Monday, February 4, 2013

Do You Have a Super Bowl Winning Business?


This past weekend, the NFL held its championship game, which since the 1966 season has been commonly referred to as the “Super Bowl”.  In a very entertaining game, which included a record breaking 108-yard kick-off return and a 34 minute power outage delay, the Baltimore Ravens were able to hold off a late 49ers rally to win 34-31.  However, unbeknownst to most of the 108 million people watching by television, and the thousands in the stadium, behind the scenes of this final game of the season was a very powerful engine of American business generating BILLIONS (yes, with a “B”) of dollars of revenue. 

The business of running a successful NFL franchise, and consistently winning in an era of increased parity, has absolutely nothing to do with a lucky mile-high catch, or a close no-call at the end of the game.  A single play on a single day never determines the outcome of the single most important game of the year.  Those that perform at a high level year in and year out make good decisions on a daily basis that inevitably lead to tremendous success, and these teams and their players share some common characteristics that all entrepreneurs and small business owners can learn from to take their businesses to a championship level.

1. Discipline - One of the big stories from this year's Super Bowl has been Ray Lewis and his retirement from the game of football.  His quest for another Super Bowl ring in this “swan song” or “final act” of his career has also shined a super-bowl-sized light on his past failures and misdeeds.  However, while Ray would be the first to admit that some of his youthful indiscretions were riddled with poor decisions, he is also an unbelievable model of discipline and self-control.  Ray has long since been an advocate of healthy living and clean eating, and treats his body as a machine, only feeding it what will cause it to work at the highest level.  He hasn’t eaten fast food – not a single cheeseburger or French fried potato – in his entire 17 year career.  In addition to his eating habits, his work ethic in the weight room and on the practice field has been referred to by some as “legendary”, and his role as leader of his football team has never been in doubt.
This type of discipline and commitment to excellence are the same attributes necessary to own and operate a successful small business.  Those who succeed at the highest level are always those willing to put in the time, energy, and effort that is uncommon in their industry, and to do the things that their competitors are unwilling to do.  It’s not necessarily about working long hours, or abandoning your family to slave away at the office, but rather a mindset of sacrificing short term pleasures in order to achieve long term gain.  Sometimes this manifests itself in a longer work week every once in a while, however it is also about allocating capital responsibly, putting principles before profits, and going the “extra mile” in relationships with customers, employees, and those in your sphere of influence.

2. Accountability - Every week football players are required to "break down tape" or watch video of the previous week's game with their coaches.  In these sessions, coaches perform more of a micro-analysis of each play, and take time to examine the fundamentals of each player, such as tackling, route running, and how the quarterback is able to read through his progressions and make the appropriate pass.  Just imagine how much incentive it must give each player during the game, knowing that their every movement will be analyzed and reviewed in slow motion by their position coaches and fellow teammates.  If they take a play off or don't give maximum effort during any phase of the game, their team will know about it.

Can you imagine if you employed that same strategy for your employees?  If you sat down at the end of the week and watched all 40 hours of your employee’s time at the office along with them, can you imagine how much more productive they would be?  Of course, you would probably have a tough time retaining employees with that kind of 1984-Big Brother-micromanagement, so let’s skip the employees for now and head right on over to your office.  How much different would your work day be, if at the end of every week you had to sit down with an accountability partner and go over every hour you spent at the office?  What if every email and article read, every task completed, every conversation on the phone independently audited and analyzed by an impartial 3rd party? Don't you think your productivity, attention to detail, and time management would dramatically increase?

While it may not be necessary to go to these extremes, it's an excellent idea to have an accountability partner or group of like-minded individuals that you meet with on a monthly basis.  It’s a great opportunity for you to share ideas with each other, get advice from those in different industries, as well as hold each other accountable for what has been accomplished during the previous month.

3. The Back-up Plan – Both of the head coaches in this year’s Super Bowl were applauded for making very difficult decisions during the course of the season.  Jim Harbaugh benched his quarterback, a former #1 draft pick who had led this same 49ers team to the NFC championship game just one year earlier, in favor of an unknown 2nd year player (Colin Kaepernick) from an equally unknown college (Nevada).  Older brother John made headlines as well, when he fired his offensive coordinator with just a few weeks left in the season.  Both men understood the importance of a back-up plan.

Every player on the football field has a back up for their position, and sometimes 2 or 3, as insurance in the unfortunate event that one of them gets injured on a play.  If one player is unable to take care of his obligations, an equally prepared back-up player is able to take his place in the game.  Coaches spend hours on that week’s game plan, however they also go into each contest with contingency plans depending on how the offense or defense plays them in that particular game.  Great coaches and great teams are also known for their “half-time adjustments”, in which another plan is devised on the fly, to counteract something unexpected that happened during the first half of the game.

In business, we may spend months on a business plan or marketing campaign.  However, sometimes even the best laid plans in a boardroom don't always work out as well as we had hoped once they get deployed in the real world.  Sometimes our competition makes a move we didn’t expect or perhaps a rapidly shifting market catches us by surprise.  As entrepreneurs, we must be flexible enough to change when we are faced with new information or a changing dynamic within the marketplace.
4. Rest – This one may come as a surprise to you, as many business leaders and bloggers spend their time extolling the virtues of long hours at the office, advocating for the “early bird” to also be the “night owl” and burn the “midnight oil” and both ends of the candle.  However, that has never been, nor will it ever be my advice to you.  I understand that we all have specific times in our business when we have to work extra hours, whether it’s due to a seasonal increase in business, or you are working on a new product launch or marketing campaign.  However, much like NFL players, we must take an opportunity to rest our bodies and our minds.

Each week during the NFL season, usually the day immediately following a game, the players receive a day off to rest their bodies.  Additionally, during the 17-week season, each team is given an entire week off, referred to in football as the “bye” week.  This week allows the players to spend additional time resting their tired bodies, and recovering from injuries.  Once the season is over, players are also encouraged to spend time away from the game with family and friends, to re-energize and get ready for the upcoming mini-camps in the summer.

Our culture frequently shirks off vacation time because of the illusion of increased productivity. However, studies show that vacation time actually increases productivity, as the rested mind is more creative, and able to make up for the lost time with increased speed and clarity of thought. This concept was certainly not lost on the Creator of the Universe, who Himself took a day to rest after creating the Earth and its inhabitants during the previous 6 days.  God was the originator of the “day off”, and felt so strongly about its importance, he established a weekly time to rest for his people, known as the Sabbath day. 
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of necessary traits for running a Super Bowl winning business, hopefully it will serve as some food for thought to help take your business to the next level in the upcoming year. I will end my part of the discussion here, but now it’s your turn!  Take a few moments and join the conversation by sharing an attribute below, and why you think it’s important in reaching the pinnacle of success in football, and in life. 

Recent Posts from E-mandate:
"If I Only Had More Time..."
"The Election is Over...Now What?"
Vaulting to Success, Part 3

Monday, December 17, 2012

"If I Only Had More Time..."

“I just don’t have enough time to get everything done.” 
“There’s so much to do and so little time.”
“24 hours just isn’t enough time to get everything done.” 

Have you ever found yourself uttering one of these phrases (or something similar) during an exceptionally busy period of your life?  Perhaps you feel that way all the time, as our increasingly busy culture is always on the go, trying to squeeze as much activity as possible into our already crammed schedules.  Just imagine how nice it would be if you in fact did have more than 24 hours in a day!  What do you think you would do with all that extra time?  The answer may be closer than you think.

Our nation received a time management “pop quiz” a few weeks ago (except in Arizona & Hawaii), and yet most of us didn’t even realize that a test was being administered.  At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 4th, something magical happened…an hour was added to the day.  As most of you know, there is a single day each and every year (at the end of daylight savings time) when there is actually 25 hours.  So, that begs a very serious question for each and every one of us.  What did you do with it? 

I woke up at the exact same time I always do on Sunday, right around 6:00 a.m.  Only today it wasn’t 6:00 a.m., it was actually 5:00 a.m., so I had a free hour with which to do whatever I wanted.   When the alarm went off, I was faced with the aforementioned pop quiz, and it answered a very important question.  If I was given extra time in my day, would I actually use it to do something productive, or would I squander it?  Much to my satisfaction, I got up and cleaned out my garage, while everyone else in the house was asleep.  However, I must admit that it was the first year that I remember actually taking advantage of the extra time.
Many of the same people who complain incessantly about needing more time in the day rarely do anything significant on the one day that they are given the additional time that they so earnestly desire.  In fact, every year numerous online polls are conducted asking folks what they plan on doing with the extra hour, and the most common answer is “get an extra hour of sleep.”  These people received an extra hour in the day, and yet accomplished the same amount (or less).  Unbeknownst to them, they are victims of what is oftentimes referred to as Parkinson’s Law. 

Parkinson’s law states that the amount of time which one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.  My wife and I joke about it all the time, and it’s never more evident than when we are getting ready for church.  If we wake up late on Sunday morning, and only have 30 minutes to get ready for church, we race around like wild people and leave precisely at 9:30 am.  If we wake up on time, with 2 hours or more to get ready, we get the same things done (though with slightly less stress) and STILL leave at precisely 9:30.  Rather than hurry up and get ready in 30 minutes (which is obviously possible) and use the extra 90+ minutes for important tasks, we tend to take our time and get ready at our own pace.

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to do the same thing with their task lists, allowing the tasks for the day to fill the entire day, instead of compressing them into a block of time that allows for other portions of the day to be used for brainstorming, business building, long term projects, etc.  Their theory of needing “more time” is completely erroneous.  In fact, they don’t need more time, they need to learn to utilize the time that they have in a more efficient manner.
The entrepreneur’s first (and biggest) time management mistake is starting their day with the easiest tasks first.  They do this because it gives them a sense of accomplishment, as they are able to quickly cross things off the list.  However, the problem with doing the small tasks first is that (per Parkinson’s law) it tends to take up most of the time you have allotted to work, 8 hours or so.   This leaves very little time for the big projects, which are typically the most important, and the ones with the most profit potential.  Every small business owner says that they want to spend more time working ON the business, rather than IN the business, because they realize that’s what it takes to make the company grow.  But big projects take big time, and because we don’t get the satisfaction of drawing a big, bold line through it on the to-do list for days or even months, we unfortunately have a tendency of putting it off. 

As you can imagine, I wear a lot of hats in my life…husband, father, blogger, entrepreneur, pastor, and the list goes on and on.  So, like many of you, I oftentimes find myself in the unenviable position of having what SEEMS to be more work than can be accomplished in the time I have available.  For a long time I fell into the trap of trying to get all the little things done first, so my mind was clear and I could focus on the big things.  But I never seemed to get around to the big stuff, and by the time I even THOUGHT about the long-term projects, the day was practically over.  I always thought I would get to it “tomorrow”, but after 100 tomorrows, I realized it wouldn’t happen unless I changed my strategy. 

After getting advice from some other successful businessmen, I found that the best way to accomplish my big goals is through a time management strategy known as “time-blocking”.  On Sunday evening, I have a planning session in which I set my schedule for the upcoming week, including time for small items like e-mails & phone calls, but also time for blogging, strategy sessions, and what I call business builders…the BIG vision stuff.  When my phone vibrates letting me know that a new time block has started, everything else is shut off and I eliminate all distractions.  I turn my phone to silent, I close my office door, shut off my e-mail account (so I won’t be tempted to check new emails) and I spend all my allotted time on that specific project.  This allows me to have focused intensity on the project at hand, and it has produced amazing results in regards to my productivity.

So, if you are guilty of wasting the extra hour you were given last month, or if you have a tendency to allow insignificant daily tasks to steal valuable time away from building your business, then give time-blocking a try.  Take one week, and schedule EVERYTHING you do in your calendar, setting aside a 1 to 3 hour “block” for important projects that require focused intensity.  You will be AMAZED at how you’ll be able to complete projects you’ve been trying to get done for months, and you will end each day with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. 

Come back and share your results in the comment box below…and then check out these great articles on time management from
Work Smarter, Not Harder -- and Other Time Management Tips from Jen Groover
Get More Done & Sleep Better at Night

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Election is Over...Now What?

The day has finally come and gone. The long, arduous battle between the Democratic vision of bigger government versus the Republican vision of smaller government has come to a decisive and abrupt end. The political spin, half-truths, and endless campaign commercials have ceased, the fat lady has sung, and we as a nation have finally decided who will be the next President of these United States. After “the most important election of our lifetime” (which every election in my recent memory has been labeled) about 50% of you are pleased with the outcome and the rest…well, not so much. The far-right extremists on the losing side are once again threatening to move to Canada, while those on the winning team are making equally hyperbolic statements in victory. But those of us in the real world are back to work, and many entrepreneurs are left to wonder how this election will end up affecting their businesses, their families, and their future. And as much as both sides would like to convince you otherwise, the truth is, it probably won’t affect you much at all.
I fully understand that tax policy, the impending “fiscal cliff” and Obamacare can have a tremendous impact on both large corporations and small businesses alike. I don’t have the time, inclination, or room in this blog post to dive into a political topic as deep and murky as that one. However, one thing that I am more than certain of is that waiting around for a president to help you achieve your dreams will leave your broke, disappointed, and unfulfilled. Free market capitalism is an effective economic model that creates enormous opportunity, not because of the man at the top, but because of the ingenuity and creativity of all those working within its system. If the participants in capitalism start using the president as the scapegoat or whipping boy for their own lack of success, they have revealed a great deal about themselves and their inability to take responsibility for their own actions.
I have studied the lives of countless millionaires and billionaires, and they all have one thing in common. Their businesses were built through hard work, discipline, and determination during (& in spite of) numerous presidential administrations from both major political parties. Sometimes they paid more taxes, and sometimes they paid less. Sometimes there were incentives and tax credits to take advantage of, and sometimes there were not. However, through it all, their success or failure was determined by their own actions…not by who was sitting behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.
Though the “hope & change” message of 2008 was largely absent from this campaign, President Obama still spent a great deal of time in his victory speech on how hopeful he is for the country’s future.  While many Republicans view that “hope” with a great deal of cynicism, after what they view as an unsuccessful first term, I still believe we should all look forward to the next 4 years (as well as the next 40) with a great sense of hope and optimism about our lives. Not because the President or the current Congress is going to issue tax cuts for our businesses or give handouts to our families, but rather because we are going to tap into the God-given “power to create wealth” (Deut. 8:18) granted to us by a loving Father. As the body of Christ begins to embrace this creative power that comes only from Above, we will find ourselves implementing new ideas and fresh vision that will catapult our businesses to greatness and increased prosperity in the days ahead.

Other Recent Posts....
Vaulting to Success, Part 1 - The Right Track
Vaulting to Success, Part 2 - The Safety Net
Vaulting to Success, Part 3 - The First Step