The Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers will square off in the 50th Super Bowl this Sunday. The game has grown into a global sports and marketing juggernaut without equal. Regardless of which teams are playing, interest continues to build, driving more viewers, more marketing dollars, and more excitement. There is no other event in which the game, the half-time show, and even the commercials are all must-see TV.
The success of the Super Bowl, like any other wildly successful enterprise, is the result of excellent execution. Every aspect of both the game itself and the surrounding spectacle, is carefully planned, rehearsed, and then executed in real-time. Nothing is left to chance, and excellence is expected.
Applying a Super Bowl mentality to our businesses can make them more successful.
10 ways to run your business like the Super Bowl
1. Have a written, but flexible, game plan.
Many teams in the NFL are known to script their first twenty to thirty plays on offense. By creating a written plan, they hope to set the tone of the game early, test their theories on the weaknesses of the competition, and hopefully gain an early advantage on scoreboard. However, turnovers and penalties may require adjustments to the script, and teams competing at championship level are nimble in adjusting when circumstances dictate. Likewise, your business should have a written, but flexible, plan. It is important to define your goals, create specific actions to achieve them, and set your financial expectations for the upcoming season. Your carefully crafted game plan needs to be clearly communicated to your team. Finally, it must also be flexible, because your year will rarely unfold exactly as planned.
2. The coin toss matters.
NFL teams regard the coin toss as their first opportunity to start executing their game plan. They even have a strategy (or maybe a superstition) about calling “heads or tails”. More importantly, they have a strong desire to start the game on either offense or defense depending on their specific advantages against the opponent. Commit yourself and your business to start the year at a higher level of execution. Early success can dictate the tone and the eventual outcome of the entire year. Start strong.
3. First down and ten.
Most Super Bowl teams excel at putting together long offensive drives consisting of a series of small wins, known in football as a first down. Breaking down the big goals in your business into smaller, more achievable wins will keep your team moving in the right direction.
4. Employ a balanced attack.
While wide open passing offenses are now prevalent in the NFL, most teams still have strong running games to keep defenses off-balance. The Carolina Panthers ran the ball 51% of the time during the 2015 season. Denver’s offense relies more on passing plays, but still ran the ball approximately 40% of the time this season. Your business needs balance too. Diversification of your customer base is usually the first area to begin to create balance. Concentration of revenues with only one or two customers creates risk and hampers the ability to secure traditional financing. Other areas to diversify are product and service lines. The ultimate goal in balancing your business is to successfully penetrate multiple industry segments that move in opposite directions during economic cycles.
5. Upon further review.
The use of instant replay to review close plays and questionable referee calls is now a staple of every NFL game. Likewise, leaders should periodically review what is working and what is not working in their businesses. One excellent method is the “Stop, Start, More” approach. Consider what you should stop doing, start doing, or do more of to drive further success in your execution.
6. Minimize, but do not eliminate, penalties.
Penalties are part of football. Despite the often profound impact of an inopportune penalty, few coaches expect or even want a completely penalty-free game. They know if players are more focused on not making a mistake, they will likely not push themselves to make the big-time plays that separate winners from losers. Organizations must strive daily to eliminate waste and drive efficiencies into all areas of their business. However, expectations of error-free execution can result in too many ‘safe” decisions and missed opportunities to dazzle customers by going outside the proscribed policies and procedures. Giving employees and yourself the freedom to push the rules occasionally can yield big wins.
7. Have a memorable half-time show.
The Super Bowl half-time show is almost as big as the game itself. While the teams are resting and adjusting their game plans, the stadium is transformed into a concert venue, and the fans in attendance as well as the world-wide television audience enjoys an entertainment spectacular that is talked about for days, weeks, or even years. Your employees will forget about long hours and the never ending challenges if they are having fun along the way. Midday barbeques, Friday happy hours, golf outings, and team building events are all great ways to celebrate “half-time” in your organization’s current season.
8. Keep the scoreboard simple.
The scoreboard at the Super Bowl communicates the most important aspects of the game simply and effectively. The primary scoreboard shows just 7 pieces of data: the score, time remaining, the quarter, the down, the yards needed to make a first down, the location of the ball on the field, and each team’s remaining timeouts. While there are hundreds of other statistics tracked by modern football teams, the players on the field need just these seven pieces of data. Challenge yourself to find three to five key statistics in your business.. Define the win for each of these statistics, and then share this data with your team.
9. Use your time-outs wisely.
Time-outs in football are used to temporarily stop the game clock for a quick rest and/or to regroup. When your team is focused and executing at a high level it is exhausting. Likewise, you and other key leaders should take a few time-outs during the year to step back from the details, think about the bigger picture, and make sure your current tactics are taking you in the right direction. Some leaders make time every week for this exercise by devoting two to four hours for strategic and creative thinking.
10. Visualize hoisting the trophy. At the conclusion of every Super Bowl, there is an iconic moment when the winning team’s owner triumphantly hoists the Lombardy Trophy. The owner has visualized this moment many times as he has borne the risk of investing millions of dollars in players who might get hurt on the next play, cutting aging former stars, and making unpopular head coaching changes. As a business owner, you also have to make hundreds of challenging decisions, such as difficult personnel changes or key strategic choices. Not every decision will be the right one, and you will undoubtedly endure setbacks and disappointments along the way. Because the process can be draining, allow yourself to occasionally visualize achieving the success you desire in order to help renew your enthusiasm and regain the energy to press on.
Enjoy this year’s Super Bowl and then set your sights on your own championship season in 2016!