Anyone who follows professional sports today knows that they’re as much about money as competition. They’re businesses, after all.
As a Tampa native, I’ve lived and died with the Buccaneers since childhood. There have been many horrible years. The 27th game they played was they first they won. They missed the playoffs 14 straight seasons. Their uniforms looked like Creamsicles.
The club was in financial straits when the Glazer family purchased it in 1995. The club’s makeover eventually included new branding, a new stadium and a first-time head coach, Tony Dungy, followed by the inimitable Jon Gruden of “Monday Night Football.”
By January 2003, the club was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. While we wait for the Buccaneers’ next championship, let’s examine the traits of successful NFL teams and how those attributes can be applied to startups:
1. New England Patriots. The Pats are three-time Super Bowl champions and perennial contenders whose discipline and structure are personified by their steely coach, Bill Belichick.
Patriots players are expected to execute with proficiency and poise. For any team, it’s important for the leader to set clear expectations and exemplify the qualities you want to see in your employees.
2. Dallas Cowboys. While not recent winners, the team has a heritage of success. Owner Jerry Jones’ passion has made him pursue revenue streams other teams hadn’t tapped. He personally put up two-thirds of the money for his franchise’s $1.2 billion stadium. It’s hard to argue with that kind of drive.
While you may not have that much to invest in your business, seeking new ways to differentiate your company always pays dividends.
3. Green Bay Packers. Although this team is located in the league’s smallest market, the Green Bay Packers have cultivated a rabid fan base as they returned to glory the past two decades. The fans are more passionate because they are owners.
The Packers are the only publicly held team in major American sports. That feeling of ownership is key for any startup. When your employees feel they’re part of something bigger, the company’s success becomes their success. They’ll work harder to produce results.
4. Seattle Seahawks. This most recent Super Bowl winner has leveraged a front-office staff of personnel experts with a plan to find several diamonds in the rough. The team drafted several vital players, such as star defender Richard Sherman (5th round) and quarterback Russell Wilson (3rd round).
Hiring smart, capable employees who know enough about your industry to help you create a winning strategy (and pivot if necessary) is key for any startup trying to break out in the market.
Play Like a Champion. All-star franchises aren’t built overnight. As the leader, it’s your job to coach your team through major losses and other setbacks that every startup will face. Here are some tips for leading your team to victory:
Hold yourself accountable. Successful leaders must have financial discipline. Use a tool such as Mint to manage your finances. Set calendar reminders to review your budget every week.
Maintain a sense of ownership. Your business means everything to you at first. It’s important to maintain that sense of ownership and passion as it grows. That fire will carry you through the tough times. Constantly look for new revenue streams. Make smart investments in your company’s future. Your commitment is the fuel for your startup’s success
Don’t get carried away when things go well. Short-term success means little in the grand scheme of things. You may have a great team and a winning record but players get injured or leave the organization.
As an entrepreneur, not getting carried away means always having a financial game plan. You’ll need to take a vacation at some point, the market may stumble, or you may incur an unexpected business expense. Planning ahead for these expenses, especially in prosperous times, is critical.
You'll probably never own an NFL team but you can apply lessons from successful clubs to running your business. Learn from the best, and implement these practices to put yourself on a winning trajectory. If you become an industry leader, just beware the victorious splash of ice-cold Gatorade down your back.
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