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Business Lessons Learned from the NFL Referee Scandal

We can learn a lot about business from the football field. The NFL employing replacement referees came with lots of lessons. The idea that there would be a seamless transition and that, perhaps, no one would even notice, fell flat on its face.  The use of replacement referees is considered by most to be a complete fiasco.  But what lessons can we learn and apply to our own businesses?

1. Value your team

Everyone in you organization contributes to your success in a specific manner. Each employee is an integral part of the operation. Recognize the role that each team member plays and imagine trying to operate without that person. Appreciate that they are working hard and also want to see the company succeed. Take time to show your employees how much you do value them.

2. Listen

When employees raise issues, you have got to listen. It doesn’t matter if they want to talk salary, job function, a change in roles or product flaws. If an employee approaches you with an issue, it is because they care. The same goes with customers. The ones who care the most about your brand are the ones who complain. Employees and customers who raise an issue need to be heard out. It’s your opportunity to improve the business.

3. Train

Proper training cannot be touted enough. It doesn’t appear that the replacement referees where given extensive training prior to taking the field. That is the responsibility of the company. Those employees represent you, your company, your product or service and your brand. Throwing your team into the fire without proper training is recipe for failure. In addition to the specifics of their job, they need to understand what your company values, what are your goals, and what targets they are working toward. Lots of people complained about the poor performance of the replacement referees. But it was not their fault. They got called to do a job they were not trained and ready to do. They meant well and tried the best they could within their ability and experience. If the NFL wanted seamless transition, they should have spent a little effort to train the replacements.

4. Backup

Football teams have second and third string quarterbacks, baseball teams have a crew of pitchers, and the President has his VP. What’s your back-up plan? If your customer service team walked out of the office today, how would you handle it? Would you throw your accountants at the job because they “talk to customers and vendors” on a daily basis? What have you done internally to cross-train employees so that everyone can appreciate everyone else’s job? If you hire temporary employees, what will you do to ensure that they provide the same quality product or service? (See above.) No matter how well you address points 1-3, you still need a plan B.

Everyone is delighted that the real referees are back in the game and that negotiations reached an agreement. But had the NFL been more prepared for the situation, they would have been able to make it a lot less painful for the fans who love them, as well as less damaging to their brand. I’m sure the referees are glad to have their job back, but do you think they feel valued? Appreciated? With the way the negotiations where handled, what’s their level of job satisfaction?

What lessons can you pull from the NFL and the referee negotiations? Please share in the comments.

It’s an Issue of Trust

trust word in letterpress type

Perhaps you’ve seen the news peppered with stories about university athletic departments all geared up to monitor their student-athletes’ social media accounts. With several universities receiving media attention and NCAA infractions, it’s no wonder athletic departments are “scrambling” for solutions.

Without a proper education, there is no doubt that student-athletes are going to commit social faux pas online. Even coaches and athletic department staff have committed noticeable errors. However, the message that you send the moment you set up a monitoring system is, “We don’t trust you.”  Your message to your players becomes,  “We have the greatest faith in you on the field, but the moment you’re out of our sight, we don’t trust your actions or your judgement. We don’t trust that you know how to communicate or what to say. We don’t believe in you.”

Educating your players, on the court and in the office, prepares them to be successful communicators and builds trust between an organization and its team members.  When you (re)educate your team – and I mean every staff member, coach and player – about your brand identity, the brand message and provide social media guidelines (methods for successful communication), you empower your people to serve as brand ambassadors. Enabling them with a better understanding of the various communication tools develops personal pride and a willingness to better serve your organization. Directors and Head Coaches serve as positive, capable examples and can better relate with staff and players about the events happening in the social stratosphere. A thorough education and open discussion can serve as a spring board for ideas which may be generated from the most unexpected sources.

Some universities have chosen to provide some level of social media education, but yet continue to employ monitoring services, “just in case.”  That only sends mixed signals to the players,  “We want you to learn how to use these tools and we want to help you improve your communication skills. But…we still don’t trust that you’ll be successful and remain worried you’ll say or do something stupid.” How else are these young adults to interpret this? How are they (and you) to learn from their mistakes?

ASU’s Michael Crow said at the NCAA Convention in January that the student-athlete experience is, in a sense, a leadership academy. In addition to creating opportunities for their players to become the best athletes they can be, the ASU athletic department staff and coaches offer “life coaching” to motivate their young men and women athletes to consider what they want their life to mean, what life goals they want to achieve and what they want to contribute to the world.

In a CBS video of several coaches weighing in on social media, it was Jim Christian at Texas Christian University who said, “As opposed to just restricting them, you know, sometimes they have to make bad decisions in order to learn. And I think that’s what college is all about.” And UNLV Basketball Head Coach, Dave Rice chimed in with, “I really believe in the importance of empowering student-athletes, making it a part of the education process and really using social media in a positive way.”

Universities, which are at their core, educational institutions, are far better off preparing their athletes for success versus assuming their failures and continually operating in crisis management mode.  Educating your athletes about reputation management, personal branding and all the nifty details of social media, challenges them with responsibility and professionalism and a chance to rise to the occasion.  At the end of the day, that IS what college is all about and a sure method for creating an environment of trust and empowerment while paving a path for tomorrow’s leaders.

Through Beaming Bohemian’s branding and social media education, including the development of social media guidelines, you can change your tune and deliver the message of trust to your student-athletes. Investing in this education is a uniquely positive approach which delivers the message, “We believe that you are amazing individuals who have a unique ability to inspire others through your leadership. We believe you are just as talented off the field as you are on the court. As a student-athlete, you have a more visible platform for story telling and brand development. We trust that you respect yourself, your teammates, your coaches, fellow students and members of the community. We believe in you and we are excited for you to share your story with the world.”


Media Sources

Maryland Bill Addresses College Athletes’ Social Media Privacy via The New York Times

Supreme Court to schools: Take care with First Amendment via LA Times

Athletic departments get free rein with social media via Minnesota Daily

UNC, NCAA Address Monitoring Athletes On Social Media via WFMY News (CBS)

Schools scramble to monitor athletes’ social-media activities after NCAA ruling via philly.com

NCAA: No plans to police Twitter via Missoulian

Have I? Have You?


Lately I’ve been reading the online magazine Inc. which is geared toward small business owners and entrepreneurs.  I’m loving the tips and advice and chance to learn from others’ experiences.  Today I found this fabulous article which really hit home. It is a completely different concept of achieving success – asking yourself 10 questions.  Once you read the list, I believe you will see how checking in with yourself every day and being focused on results will push you to achieve more.  The article is below or you can read it on the Inc. site – HERE.


10 Questions That Create Success

Want help focusing on what really matters? Ask yourself these on a daily basis.
By Geoffrey James | Jan 23, 2012

Think that success means making lots of money?  Think again.

Pictures of dead presidents have never made anybody happy. And how can you be successful if you’re not happy? And buying things with that all money isn’t much better. A new car, for instance, might tickle your fancy for a day or two–but pride of ownership is temporary.

Real success comes from the quality of your relationships and the emotions that you experience each day. That’s where these 10 questions come in.

Ask them at the end of each day and I absolutely guarantee that you’ll become more successful. Here they are:

1. Have I made certain that those I love feel loved?

2. Have I done something today that improved the world?

3. Have I conditioned my body to be more strong flexible and resilient?

4. Have I reviewed and honed my plans for the future?

5. Have I acted in private with the same integrity I exhibit in public?

6. Have I avoided unkind words and deeds?

7. Have I accomplished something worthwhile?

8. Have I helped someone less fortunate?

9. Have I collected some wonderful memories?

10. Have I felt grateful for the incredible gift of being alive?

Here’s the thing.  The questions you ask yourself on a daily basis determine your focus, and your focus determines your results.

These questions force you to focus on what’s really important. Take heed of them and rest of your life—especially your work—will quickly fall into place.

If you found this post helpful, click one of the “like” buttons or sign up for the Sales Source “insider” newsletter.

“No plan” is a solid idea

If you haven’t yet read the book REWORK by 37Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson, I recommend you pick up a copy.  As a first time business owner, I found their advice and viewpoint refreshing and motivating.

One lesson has been ringing very true in the past couple of weeks. Under “Takedowns” in the first section of their book, they discuss that planning is more a form of fortune telling.  They proclaim is that long-term business plans are a lot like guessing. One sentence I underlined on the page was, “Plans let the past drive the future.”

This would most certainly be the case from my last post as Group Director, Sales & Marketing for Apple Tree Hospitality in SE Asia.  My arrival in December of 2008 could not have been at a worse time in the status of the global economy.  Between August and December that year, the travel industry flipped upside down and sideways.  It was NOT a pretty sight.  The past could not have dictated that overseas travel agents and tour operators would not be able to fill large groups as they had in 2007 and therefore cancel numerous dates booked on the calendar.  The past could not have predicted that agents would want to stop booking one year out, but 90 days prior and therefore change the terms of contracts for groups.  Trade show attendance turned more into lessons about what was happening in overseas markets and changing travel trends than it was gaining new clients. The global events were not predicted or labeled anywhere in the 2009 business plans.

The changes in the travel industry pushed us to drive business online and build entirely new websites for our boutique group of properties.  We had to be more open to last minute bookings locally, push this even, and “go with the flow,” bending to the changes in traveller habits and new business methods of tour operators.

So when I returned to the US and launched my website and business in May, I did not write a specific business plan.  I initially planned to offer services in naming, branding, copywriting and marketing consultation.  I wanted to play to my strengths and my joys.

What’s happened over the last few months is that I have had numerous conversations about my business, about what’s happening in San Diego industries, trends in the US, and certainly what’s happening online, and I’m finding that my focus is being shifted. My contacts are leading me down a path which was unimaginable to me at the beginning of this year, but now is so wonderfully possible. I’m seeing my business, my clients, and my future in a whole new light. It is extremely exciting.

I spoke in my last post about being accepting of change.  And while this piece hints at that, I’d like to suggest “not planning” is more an encouragement to be more open.  Be open and be flexible.  Listen to what your friends, contacts, clients, …what the world is telling you.  Take a moment to realize when new opportunities are staring you in the face.  Be willing to change directions.  Fly by the seat of your pants on occasion.  I’m enormously amazed at how wonderfully things are falling into place and what big cheers I am hearing from all the right people. I’m glad I am ready to shift into a new gear.

Working in the industries I have in the past, I have always subscribed to having a “solid” business and marketing plan.  While it is hard to let go of that completely, I am finding, with the advice of REWORK and the nature of all these fabulous circumstances, that a rough outline and a red notebook filled with scribbles of ideas are working just as well.  I do have goals, a vision of what I want my business to become and what clients I want to serve, but I’m also OK with writing them down in pencil.


Q: Would you feel comfortable without a business plan, or do you find that structure helps you succeed?  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and comments.

Who Moved My News Feed?


Do we all remember the revolutionary and #1 Best Seller Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese? is the story of four characters living in a “Maze” who face unexpected change when they discover their “Cheese” has disappeared. Sniff and Scurry, who are mice, and Hem and Haw, little people the size of mice, each adapt to change in their “Maze” differently. In fact, one doesn’t adapt at all…

Soon after the book was released, I was working as the Member Relations Director at the City Club on Bunker Hill in Los Angeles, a ClubCorp private club.  We all got a copy of this book. And we all read with enthusiasm how to adapt, monitor and even anticipate change. Or should I say, “Enjoy change!” Yes, it was a little, um, cheesy, but it worked for the corporate environment I lived in.

In 1998, we barely had regular e-mail communication with members, much less an interactive website or social platform to cultivate our membership community.  We were constantly looking for creative ways to retain members, maintain ongoing communication (remember committee meetings?) and increase involvement through events at the City Club.  We craved change.

Now we are all navigating unchartered digital waters, much of which is exciting, revolutionary and completely life changing.  When one company improves its product and implements new features which changes the look of the profile page we are used to seeing, we scream and whine and moan and complain that we don’t like it. Blog posts have been written left and sideways picking apart what is great, what may be scary and what we are just bound to dislike.

May I ask a favor? Can we grab on the spirit of 1998 and remember how to embrace change?  Can we appreciate the ever-evolving landscape happening online and celebrate a launch, an update, a design change, a new way of doing things?  For if there were none, we would be blogging our brains out about how nothing is new or exciting or fresh.  We would demand upgrades and increased user-friendliness and cooler graphics and quicker loading times.

Change is the only constant when it comes to the digital world. The cheese will always be on the move. And we must remain expectant.

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