You know you've made it into the mainstream when your last name has been turned into a verb and Saturday Night Live features you in a skit.
Tim Tebow, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, has become a cult hero and an inspiration for many people. Critics and analysts harp on his unorthodox way of playing the quarterback position in the NFL because he doesn’t have the same finesse as, say, a Tom Brady and he tends to rush the ball more than other quarterbacks. But he took over as the Broncos starting quarterback midway through the season, led the team on a six-game winning streak, and steered them to a spot in the 2012 playoffs.
A very good friend of mine, Dan Mullen, is the former offensive coordinator for the University of Florida, where Tebow played college football. I had a chance to meet Tebow during his freshman year. He was a celebrity on the Florida campus and I was impressed at not only his presence, drive, and attitude, but his ability to remain humble. After meeting him, I recall thinking: This is the type of guy I want to root for and see win.
This is what I've learned about Tebow and why startups should aim to hire "Tim Tebows":
1. He is a winner
High school, college, and now in the NFL, Tebow just wins. He was the first sophomore to ever win the Heisman Trophy, he won two national championships at Florida, and he most recently turned around an abysmal season for the Broncos into a spot in the playoffs. That, of course, included an incredible victory last week over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
At your start-up, you want to take on people who have a demonstrated track record of success throughout their lives. That could be professional accomplishments or achievements in school, sports, or the arts. You want to hire people who are top performers and know how to win.
2. He was born a leader
Tebow has a natural ability to command respect from others. His work ethic is unmatched in terms of game preparation and hard work to improve his skills. At the University of Florida as a freshman, Tim gained immediate respect from upper classmen. I remember a story about how the football team ran the steps at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (aka "the Swamp") and even as a freshman, Tebow was leading the pack during this grueling conditioning program.
Another great example of Tebow’s leadership is an emotional speech he gave to the media after a loss to Ole Miss during the 2008 season. He promised to work harder than any other player in the country, and to push his team harder. The result: a national championship.
When you hire great people who are effective leaders and lead by example, they inspire the people around them to perform at an optimal level and accomplish what initially seemed impossible.
3. The up and comer who is changing the rules
When Tim emerged as the starting quarterback for the Broncos, defense players didn't know what to expect and had to prepare for the unexpected. Yes, he is heavily criticized for his erratic passing (which is fair), but this is only his second season in the NFL. He has a tremendous work ethic that was covered by ESPN when he was in high school as part of a documentary called “The Chosen One.” Based on his track record, I’m assuming he will spend the offseason working on improving his passing mechanics. If he emerges next year as a better passer, I believe that he’ll be a very dangerous threat and a more complete package.
Hiring "A" players should bring game-changing ideas to your table and new ways to help improve your product and business. They should also be the kind of people who understand that no one is perfect and continuously work to develop and get better.
4. He is a team player
Although the spotlight is certainly on Tim, he knows how to handle the media and you never get the impression that it is all about him. He credits his team for wins, not himself.
He also knows how to motivate people around him. ABC News carried a segment on Tebow last month that depicted his leadership style as motivating with encouragement, rather than hollering.
It may be a cliché, but there is no "I" in team, and I believe in that. If a start-up is going to be successful, you need a team-based approach with people who are passionate about the growth of the business. A company will never thrive if people don't care and don't support each other.
If you spot a Tim Tebow candidate out there, snatch him or her up fast. If you don't, your competitor will and then you will be spending time figuring out how to defend against your competition instead of moving your business forward and winning!
For the record: I am a New England Patriots fan and although I won't be rooting for the Broncos this weekend, I am looking forward to seeing what Tebow is able to accomplish over the course of his NFL career.