds in the Game 5 clincher and displayed the hunger, determination, and backbone that are the trademarks of this team.

In fact, Wallace showed his solid work ethic ever since arriving in Motown. Here is a guy who comes to work every day and night. He is truly old school and puts in overtime, night in and night out. He is listed as a forward/center because he is 6-9, but he plays like he is 7-3. (At first I thought perhaps he is 6-9 when his hair is in cornrows and 7-4 when he is sporting the old-school Afro. However, after watching him play for the past few seasons, I realized that Wallace simply plays bigger than he is listed.)

Just think: This now six-year NBA veteran, originally undrafted out of Virginia Union University, is the first undrafted player in the league to start an All-Star game. He was also named NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season in 2003.

Therefore, here is lesson No. 3 from the man who wears No. 3: Keep working in and on your game. Good things will follow.

Work on and in your business to make it a slam-dunk success.

Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

Publication date: 06/28/2004