This week, Buffalo Sabres General Manager, Tim Murray, pushed his chips to the center of the table to pull off a blockbuster trade, with the centerpiece being Evander Kane, former 4th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.
The cost was high – ultimately, the Sabres had to swap defensemen (Tyler Myers for Zach Bogosian), with the price to haul Kane including a 2015 1st round pick and AHL/OHL prospects Joel Armia and Brandon Lemieux.
Was the price too high?
While only time will tell definitively, Murray’s logic is clear: Add top talent with upside and subtract those that don’t fit your long term strategic organizational goals.
There are many analogies to be drawn from sports teams and companies. Both are dependent upon different components of the organization communicating and performing at high levels in order for the whole to deliver a great product or service. Both experience crescendos, dips and plateaus in performance, sometimes driven by competition or market trends. But the height of crescendos and depths of the lows are driven by the most important factor in any successful organization: the presence or lack of great people.
I don’t know Tim Murray personally, but it’s clear he values Kane’s talent. Without much debate, Kane joins a historically underperforming Buffalo Sabres team and becomes the most talented forward (if not, player) in the organization (until *fingers crossed* Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel arrive after the 2015 Draft). Effectively what Murray has done is swap multiple players of debatable value and returned one with exceptionally high upside.
Similarly, successful companies make bold decisions about their culture and people in order to drive returns over the long run. Sure, a winning product or differentiated, top-tier service can rule the market over the short run, but companies will need innovation, communication, leadership, teamwork, and laser-focused execution in order to sustain growth. This happens when sharp, intelligent, top-tier talent is added, fitting and buying into the strategic direction of the company, while under-performers or average maintainers are shown the door. If you look at top-tier NHL franchises, each has a collection of world class talent at the helm: Kane, Toews, Hossa, Keith in Chicago; Crosby, Malkin, Letang in Pittsburgh; Kopitar, Doughty, Brown, Quick in Los Angeles.
Our company is striving to advance a culture of accountability, teamwork, high performance, and communication. To do this, we add people exemplifying these traits, who then lead from the front, adding momentum to us getting closer to the culture we envision. We are in the business of finding great people for our clients because we believe wholeheartedly this is what drives success. I don’t know whether the Sabres will win more next season, or make the playoffs, or if this trade ends up being the first big piece of a Stanley Cup winner. But the logic behind the move holds: making bold decisions to procure the best talent possible yields the best chance of sustained success.