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What Every Business Can Learn from Coach Belichick

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09Being a football fan from New England, it is impossible not to appreciate the phenomenal run the New England Patriots have been on for the past 15 years.

As a businessman the area that impresses me the most is their famous approach to the sport. Their business-minded strategy is unique in the industry and difficult to sustain. At NENS, we often site Belichick-ian sayings in our meetings and we talk about the Patriot way. With all of the talk about systems and continual improvement, I wonder if Bill has studied business best practices or if it comes natural.

Now that the Super Bowl is over, I wanted to reflect on parallels drawn between the franchise’s approach and business insight. We welcome your ideas and inputs too, because we all become wiser when we share ideas.

Move on to Next Week’s Game

The patriots are notorious for a limiting distractions and doing everything they can to enable their players and staff to focus on the most important task at hand. Why? They know that distractions cost us dearly. They move us away from our end goals. If we really want to achieve our goals, can we really afford distractions? All of us have too many things going on in life to think that distractions do not cost us, yet we often let (and embrace) these distractions.

Technology is filled with distractions, in fact for some people, it is only a distraction. One of the most common distractions is an incompatible version of software. When everybody has different systems, you lose time trying to share files and versions. Some people have older, slower system that take longer to load and longer to do tasks. I am talking about those systems where you turn them on, then get your coffee, start a task and head off to the bathroom, or wait (pray) that it will print this time.

Over only a few quick years, systems slow down from built up temporary files, fragmentation, installation of applications or add-ons and all of this drags performance down. We all have experience in this category; when we are delayed we are distracted. Time lost deleting spam, virus and malware problems will delay and distract us. Waiting for support to get back to you is a distraction. Another huge productivity and time sucker is non-business related Internet and computer usage. The average employee spends an hour or two on non-business-related computer usage.

Are you on to the next game are you allowing the noise to dictate your next move?

Understand What It Takes to Win

We believe Coach Belichick has a keen understanding of what he needs to do to win the game. He takes the time to analyze, strategize and prioritize. When it comes to technology, most companies spend more time playing the game and hoping for a good outcome. This reactive approach leaves you scrambling to resolve unexpected issues, rather than an easier, proactive approach. Putting in some strategic and yet simple effort pays huge dividends, but just fixing things as they come and buying a random system when one fails does not set you up for success. If your goal is to survive playing the game, then status quo will work; but if you are in it to win it, you need to align your technology needs with your business and resources.

Listen to Your Team

One impressive trait Bill possesses is his willingness to listen to his players’ feedback on what they see on the field. Many times he makes adjustments based on their suggestions and the whole team benefits. You might think someone as accomplished as Belichick would be caught up on his expertise, but he trusts his players and knows when to delegate or take them up on a suggestion.

What are your players telling you in your business? Is your technology working for them? They may be spending time fixing issues or slowed down because of mediocre solutions that are not benefiting the company. Imagine how productive they could be with better solutions. You could be hemorrhaging profit through poor solutions.

Listening gives great opportunity to fully understand what is happening on the field and it builds rapport with your team. If you just stay in the coach’s box you will never hear what’s really happening on the field.

What great adjustments are being missed in your business?

You Get What You Put In

If there is anyone who has to appreciate value for their investment, it is Belichick. Think about it: paying 12 million for one player? Could you not find a cheaper cornerback? Of course you could, but what he realizes is the position is not just a slot to be filled. There are many ways a particular player brings value to a team. They not only make the plays, but they possess major talent, assist and prevent specific plays, listen to other players, work very hard and go the extra yard. As it turns out, value is not getting someone or something as cheap as possible. Wow, who would’ve thought?

The Patriots have a system and the system dictates about how much can be allocated per position. Do you think they wing that? That requires a real written and managed budget. The percentage allocated to each position and expectations on what that position needs to deliver. If you do not have a budget for the key things in your business, technology being one of them, you need one. Technology can not be an after thought or an add-on to your budget.

A healthy organization needs balance; all components in harmony. You can not bloat one area and aspect it to carry the other areas that are starving. Each aspect of your business deserve a strong percentage of budget and resources.

Gartner put out research reports on industry averages for costs of technology based on size  and maturity of companies. They have phenomenal tools and benchmarks to give insight. With this knowledge, we’ve been able to prevent unexpected costs to our clients by providing a fixed fee model where each party is accountable for success. There is no motivation for NENS to spend more time fixing issues; we prevent them best we can.

Do you opt for mediocre performance in any position at your company?

Think of your technology as your offensive line. How critical is a strong O-line? You can have a great quarterback, and skilled position players, but if the O-line is bad the skill players never really get the chance to shine or score. With an average or slightly poor O-line your chances of winning drop.

Often the person assigned to technology does not have the best skill set to put your business beyond break/fix mentality. We often see more money spent on repairing and putting better systems in place.

Would you let Tom Brady go out on the field with life hack options for gear? Say, a bike helmet, gardening gloves and old tennis shoes? No, you’d set him up with the best option that works for him. You would want the optimal chance for success, because you want a win and you have invested quite a bit in him and this team.

Maybe you have employees that are making do with minimal technology just like gardening gloves and old sneakers instead of appropriate equipment. When you look at the cost of that equipment compared to what you are paying them an hour, better technology is a small fraction. Yet I see people out there making close to six figures working on a PC that a nonprofit would not even accept as a donation. [True story]

Are you setting up your team for success?

Client Feedback

“We are about 60% more effective, since we contracted with NENS. The new IT structure helped our office work more efficiently and NENS was able to help make our performance faster. NENS was able to diagnose issues quickly and fix them in a timely manner.”

—Kristen Hammond
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