Len Komoroski Featured

8:00pm EDT September 19, 2006
 Early in his career, Len Komoroski had two options — to work for a Pittsburgh indoor soccer team that had to fight to succeed or for Major League Baseball’s well-established Pittsburgh Pirates. He chose the challenge and went with soccer, a decision that foretold a career that includes building an NBA franchise from scratch and turning around a struggling NFL organization. When he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers, it had the worst league record and was among the bottom in revenue and ticket sales. But Komoroski has proven he loves a challenge, and has continued his winning track record with the Cavs. Smart Business spoke with the president of the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena about how he embraces challenges and leads change in an organization.

Embrace challenges.
Look for the most challenging situation you can find, and go in that direction. When I worked at the Philadelphia Eagles, they played in the worst building in the league, the business was not developed and (it was) an awful team. That was the opportunity.

We were able to see measurable results and success early on. When you’re at the bottom, the low-hanging fruit is there at the beginning, and people get excited. They say, ‘This can happen’ ... and that feeds upon itself. It continues to grow and to develop, and it sustains itself. Once you’ve had success, you want to have more. You like the feeling, you like the accomplishment, you see it as tangible.

If you talk to a mountain climber, they speak about the climb. When they get to the peak, they don’t set up camp there. They enjoy the success, and then they make their way back down for another climb.

It’s a journey. We’re all mountain climbers.

You have to make sure that if you do the right things, there is an inherent opportunity to succeed. There are businesses that could do all the right things a hundred times over and still not be successful.

Get good people to get good vision.
A lot of it revolves around the quality of people that you have. When you have a group of people that share similar values and have a desire to be the best, it’s easy to set a course for action. It’s a natural process as opposed to one that is forced or contrived or handed down from above — it’s part of the DNA of everyone.

It revolves around passion. We look for people who are incredibly passionate. It’s the flame that burns eternal that will lead to our ultimate success. It becomes somewhat all-consuming.

Successful people find a way to succeed. We could all come up with excuses. But when you look at it, how many times are people presented with obstacles that are supposedly insurmountable, too many challenges to overcome?

You’ll find that successful people will find a way to break the situation down and find ways to overcome it and succeed at levels that weren’t even anticipated .

Empower people.
Have a common philosophy, core objectives, working in the one direction, and have a group of people who help create that. We’ve created an environment where people feel like they can develop and have ownership in terms of developing the roadmap of success for our organization.

They have a strong sense as to what they need to be successful and what is going to put them in a position to make sure that our organization can be successful. They’re given trust and latitude in terms of how they can make things happen.

We’re constantly amazed at how people can redefine our definition of success, working together and creating another level that we may not have necessarily imagined before.

Welcome change.
Change is constant. The derivative of what’s going to lead that change is understanding everyone’s role in planning for that change in our quest to be the best. It’s all embodied in each and every person, so that change is emanating from the ground up as opposed to some dictum from on high.

When you have a situation when leadership is coming from throughout the organization, that’s when you can exponentially grow because it’s a group of people working together, leading and making things happen and creating change as opposed to one individual or a group of people waiting to hear what their next task is. It’s taking that paradigm and flipping it upside down.

Think beyond what is.
I had a great opportunity in Minnesota (with the NBA Timberwolves). We didn’t have a name, a team, a building. We didn’t even have letterhead. We started from scratch, and we weren’t restricted by past practices or the proverbial, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’

Dare to dream and dare to dream beyond what there was. When we talk about being the best in the industry, it is almost redefining what the best is. There’s another level of success out there beyond what even the best is. It’s just an insatiable drive and quest to be the best and looking at every nuance, every aspect, every detail and what the opportunity is associated with that.

Ignore the noise.
Know what the right thing is, and go after it. Be relentless in your pursuit of that. You’re going to have a lot of naysayers out there.

You have to be constant and firm in your vision. Envision what will be your success, and work your way toward that. Block out everything that could interfere with that, or run it over like a steamroller.

When you see athletes, that’s what they do. Ignore that noise, and bust through and make that happen. You certainly have opponents that are trying to stop you from doing that. Listen (to the negative) — to understand it, to overcome it — but if you start to buy into that, you’re defeated. You’re done.

Keep it simple.
People tend to make things more complex than what they are. I always like in ‘Bull Durham’ when the team was on a bad streak and (the manager) said, ‘This is a simple game. You throw the ball. You catch the ball. You hit the ball.’

If you have great people, great passion, that quest and desire to be the best, and that is shared from every aspect from ownership through everyone throughout the team, then the sky is the limit in terms of what can be accomplished.

HOW TO REACH: The Cleveland Cavaliers, www.cavs.com