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Boykin Robinson, MD, MBA, FACHE, Core CEO & Founder

I am a huge fan of college basketball. That fact is likely very directly related to my attending the University of North Carolina, as basketball is pretty much a religion there. It didn’t hurt that we won the national championship my senior year and that we’ve been at least pretty good most years since then.

As a fan of college basketball, it follows that this is my favorite time of year. I’ve watched more basketball last weekend than I probably should admit….and I’m already ready for Thursday and the Sweet 16!

But even non-basketball fans get drawn into the madness. March is for everyone because of the passion, the crazy endings, and the Cinderella stories. And somehow, every year we get a few more compelling stories of smaller schools with smaller budgets who out-think, out-perform, or out-hustle teams who fly in on private jets and are made up of top 100 recruits.

These stories have captivated people since David and Goliath, and not only in wars and sports. Whether it is a small startup defying the odds and out-hustling their better funded competition or self-made women and men climbing the socioeconomic rungs through grit, everyone loves a good underdog story.

The question I’ve been pondering lately is how Cinderella keeps that slipper on when she grows up; How a team like Gonzaga evolved from a perennial underdog to a national power in just a decade. There are plenty of March Madness “darlings” who shocked the world, even if only for a few years, before fading away. How has Gonzaga managed to maintain the fire, grit, and positive thinking necessary to be the only current team to have reached the Sweet 16 every year for the past 9 years? Not North Carolina, not Duke, not Kansas. A small school in Spokane has reached a level of consistency that the “bluebloods” have not been able to reach over that time period.

Part of it comes down to leadership. They have maintained the same exceptional coach throughout this run. They have also managed to recruit really good players to Spokane. But I suspect much of their success is that they still see themselves as the underdog, they still have that fire driving them; Feeling like the deck is slightly stacked against you can, when used carefully, be a powerful motivator and create a real sense of team.

All these ideas apply to a growing business as well. Once the company grows past that start-up phase, they lose the “Cinderella” tag, but are still far from the complacency of a “blueblood”. They still have plenty to prove and hopefully still feel the deck stacked slightly against them. This is when they can really start to evolve as a company, adding the infrastructure and people they need to get to the next level.

In other words, move from being a Duquesne, who made their first tournament in almost 50 years, to a Gonzaga. We are right in the middle of that transition at Core. It’s been a fantastic growth story, evolving from startup to mid-sized in just a few years. Learning from Gonzaga, we will continue to recruit talented people, build out everything they need to succeed, and maintain a healthy dose of that startup edge so that there isn’t any hint of complacency with what we’ve accomplished.

While I contemplate what we need to do next, I think I’ll turn on the game…