What Can The NFL Teach You About Your Business?

The NFL kicked off again this month—something that many football fans were very relieved to see, given the extended labor dispute that occurred during the off season.  Many of us are devoted football fans, but for business owners, the NFL provides more than just entertainment.  In fact, there are many lessons that business owners and managers can learn by paying attention to the action each Sunday.  Below are three of my favorites:

  1. For a team to be successful, each individual must do their job.  Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, has a sign in his office that reads “do your job.”  He doesn’t ask any more or any less from his players—just that they execute their assignments.  These assignments vary dramatically from player to player—the offensive line is told to protect the quarterback, the receivers must get open downfield, and the quarterback must read the defense, make a decision, and throw the ball.  If ANY player on the field blows their assignment, the play is almost certain to be a failure.  How effective is your team?  Do your employees know their responsibilities?  Do they focus on them like a laser—and can you trust them to execute no matter what?
  2. A focus on the details leads to long-term success.  NFL players and coaches realize that they are in for a long haul.  From training camp to the Super Bowl, the season runs nearly six months.  And while they plan for the long term (every team’s goal is to win the Super Bowl, after all), they recognize that it is the details that make success possible.  You will never hear a coach fantasizing about the Super Bowl in week two of the regular season—because they are focused on their next game.  Do you understand the role that seemingly insignificant details play in determining the long term success of your business?  
  3. You can’t control everything.  NFL coaches and players know that, no matter how hard they prepare and play, sometimes things won’t break their way.  And rather than becoming upset or despondent after a loss, NFL teams get back to work, seek to learn from their mistakes, and move on to preparing for the next game.  How do you respond to adversity?  Does it throw you into a funk for a month, or do you bounce back the next day?  Failure is inevitable—the question isn’t whether or not you will ever experience it, the question is how will you recover?

When you boil it down, the business world is very similar to the world of competitive team sports.  As you’re watching your favorite football team this weekend, see if you can spot any additional principles that you can take from the game and apply to your business.  I’d love to hear what you come up with!