Your Championship Team

Most leaders know it takes A-players to grow a company. But how do we attract the best of the best – and what does it take to keep them? Bigger paychecks? Better benefits? Sure, that’s a part of it, but it’s not the whole story. What really draws and inspires the best and the brightest to stay is being part of what I call a championship culture.

For example, let’s take the New England Patriots, one of the most storied franchises over the last 20 years. It’s an organization staffed with winners – a world-class coach, an enlightened and forward-thinking owner, a brilliant quarterback. What A-player wouldn’t want to suit up for the Pats? They’re all about excellence, and bringing the best – and that’s what draws the best to them.

Now, consider the Cleveland Browns. There’s no comparison to the Patriots. Their front office is a mess, their coaches come and go, and no decent player wants anything to do with them. These two teams play the same game, but what a difference in results! One has a championship culture, where players collect Super Bowl rings and break records. The other might as well stay home.

It’s the same in business; if you want to grow profitably, you’ve got to create a culture that not only attracts but promotes and supports excellence – a championship environment.  

In a championship business environment, customers regularly get the kind of service that turns them into brand ambassadors. Things get done right, and on time; the finance department doesn’t make errors, orders are delivered on or ahead of schedule, and problems are ironed out quickly. The people on the team work seamlessly together, focused on the same goals and supporting each other’s efforts. A workplace like that gets noticed, wins accolades, and builds on its success.

Success like that isn’t the norm, though: Of the 12 million businesses in the United States, only 4% will exceed $1 million in annual sales. Only 0.4% will exceed $10 million in sales. Why are the numbers for real successes so low? It’s because the leaders of the laggard companies don’t understand how to attract and keep the championship players who could help them grow. It doesn’t mean they’re not smart business people – but they can only pull the company along so far, with their own will and brute strength. To go beyond that point, it takes a team pulling with you.

Maybe you don’t want to grow; you’re a lifestyle entrepreneur who just wants to make the most money possible with the fewest employees. Lots of people have that attitude and it’s fine; maybe they do a million a year, with two or three employees. No headaches, no big decisions, no people problems. But if your goal is to build a company of significance, one that’s a true market leader, you’re going to model your team like the Pats, not the Browns.