I’ve spent most of today watching my favorite college football teams. As I watch my various favorite teams, and the highlights of other teams across the country, it’s dawned on me that there are a number of common characteristics shared by successful football teams — and successful entrepreneurs.
Here are three of those characteristics:
1) Fundamentals Matter.
Explosive offenses, stout defenses, and exciting punt returns don’t matter if the fundamentals aren’t there. Missed tackles, needless penalties, fumbled balls, poor clock management — all of these serve to counteract talent and potential on any football team. Sound fundamentals separate the good teams from the great teams.
And so it goes in business.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to work around a fellow consultant who is extremely smart, has great ideas — but simply doesn’t know how to handle himself in meetings and with clients. It’s his undoing. I also once worked for an organization who fired a very talented consultant because he simply couldn’t deliver the basics of what the client needed — he was great in meetings, and was the ultimate “big idea guy”. But when it came to simply moving the ball down the field, he couldn’t do it.
2) Big Plays Cement the Legacy.
Joe Montana is one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time. It’s not because of his stats. It’s because he always seemed to make the big plays when his team needed it. That goes all the way back to when he quarterbacked Notre Dame to a Cotton Bowl victory despite suffering from flu and near-hypothermia.
It’s the same in business. For example, there are a number of tech companies making big bucks — but think of those “big play” leaders who have cemented their legacy by changing the game with big plays that have revolutionized their fields. Steve Jobs with the iPhone or iTunes. Jeff Bezos with books. Larry Page and Sergey Brin with Google (who I believe are about to revolutionize the tech space once again with Google Glass).
2) A Game of Inches.
While the ability to make those big plays cements the legacy, football is essentially a game of inches. The game is won or lost on the wars going on in the trenches, between the lineman, off the blocks of the fullbacks, or the ability for the tailback to get the two inches needed for a first down.
So it goes in business. Perhaps one of the best examples I can share is the story told by Google’s vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra about Steve Jobs. One one Sunday afternoon in 2008, Jobs called Gundotra at home on a Sunday — all because Jobs was concerned about how the Google logo looked on the iPhone.
As Gundotra tells it, Jobs told him:
“So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I’ve already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow.”
The CEO of one of the world’s most iconic companies focused on a Sunday about how the one-inch (about) Google logo was appearing on his company’s phones?
It’s one of the things that made Steve Jobs great. He knew that success was a game of inches.
Are there any other similarities you see between football and entrepreneurship? Please let us know in the comments.