If you live in New England, you’re most likely a Patriots fan. And if you live outside of New England, most likely you’re not. Whether you’re a Patriots fan or not, the Patriots’ ability to constantly win and execute almost flawless comebacks has essentially been unseen in football, or any other professional sport for that matter. They’ve triumphed over injuries, player trades and suspensions—and somehow over the past 18 years, they continue to win. Much of this winning tradition is founded off of some key principals of Bill Belichick with support from Tom Brady, Robert Kraft and others. What I find more interesting is that the same key principals can be applied to business to create a winning tradition as well. In this article we will cover the top 10 key principals the Patriots use to be successful that can also be applied in a business setting:
- Attention to Detail – The Patriots have a strong eye for attention to detail. Whether it’s on the field, training, or during press conferences, the Patriots pay attention to every little detail. Why is this important? In sports or business, the competition is constantly training and strategizing to find ways of winning in the field of competition just as hard as you. The small details are what will give your team a winning edge over the others, much like the Patriots.
- The Playbook – Every professional sports team has a playbook. However, the way the Patriots train and execute against it is at times almost flawless. What is a playbook? It’s essentially a set of plays based on foreseen scenarios on the playing field, typically put together based on past experiences. Much like in sports, business can benefit from a playbook as well—especially where most scenarios in business are not completely new. Creating and training your team to execute against a playbook will allow them to be more nimble and execute faster to achieve better results.
- Continuous Improvement – The Patriots may have a playbook, but it is not the be-all and end-all of their strategy. Bill Belichick and his coaching staff are always finding ways to improve upon their playbooks which allows them to continuously improve on their situations. As an example, the Patriots have an impeccable record coming into the second half of a game to overcome extreme deficits. How have they been able to do this? As the gameplay goes on, they do not focus on what went well; instead, they look at what went wrong, and during half-time, they strategize on improvements. Both coaching staff and team are attuned to this and able to pivot allowing them to come back to the field with a better strategy than they left. Business needs to have the same type of mentality. As your team progresses through a strategy or develops a business plan, they should always be looking to find faults and for ways of continuous improvement. Then the most important part: execution.
- Every Little Bit Counts – The Patriots are always working on ways to gain a few extra yards, and these extra yards, although small in nature, add up when the game is all said and done. Business is the same. Many organizations are always going for the long ball, when short gains will do. As an example, a $100,000 contract is a decent size, but how much effort can go into winning $100k? Now reflect upon how much easier it is to win $15,000 or $20,000. Start winning some of those $20,000 deals, and by year’s end, you find that you’ve earned yourself an additional $150k – $200k.
- Never Give Up – The Patriots, especially over the past year (or so), have found themselves seriously behind in games. Most famous of these situations was last year’s super bowl when they came back from a 25-point deficit to win with seconds to spare. Where most teams shut down, the Patriots persevere; through following the playbook and continuously improving, they never stop. They know that with a few small changes in their game, there is always a chance to move the ball forward. In business, your team needs to have the same mentality to always find ways to win. As an example, I’ve seen organizations behind in their Q4 numbers absolutely fall apart. However, I’ve also seen some come together, strategize, and push as a team to meet and exceed their numbers.
- Team – Quite simply, the team is everything when it comes to the Patriots. They have set up the organization in a way that there isn’t any one single point of fault and everyone works together. Since Bill Belichick has taken over the Patriots, with the exception of Tom Brady, he has seen his fair share of “star” players come and go from the organization, but he always somehow figures out a way to win. This is because he ensures that when he comes up with his playbook, everyone has a part and everyone knows it. This also means that anyone is replaceable at any time. In business, you need to have the same mentality; too many organizations have a single point of failure. When that person goes on vacation, gets sick, or leaves your organization, there is a huge hole left in their wake. When setting up your organization and playbook, ensure you have a team effort in place with no existing single points of failure (including yourself). It’s a harsh term, but make it so that “everyone is replaceable”.
- Keep Your Cards to Yourself – Bill Belichick has been famous at press conferences for his stone-faced emotions and dry nonspecific answers. This is not because he hates press conferences (well maybe he does), but it is a key part of his strategy. When a player is hurt for example, he doesn’t outright share that the player is hurt during these conferences. He typically waits until the last minute to release this information. Why? It’s because he wants to keep the competition on their toes regarding what scenarios they should be planning for as they move into the next game. Businesses need to think the same way in order to keep a strategic competitive advantage. As an example in today’s market, “time to market” has significantly decreased, and companies can launch new services and/or products in days instead of years or months. Keeping new releases closer to your chest until launch allows for a greater amount of time between when your competition finds out and when they can launch a competitive service.
- Dedication – There has been no question of Tom Brady’s dedication to the team and sport. He is typically known to be one of the first players to show up for practices and even more well known for his eating and training habits. This is how number 199 of the draft pick has made himself one of the best sports players of all time as a 40-year old. As individuals, if you want to be top of your games, there needs to be dedication to your craft beyond the hours of 8 – 5. Always find ways to educate and keep yourself mentally sharp, and always hire someone with the same attitude. I’ll personally take someone with heart and dedication over someone with raw talent any day of the week.
- Zero Tolerance – Bill Belichick has been known for his zero tolerance attitude. Miss practice, and you’re benched for the next game. Speak negatively towards the team, and you’re benched for the next game. Too many organizations tolerate employees with harshly negative attitudes and poor work performance for too long of a time. Negativity breeds more negativity.
- Block Out the Noise – Almost at every turn through the season, there is a new article bubbling up in the news about something controversial with the Patriots. However, they do an impeccable job in blocking that noise out to focus on their jobs. As an example, the Patriots are infamous for their press conferences for frustrating the media by refusing to address or answer questions as it relates to the current issue at hand. Business can learn from these lessons of cutting out outside noise to focus on the task at hand. There are only so many cycles in a day to complete what needs to be done, so why focus on something you have no control over?
At the end of the day, it’s important to have strategy in order to be successful in sports and business. The Patriots have one of the most well-rounded strategies we’ve ever seen: a strategy that can easily be translated to business. As a word of caution, many of the items above seem easy at their base, but they take discipline and time for them to truly help you be successful. However, if you put in the effort and focus on the small details, your team will see success. And remember—if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!