Insights from “Chasing Perfection” for the small business owner

It may be an unusual book recommendation for a small business owner, but “Chasing Perfection: The Principles Behind Winning Football the De La Salle Way” by Neil Hayes offers an alternative approach to achieving excellence. Written against the backdrop of high school American football, the book summarises the coaching philosophy of the legendary Bob Ladouceur, whose strategies have been applicable far beyond the football field. The principles outlined in this book have surprisingly powerful implications for businesses of all sizes, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The game plan: Key messages of “Chasing Perfection”

Hayes’ account focuses on several key tenets that form the bedrock of Ladouceur’s success in creating an unparalleled high school football dynasty at De La Salle that lasted more than three decades (1979-2012). These principles, while originating in the world of sports, serve as a solid blueprint for excellence in any endeavour.

1. Commitment to excellence: Ladouceur proposed the belief that while perfection might be an elusive goal, the relentless pursuit of it leads to unparalleled excellence.

2. Importance of teamwork: The De La Salle way emphasises collective achievement over individual glory, highlighting the power of a united team.

3. Discipline and consistency: By reinforcing structured practices and disciplined habits, Ladouceur created an environment where success was repeatable.

4. Accountability: Every player, irrespective of their role, was held accountable for their performance and their commitment to the team’s goals.

5. Adaptability: The ability to modify strategies and adapt to changing circumstances was key to overcoming adversities.

6. Attention to detail: No aspect was too small to be ignored; meticulous attention to detail was a cornerstone of the De La Salle programme.

7. Mental toughness: The psychological resilience to withstand pressure and adversity was as important as physical prowess.

8. Leadership development: Ladouceur fostered a culture where leadership qualities were nurtured across the team, not just among designated captains.

9. Long-term vision: Beyond individual seasons and games, the focus was on creating a legacy of sustained excellence.

10. Ethical conduct and integrity: The programme stood on a foundation of ethical conduct, emphasising that winning should not come at the cost of core values. This stress on integrity is very close to my own beliefs and so it naturally resonated with me personally.

A “playbook” for SMEs: How to implement De La Salle principles in your business

Small and medium-sized enterprises often operate in a dynamic, if not tumultuous, business environment. Limited resources, intense competition, and a constantly evolving marketplace present unique challenges. This is precisely where the principles of “Chasing Perfection” can prove invaluable.

Commitment to excellence

For SMEs, excellence isn’t just a virtue; it’s a necessity. This isn’t merely about having a superior product or service; it extends to customer relations, internal processes, and even the way employees are treated. Striving for excellence in these areas can result in a differentiated market position and enhanced brand value.

Importance of teamwork

SMEs often have lean teams where each member plays a critical role. Adopting a team-first culture can lead to a harmonious workplace and facilitate the efficient use of resources. Collaboration can fill gaps in expertise and multiply productivity.

Discipline and consistency

Consistency in quality and service delivery can help SMEs build a loyal customer base. Even in the most straightforward tasks, discipline plays a key role in avoiding costly mistakes.


In smaller businesses, the actions of a single individual can have immediate and significant ramifications. Holding each team member accountable, therefore, is not just a principle but an operational imperative.


SMEs are often better positioned than large corporations to adapt to market shifts. Using this agility to continually refine product offerings and enter new markets can be a crucial advantage.

Attention to detail

In a competitive market, minor details can make a significant difference. Whether it’s the quality of customer service, the user interface of a product, or internal operational efficiencies, attention to detail can distinguish an SME from its competitors.

Mental toughness

For a small enterprise, survival and growth can sometimes seem like a high-stakes game. Developing mental resilience across the team can help weather the inevitable ups and downs.

Leadership development

In a smaller organisation, leadership should be nurtured at every level. Employees should feel empowered to take initiatives, contribute ideas, and lead projects, regardless of their official title.

Long-term vision

Though SMEs often focus on short-term survival and growth, incorporating long-term strategies can guide intelligent investment and sustainable expansion plans.

Ethical conduct and integrity

Operating ethically is not only morally correct but also makes business sense. A reputation for integrity can be a strong differentiator in a crowded market.

I’ve discovered that the wisdom in ‘Chasing Perfection’ extends far beyond sports, providing invaluable insights for business leaders committed to achieving excellence. For small business owners, in particular, these principles offer an inspirational guide for establishing a culture centred on teamwork and for creating a business where outstanding performance is at its core.

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