"I remember just how confident he was. He kept going to Bill and the coaches saying 'I'm your guy.'"
That's Stephen Jones, vice president of the Dallas Cowboys, describing to ESPN how Tony Romo behaved when he was just a young, scrappy, third-string quarterback trying to prove himself.
Today, Romo's been to the Pro Bowl four times and set eight passing and points records for the Cowboys.
Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from pro athletes like Romo. Hustle, grit, determination--the whole wide world of sports is full of lessons that can help you build a stronger business. Here are four big ones.
Provide Hyper-Personalized Onboarding
Giving employees the support they need to do outstanding work from day one not only sets the tone for your workplace, it can also prevent costly mistakes.
Injuries are expected in the NFL, but the 2000 Patriots noticed their roster was chock-full of hamstring injuries. So the Patriots made a preseason program where every player was given a personalized "pre-hab" program that addressed their risk factors. As a result, the Patriots lowered their incidence of hamstring injury by 90%.
By identifying your employees' flatsides and providing support early on, you can create a "prehab" program to help them reach their full potential. Maybe your company's creative hires struggle with presentations, or maybe your entry-level hires make data entry mistakes.
Then, create onboarding materials to prep incomers, like a video library. You might make a playlist for presentations with tips on speaking, structuring pitches, and Q&As, or an analysts playlist with tips for your software, acronyms, and how you clean your datasets.
This will cut time spent passing important skills on, and it will build a better, healthier team. "By its nature," Wistia CEO Chris Savage says, this mindset "fosters a culture of long-term, future-centric thinking that allows [you] to make healthier decisions about personnel and performance."
Ditch Your Hiring Process
Anyone who has started a business knows that a tight budget means getting creative with how you spend your money at every step of the game.
Revamp outdated practices, like hiring. Traditional hiring isn't thrifty, entrepreneurial or creative. It's susceptible to bias, and reliant on human instinct, which doesn't consistently find the best and the brightest.
Billy Beane faced this problem when revamping the Oakland A's (as told in Michael Lewis' Moneyball). He couldn't find good players for his cash-strapped team when scouts couldn't effectively evaluate players, held back by bias and human error.
Through painstaking statistical analysis of underutilized play data, he invented new stats that helped him find previously ignored players to overhaul his roster.
You, too, can revamp hiring with analytics. Use a service like Textio, which offers data-based improvements for job postings. Paste your ad copy into a document and immediately, improvements appear over highlighted words. These suggestions can get more qualified, more diverse group of candidates applying faster.
For example, replacing "competitive" with "ambitious" can help draw an equal number of male and female applicants. You'll weed out corporate jargon, gendered language, and negative phrases. This can open the door for people you would otherwise miss adding to your roster.
Compete With Your Coworkers
Competitive environments prompt everyone to consistently give their best effort. Every season in German soccer's Bundesliga (literally: federal league) the best minor league teams are promoted to the Bundesliga while the worst Bundesliga teams are demoted. This increases incentive across the board.
You can't copy Bundesliga's system in your office, but use competition to create external motivation. Fight complacency by setting individual and team challenges and visibly tracking their progress.
For example, keep a running tally of everyone's sales that they can update and celebrate as deals close. Or, split your employees into even strength teams and create a tournament to reach a new quota. If you have multiple locations, tapping into geographic rivalries can commit the office to a team effort.
While it is tricky to navigate workplace competition, stress that the biggest win is an individual rising above their own goals, and encourage everyone to pitch in and make those individual wins a reality.
There's even science to suggest that your team will get a brain chemical boost from helping each other hit their marks, which is an extra perk that will keep everyone motivated and feeling good.
Doubt Your Data
When making data-driven decisions, your stats are the secret to success. If you get them wrong, it can spell disaster. This is a lesson that English soccer learned after it adopted Charles Reep's gameplay analysis that fewer passes was the key to scoring.
But this was a misreading of Reep's own data. He had conflated correlation and causation. Worse, it wasn't corrected until England was demolished in two international tournaments.
Here, you might be thinking, Of course Reep failed - he wasn't even reading his own data correctly! But I know a thing or two about stats.
It's tempting to believe that we are savvier than Reep, but 2 out of 5 SaaS companies aren't even able to accurately calculate their own MRR. The right decision is made from the right data, so these slip ups have huge ripple effects.
Avoiding these mistakes is crucial, but it doesn't have to be hard. Services like ProfitWell turn your raw metrics into easy to digest data points. ProfitWell even offers analyst insights to help you. Whether you need an accurate snapshot of your cashflow or want to refigure delinquent customer handling, their precision and expertise will give you the data you need make the right decisions.