5 Ways to Build Your Company Like a Super Bowl Contender

With Super Bowl Sunday right around the corner we’re highlighting five defining values of the championship teams and how you can apply their winning mentality to your business.

The analogy between business and football can go on and on: The fresh-faced talent procured from the college ranks may mirror your promising sales reps. The fierce fight among the NFL’s 32 franchises to reach the Super Bowl may remind you of your own race for success against your industry’s most aggressive competitors.
With just two squads vying to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Super Bowl Sunday, ask yourself, what can you learn from these conference champions?
While the defining quality of each champion is often different (i.e., the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain” defenses in the 1970s, or the Dallas Cowboys’ high flying offense in the 1990s), there are core values that winning teams share, and these values can be applied to growing businesses.
On that note, here are five lessons from this year’s Super Bowl teams — the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks — to help you develop that winning mentality every growing software company needs.

5 Ways to Build Your Company Like a Super Bowl Contender

1) Make Your Customers Your “12th Man”

Image: Seattle Pi
Since establishing the franchise in 1976, the Seattle Seahawks have embraced the “12th Man” concept (considering their fans to be an extension of the players on the field at home games), and that strategy has certainly paid off. Since 2002, the Seahawks have the second best home record in the NFL, and this season the franchise set a Guinness World Record for crowd noise.
How can expansion-stage businesses adopt this philosophy? Treat your customers like the Seahawks view their fans. In fact, that strategy is more or less a direct reflection of the customer-centric approach deployed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who has been known to bring an empty chair to meetings to represent the customer.

2) Develop the Right Locker Room Mentality by Hiring for Cultural Fit

Image: ESPN
Some NFL franchises try to stock their shelves with talent by signing the biggest free agents money can buy. The Denver Broncos have gone the opposite route.
Rather than go on a spending spree when free agency begins, Denver’s primary priority has been to draft and sign players that jive with the locker room culture the team was trying to create. As Broncos president John Elway recently told ESPN, Broncos leadership believes that playing together is more important than having the best players.
The results of that approach speak for themselves. Several of Denver’s draft picks have evolved into perennial Pro Bowl players (i.e., Demayrius Thomas and Von Miller), while the free agents the team has signed are experienced workers and leaders who are capable of setting the right tone in the locker room (i.e., Peyton Manning and Wes Welker).
That approach can be a winning strategy in business, too, as Balihoo CEO Pete Gombert recently revealed in this post. The bottom line is that high-priced performers are only valuable if they fit into what you’re trying to do and buy into your culture.

3) You Don’t Need to Be the Best at Everything

Image: Sports Illustrated, ESPN
As Seattle and Denver have both proven, there’s more than one strategy for getting to the big game.
To get to this point, the Broncos have largely relied on their high-powered offense (scoring an NFL-record 606 points), while the Seahawks boast the top-ranked defense in the league. Neither team dominates every facet of the game, however. In fact, outside of their strengths, both teams are statistically average.
The takeaway here is that if your business has a particular competitive advantage over its competitors, you should focus most of your energy on that, rather than worrying about needless things that won’t ultimately help you advance. The bottom line is that a business that dominates in one area is often more successful than a company that’s average in two.

4) Take Risks to Go from Good to Great

Image: NY Daily News
A small success doesn’t always mean a team is going in the right direction. Just look at the 2011 Broncos. That year, the team made the playoffs — despite its quarterback, Tim Tebow, having the worst passer rating in the league among starting QBs.
Qualifying for the playoffs was an accomplishment, but the Broncos weren’t satisfied. They wanted to win the whole thing. So, in the offseason, Denver traded Tebow and acquired Peyton Manning — a future Hall-of-Famer who was just coming off of a neck surgery. At the time, it was a risky move based on Manning’s health, but it’s a decision that has since paid big dividends for the organization.
The lesson? Just because you’re experiencing moderate success doesn’t mean you’re on the path to a championship. In fact, as leadership and growth expert Kirk Dando explains in this post, success is often a double-edged sword, and if you underestimate or overlook the simple repairs needed to mature, stabilize, and scale your company, you may run face first into a brick wall.

5) Don’t Be One Dimensional — Utilize All the Weapons at Your Disposal

Image: SI.com
In the regular season, the Denver Broncos had five players catch at least 60 passes, three running backs combined for more than 1,800 yards rushing, and 12 different offensive players who scored touchdowns. That multi-dimensional threat made the Broncos virtually impossible to defend against, and the team went on to set several significant offensive records
Your business can do the same thing by utilizing multiple channels — company website, blog, social media accounts, e-newsletter, eBooks, etc. — to bring your product to market. As this post predicts, omni-channel marketing is the way of the future in the B2B space. For your business to stay ahead of its competition (or simply keep up with it), you must be able to hit several targets at once with a highly coordinated message.
Photo by The U.S. Army

Heading into Overtime: Additional Resources

Looking for more resources that can help you build a better company and get more customers? These two articles are a good place to start:
The Expansion-Stage Management Dream Team
The 4 C’s of Effective Go-to-Market Strategy


OpenView, the expansion stage venture firm, helps build software companies into market leaders. Through our Expansion Platform, we help companies hire the best talent, acquire and retain the right customers and partner with industry leaders so they can dominate their markets. Our focus on the expansion stage makes us uniquely suited to provide truly tailored operational support to our portfolio companies. Learn more about OpenView at openviewpartners.com.
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