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Build your championship business using Nick Saban’s process

(OPINION EDITORIAL) When it comes to winning, The University of Alabama’s Nick Saban knows a thing or two. Here’s how to take what he knows and use it for your business.

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Growing up in Alabama, the end of summer and cooler temperatures of fall signal the start of the most important season to Alabama residents – college football. Unless you’ve lived there, it’s almost impossible to appreciate the fervor that surrounds Alabama and Auburn football.

At an early age, every citizen picks his team: “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle!” There are no fence-sitters. You’re either with us or against us, and your college allegiance follows you for the rest of your life.

So, as a graduate of Auburn University, it pains me to admit that the University of Alabama football team is maybe the highest achieving sports organization in the world. That includes all professional and amateur sports teams.

Over the past eight years, the Crimson Tide has finished the season as the National Champion four times and barely missed a fifth championship.

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With 128 schools competing in Division 1 of the NCAA football, it’s an unbelievable accomplishment to capture 50% of the titles over that time period. And unlike professional teams, Alabama starts every year with a team that has 20-25% new players (a.k.a. freshmen).

So even as a diehard Auburn fan, I think it’s worth taking the time to study what Nick Saban, the head coach of Alabama, is doing to build and lead these championship teams. And more importantly, how we can apply those leadership skills to our business organizations.

Saban is dedicated to a philosophy he calls “The Process.”

He likes to say, “We’re not going to talk about what we’re going to accomplish. We’re going to talk about how we’re going to do it.” Emphasizing the “how” over the “what” puts the focus on execution. In short, what do you have to do day in and day out to be the best you can be?

A key to his approach is to focus only on the things you can control. It’s about executing consistently in the moment without getting distracted by the desired outcome. If his players and coaches execute consistently at a high level, he knows they will win games and championships will follow.

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One of the benefits of the University of Alabama being a consistent winner is that the school attracts and recruits the most talented, sought-after high school players in the country. And regardless of the talent of these athletes, the first step in their indoctrination to Alabama football is learning the Saban way.

All players learn “The Process,” which dictates how they practice, communicate, train, study, run plays and prepare mentally. Every player at Alabama knows that if he doesn’t follow “The Process,” he won’t be part of the team, regardless of his talent.

Saban only has his players at Alabama for a few years. So, it’s critical that they understand that the Alabama program is bigger than any one player.

It’s a similar situation in business. We know that any team member could leave, get sick, take vacation and ultimately retire. Therefore, we must establish and consistently follow a process like the Crimson Tide.

Applying “The Process” to your business means that your employees focus on their activities, not the outcomes, just like Saban’s players. Each team member is responsible for executing each activity to the best of that person’s ability.

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As a leader, you start by making sure each role in your organization has a handful of key performance indicators (KPIs) – activities that the team member executes on a daily or weekly basis. Once you’ve established those primary activities, a manager should work consistently to develop the team member’s ability to perform those activities.

A classic example of how to apply this philosophy is in the sales role. Many sales managers simply focus on each salesperson’s monthly sales goal. While they may have to produce $100,000 in new sales each month to justify their compensation, we can’t manage (coach) by focusing on the “what.” The $100,000 in new revenue is the “what.”

A good manager will work with the salesperson to determine the measurable activities (the “how”) they need to perform on a daily or weekly basis that will ultimately generate $100,000 in new sales.

The activities might include some combination of the following: number of daily cold calls, number of weekly prospect meetings, number of proposals sent each week, number of presentations to decision makers made each week, number of hours per day building a network and number of thank you notes written per week.

Under Saban’s leadership philosophy, salespeople should be consistently coached to execute at their highest level of performance for each of those activities. Once they execute at a high level, the “what” will take care of itself.

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With the football season fast approaching, I’m confident about three things: 1) The citizens of Alabama will still be split between “Roll Tide” and “War Eagle.” 2) The University of Alabama will once again field a championship-caliber team. 3) You can apply “The Process” in your organization to create a high-performing business.

Certified Petra Coach Rob Simons draws upon his 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, brand expert and business coach. Rob founded PixelWorks Corporation in 1993 to serve the interactive advertising industry and in 1996 he founded Toolbox Studios, Inc., one of the most respected branded content marketing firms in Texas. Rob sold Toolbox Studios in 2015 to focus exclusively on business coaching, which includes certification as a Gazelles International Four Decisions™ coach. An active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Rob is currently a “Master” EO Strategy Summit Facilitator and an EO Accelerator Instructor. In 2007, the San Antonio Business Journal named him one of San Antonio’s “40 Under 40.”

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