Deliver on Your Word

Sounds simple, right? But what happens when you don’t deliver on your word.  Here is a real life example that happened just a few days ago.

Throughout the year, the Big 12 has been playing the following commercial during every conference game.

The commercial brags that there will be one champion.  The irony: The Big 12 had co-champions this year.  The Big 12’s decision makers couldn’t decide who was better team: Baylor or TCU.

The Big 12’s indecisiveness may have caused their conference a spot in the inaugural college football playoffs.  But instead of blaming the Committee in charge of the playoffs, let’s examine the actual statement from the Big 12.  It’s really simple, deliver on you what you say.

Reputation and Branding

It’s a term marketers and executives use all the time, “Our Brand.”  Regardless if you see branding as a strength or a bunch of malarkey, keeping your word in business is your reputation, and that is part of your brand.  When you go against your word, whether intentional or not, you tarnish your brand.  Once your reputation and brand are damaged, it takes time, energy and money to fix it.  The bad news is that those are resources you could be using to expand your business and increase revenue.  What’s even worse is that depending on how bad it is, it your reputation and brand may never be fully repaired.

Big 12 Example

Big-12-LogosThe following Monday after the Big 12 crowned their co-champions and the College Football Playoff committee named the top four, both national and local sports radio stations started attacking the Big 12.  A local sports show (note that there are no Big 12 teams located near my town of Knoxville, Tennessee) spent nearly an hour dissecting the issues with the Big 12, most notably the fact that there are only 10 teams in the Big 12, which prevents them from hosting a playoff to crown a conference champion. The sports show’s co-host then went on to state how hard it will be to get to two good college sports programs to join the Big 12 due to the fact the conference is not being represented in the inaugural college football playoffs.

Whether this is a short-term or long-term public relations issue for the Big 12, remains to be seen.  Most likely this will fade with time, but the radio host brings up a good point in that it will be hard to recruit a good team and now the Big 12 may have to lower their standards/expectations and bring on two schools that are not of the same caliber as their top performers.

Make Good on Your Word

If the Big 12 would have just picked Baylor as their Big 12 Champion, then maybe…maybe the conference would have a team in the playoffs.

Simply put, if you say you are going to do something, then do it.

But what happens if you can’t deliver on your promise?

  1.  NO overselling: Promise on what you know you can deliver.
  2. Be proactive: Don’t procrastinate; start working on delivering your promise immediately.
  3. Make no excuses: Without compromising your morals or ethics, exhaust every option you have.
  4. Communicate Up Front: If you are running behind on your promise, communicate up front to see if a delay will be a deal breaker.

This all seems like common sense, but unfortunately it happens on a regular basis.  What’s even worse, as customers we accept this type of service and keep giving businesses money for not delivering on their promise. Think about it: how many businesses promise you something and don’t deliver on that promise?  Do they try to make up for it?  If not, do you continue doing business with them?


Commercial Bank Branding and Football Logos

Titans HelmetsHow is it football fans can cheer for teams even though they continue to disappoint fans season after season? Better yet, how can banks learn from this during a period of employee turnover?

Let’s use the Tennessee Titans as an example.  I’m a huge Titans fan and became a fan when Coach Jeff Fisher was the head coach, Eddie George was the starting running back and Steve McNair was leading the team as quarterback.  All three people are no longer with the Titans.

  • Jeff Fisher: Now coaching the St. Louis Rams.
  • Eddie George: Hosting a college pre-game show for Fox.
  • Steve McNair: Traded to the Baltimore Ravens in 2005, retired in 2008 and passed away in 2009.

This season, The Tennessee Titans have a record of 2-10, and consist of:

  • Coach Ken Whisenhunt: A head coach who runs a traditional offensive scheme that contradicts Coach Fisher’s “Run-n-Gun” approach during the McNair era.
  • Running Back Committee: Instead of a starting running back, the Titans use a three-man approach.
  • Quarterback Problems: The Titans have started three different quarterbacks this season.

So why…why do I stay a fan of the Tennessee Titans.

Steve McNair was traded to Baltimore, so why am I not a Ravens fan?

Coach Fisher is in St. Louis, so why am I not a Rams fan, instead of staying with the Titans? 

I originally became a Titans fan due to proximity.  I live in Tennessee, and the Titans are in Tennessee.  But it soon become an emotional connection as the Titans seem to be an underdog.  Shoot, even when Steve McNair was chosen as MVP in 2003, he had to share the title with Payton Manning.

What can Banks take away from this?

Recently I wrote a post that touched on hiring commercial lenders based on their loan portfolio.  The flip side of this is what happens when a bank loses a commercial lender that has a successful portfolio.

Loosing a Strong Loan Producer

It happens to just about any community bank.  The have a top producing commercial lender who gets an offer they can’t refuse from a competitor.  They leave and immediately the bank accepts the fact that they are going to lose current customers due to “their banker” leaving.  Many times, banks start building a reactive checklist, but what if they started a proactive campaign.

Reactive Approach

Making a ListAs the bank starts searching for a replacement, the bank will also review the leaving commercial banker’s portfolio so it can be divided up between their current commercial lenders.

A good bank will also look at the profitability of each customer in the portfolio to see who is unprofitable and see this as an opportunity to “lose” this customer.  Plus, they will make sure to focus their attention on profitable and potentially profitable customers on the list.

This is a good strategy that every community bank should follow, but consider adding a proactive strategy that may already tie into your marketing and sales efforts.

Proactive Approach

Instead of waiting for a commercial lender to leave, consider these tactics to entrench your customers into your bank’s brand.

  • Email Communication: Let’s assume your bank’s sales culture has a calling program in place where your commercial lenders are required to meet with their entire portfolio at least three times a year.  If that is the case, what other forms of communication does your bank use to communicate to these customers?  A bank can create an email program where the bank is sending meaningful information.  It can be about a new service, business advice or anything else that the customer would deem useful.  This approach not only keeps customers in the communication loop, but also ties them to your bank’s brand beyond the commercial lender.
  • Customer Recognition: Find ways that your bank can recognize this customer and their business.  For example, if the commercial customer has a retail business, highlight their business to your customer base, and make sure the customer knows about it.  You may even want to let a bank executive notify the customer.  That way the customer now has a connection another banker in your organization.
  • Connect on Social Media: If you have a company presence on social media, make sure you are connected to your customer base.  Better yet, if your CEO or other executives are on a social media platform (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest), make sure they are connected with the customer and engaged with them.
  • Team Approach: Most likely a commercial lender works with a team of people when dealing with their customers.  It may be a loan processor, or maybe a cash management specialist.  Either way, it is important that your commercial customers know the entire team.  Make sure your commercial lender introduces the support staff to their customers, or at the very least, their top customers.  Also consider creating a mentoring program, where the commercial lender takes an up-and-comer out with them on customer calls.

Brand Focus

You are connecting your customer to other people and outlets of your bank.  This will continue to establish the brand of your organization by reenforcing the strengths your bank has, and will make any customer think twice before they leave you to join their “former banker.”

Now if the Titans can just get their act together, I won’t be looking for another NFL franchise.

Drafting the Right Person

NFL_DraftThe 2014 NFL draft is now in the rear view mirror.  Did your team(s) select the right players?  As a Titan’s fan, I’m always left guessing but overall, I’m happy to see they picked a strong running back, and time will tell if Zach Mettenberger is a good pick.

When hiring for your organization, do you treat it like the NFL draft?

Though not as glamorous as the draft, there are some pointers from the draft that you can apply to your job searching process.

Do your research

Scouting_FootballNFL teams spend countless hours and a small fortune on scouting.  They research players, view their performances and decide if the player would be the right fit for their team.

Should you treat your job search any different?

When interviewing for a position, a candidate will submit a resume and fill out an application.  Since they have done their part, you need to do your part and conduct research.

  • Call former employers:  If you call the HR department, most likely you will receive a boilerplate statement, “Candidate worked from point a to point b.”  But if the candidate has the supervisors name listed, why not call them too?  If they left on good terms, then the direct supervisor may give a more accurate picture.
  • Call references: People often chuckle when I mention this one due to the fact that references are hand picked from the candidate.  I don’t disagree with their logic, but I challenge them to be creative when reviewing the references by seeking the answers to the following questions.
      1. How long have they known the person?
      2. How they know the person?
      3. Can they give an example of the person’s work?
      4. Can they explain the person’s character?

If you get those answers from different personal references, you can get a better understanding of who the person is.

  • View LinkedIn: Hiring based upon social media sites has recently been scrutinized; however checking a LinkedIn site can help you get a a better idea of who someone is.  Also be sure to review written recommendations; though I would be cautious of endorsements due to how easy it is to endorse someone on LinkedIn.

Draft Someone Who Fits In

Quarterbacks_DraftDuring the first night of the draft, Jon Gruden kept questioning why teams had not drafted Johnny Manziel.  Gruden’s question was finally answered by the Cleveland Browns when they picked Manziel in the 22nd spot.

But why didn’t the other teams pick Manziel first?

The Jacksonville Jaguars had the opportunity, but chose quarterback Blake Bortles instead.  But why Bortles over Johnny Football?

It is simple, Manziel wasn’t what they were looking for in their draft pick.  The Jags needed a quarterback who they could develop into their system and could prevail when faced with certain adversity issues.  Take a look at some of the performance examples of Blake Bortles.

  • No injuries: While at UCF, Blake was sacked over 50 times!  Despite this issue, he was never injured.  This may seem like a laughable point, but considering that Jacksonville has offensive line issues, this statistic bows well for Blake.
  • Performance under pressure: In addition to the 50+ sacks, Blake was able to complete over 50% of his passes while under pressure from the defense.  This puts him in the top five amongst Automatic Qualifying (AQ) conferences.
  • Comeback Kid: Continuing with the under pressure theme, Blake had six second-half come from behind wins last season.  This ties the record with the most in college football for the 2013 season.

Add these examples to the fact Blake played college football within a two hour drive to Jacksonville and you can see why the Jags chose Blake Bortles.

Similar to hiring, you have to find the person who fits your company’s culture; not just a person who can fill an open position.  Many times companies will hire a rising star in their industry and then be dissatisfied with their results.  Don’t be fooled by a rising star and instead look for someone who has the natural fit for your company culture.

Does your company handle hiring like this?  When hiring, what strategies have you used that proved to be successful?

Company Culture: What’s Your Game Plan

Do you know your company’s culture?  Is it a game plan for success?

Vince-Lombardi-Teaches-St-007If the answer to your first question is “Our company doesn’t have a culture,” then consider this: whether company does or doesn’t have an organized culture, there is a company culture.  That type of culture has a staff that does to work everyday and “wings it.”

A football team doesn’t just go onto a field and “wing it,” they come up with a game plan.  Successful teams create a strategy to win time and time again.  The strategy is based around an overall culture.  Should businesses be any different?

Vince Lombardi, one of the most successful NFL coaches, had a quote that summed up the culture he built with the Packers.

Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence upon one another and of strength to be derived by unity.

A company’s culture should focus on growing business while fostering a positive and motivating work environment for the staff.

Drawing Up Plays

game-planOnce a company decides what its culture should be, it needs to create a game plan that supports the culture.  A game plan can consist of different components ranging from vision/mission statements, company values, and action plans (both short-term and long-term).

Football is no different, once a culture is decided, a team creates plays that mesh with the culture.

Playing Offense: Sales and Service

In football, you got to score points to win games.  In business, you got to close sales and keep customers to stay alive.

A strong offense requires a football team to establish a strong running game.  When a team has a successful running game, it opens up passing plays and allows an offense to run on all cylinders.

How does this translate to business?  Think of the running game and passing game as sales and customer service.

  • If customer service is lacking, then the moment a your company earns a new customer by closing a sales deal, the customer will be lost due to poor service.
  • If your company gives great customer service, but never ask for new business, then your company cannot grow and be profitable.

Successful companies know that customer service and sales goes hand in hand.  Since all businesses and people are created differently, you first need to know what your customer base looks for in great customer service.  Once you find that out, you can draw up strategies focused around that and tie it back in to your company culture.

Playing Defense: Operational Support

Depending on the size of your company, there may be certain members of the staff that doesn’t interact with customers on a regular basis.  In a way this section of you company are your defensive players.

  • Accounting Department: Watching what the company purchases while making sure the company is in the black instead of in the red.
  • I.T. Department: Protecting the company from viruses and providing strong computer networking infrastructures.
  • Human Resources: Making sure your staff is properly prepared to provide customer service.

Though these departments don’t interact with customers directly, it is important that they understand the company’s culture and more importantly how their departments contribute to growth of the company.

Motivating Your Team

Lombardi with TeamCoach Lombardi was a strategist, but also understood the importance of motivation.

Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.

Your company can have the best products and services in your industry, but if you do not have a motivated staff, your company is worthless.  Motivating a team takes communication and accountability.


In order to motivate your team, you have to communicate with them.  Communication isn’t just telling them what their goals are and waiting for them to come to you.  It takes a little more than that.

  • What motivates your team? Find out what motivates your staff.  In order to do this, you have to open up and listen to them.
  • Set goals.  Set appropriate goals that align with your company’s culture and reward your staff based on their motivation factors.

Once you have established these two points, you can then continue motivating by creating an environment based on accountability.


Holding a team accountable doesn’t mean only meeting with them when they fail.  An organization that excels in accountability provides a team with information on how to achieve, praises an individual or team when they succeed and coaches someone when they fall short.

  • Praise: Publicly acknowledging a job well done by tying it into the company’s culture and the individual’s motivational preference.
  • Coaching: Private session on how an event or project went, what went well and what could be improved.  The goal of this is to correct an issues may hurt future future performance.

When you are searching for ways to motivate and creating an environment of accountability, you have to walk a fine line.  For example, you cannot come across as a micro-manager to someone who does performs better with little supervision.  This creates a workplace that demotivates and possible leads to good people leaving your organization.

By combining effective communication with an accountability environment, you create a team that is empowered and capable of great performance.

Do you have a game wining company culture?  How do you provide great service to your customers while motivating your staff?

Sales: Spread Offense

Spread OffenseWhen it comes to sales, everyone in your organization is a player. This especially rings true if you represent a small organization.  Regardless of your position at work, everyone has an opportunity to sale.  In a small community bank, the same rules apply.  A small community bank may not have the huge sales team of Bank of America or Wells Fargo, but they do have several people who work and live in the communities they serve.

Think of it like a spread offense in football.

For those who are not up on their football terminology, the spread offense is when your quarterback is in the shotgun formation and you stack the line with as many receivers as possible.  In addition to wide receivers, this also includes tight ends and placing a running back as a receiver.

Here are some examples of how everyone can be in sales.  Though these examples reference situations in the community banking world, they can be applied in other industries.

Sales Force: Wide Receivers

Jerry Rice

To me it was never about what I accomplished on the football field, it was about the way I played the game. – Jerry Rice

Just like wide receivers are the life blood to the spread offense, your sales staff is the life blood to your sales strategy.  Your sales team should know the offensive playbook, know the defense and be able to catch the pass.

  • Route Patterns: Your sales team should know what steps are needed to take a prospect and make them a customer.  They should know what services the company offers, how to effectively work through the company’s sales pipeline and what document are needed from the customer before closing the sale.
  • Study the Defense: A great receiver knows the defense they are playing against.  They study tapes and find ways to outsmart their opponent.  Likewise a great sales person needs to know who they are competing against when calling on a prospect.  This way they can find out what sets them apart and use it to their advantage.
  • Catch the Ball:  When the time comes, a great receiver catches the ball.  A good sales person can get to know a prospect and pitch a sales plan; however a great sales person must be able to “catch the ball” and close the sale.

Service Team: Running Back

Walter Payton

When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you. – Walter Payton

In banking, customer service is what causes a customer to stay or leave a business.  In order to keep customers happy, tellers and other customer service bankers have to be quick on their feet and be able to weave their way through roadblocks to exceed customer expectations.  They basically have to mentally maneuver like a running back does during a big game.

Bankers on the customer service side are also asked to cross sell when dealing with customers.  Being able to cross sell requires developing a certain skill set:

  • Find the gap: Running backs must have good vision in order to find the right gap to choose.  In banking, the customer service staff must be able to ask the right questions and listen for opportunities in order to effectively cross sell.  By engaging in meaningful conversation with customers, bankers will be able to find out what their customers needs and wants; thus finding the right gap to run through.
  • Ball Handling: If a running back is unable to hold on to the football, they will continuously fumble and their career will be ended very quickly.  Bankers are no different.  If you are unable to give your customers great service and “drop the ball” then you will lose trust (and value) with your customers and not be able to cross sell.
  • Get in the weight room: Great running backs are constantly in the weight room working out and training.  They work their muscles to the limit and push themselves to the next level every day.  Bankers should use this concept when learning about their business.  Learning about bank services, studying bank regulations and staying informed about your customer base are just three ways bankers can be pushing themselves to the next level.

Back Office: The Tight End

Tony Gonzalez

He makes big plays for us in different situations when we need him. – Matt Ryan (on Tony Gonzalez)

The tight end position is a hybrid position that is part offensive lineman and receiver.  When they are not protecting the quarterback or blocking defenders, they are moving up the field getting in position to receive the ball.  Your back office people are no different.  They spend the majority of their time focusing on protecting the company, but may find an opportunity to refer business to the company.

In banking, compliance officers are seen as back office only individuals, but just because they are not on the sales team doesn’t mean they don’t have interaction with other humans.  Think of all the people they interact with on a weekly, if not daily, basis:

  • They socialize with family members
  • They volunteer in the community
  • Their children participate in school activities

These are just three examples of how back office people can be placed in a moment where they can promote your business.  What that in mind, are your back office people aware of the services you offer?  Do they know your sales staff well enough to refer business to them?  If not, you are missing out on opportunities to grow your business.

So, is your company set up in a spread offense?  Do you have a star wide receiver, a high performing running back, and/or a skilled tight end?

Scab Referees: Training verses Perception

After a preseason of worrying and a handful of bad calls in the first three weeks of the regular season, the referee strike appears to be in the rear view mirror.  ESPN reports the refs will be back on the field starting tonight!

It was odd that during the beginning of the NFL season people talking more about replacement referees then they were their favorite player or team.

The scab refs created enough attention to cause the public to wonder if this season will earn the notorious asterisk (*) in the record books.  Even Republican and Democratic politicians agreed that enough was enough.  Well people can stop worrying about the asterisk and politicians can go back to bickering with one another.

Businesses can learn a few lessons from this P.R. debacle; with the first lesson being solve any employee strikes ASAP.  Other lessons revolve around training and perception.

  • Training: The bad calls these replacement referees were making can be traced back to education and training.  When you hear a ref call a false start on the defense instead of calling the penalty an encroachment, it boils down to training.  Businesses can avoid simple, yet embarrassing miscues like this by incorporating a strong 90-day on-boarding process for new hires.  In this type of situation, a more intense on-boarding process may have alleviated any unneeded stress on the replacement refs and the NFL.
  • Perception: Was this all an issue of public opinion?  After all, people have been complaining about referees since the creation of professional sports.  If the NFL would have gotten ahead of this story by humanizing these replacement refs and highlighting their experience/background, there may have been less emphasis on the “silly” calls (i.e. 11 yard penalty).  Building a strong Public Relations campaign focused on the new refs could have helped the NFL in the short-term and eased the tension fans already had about the scab refs.  With a P.R. Budget already in place, all the NFL would have had to do was shift some of the funds for another P.R. campaign to a “Ref P.R.” campaign and not overspent their budget.

Regardless if it was an issue of training or perception, one thing is for sure, the old refs are back!  Fans can now go back to rooting on their favorite teams knowing that the questionable penalties being called are now from the same old regular referees and not some unknown replacement referee.

Oh yeah…Go Titans!

Manning’s Business Decision

Manning Elway DenverLiving in Tennessee and being a football fan, of course, I have an opinion of Peyton Manning’s recent career decision. But instead of laying out my thoughts and opinions, let’s consider the business decision this Manning made.

  • Increase Market Share (Moving to Denver): By accepting the position in Denver, the Manning Family can now add another franchise/city to their list. The Manning Family is loved in New Orleans, New York, Tennessee, and Indianapolis. If Peyton would have chosen Tennessee, he would have increased The Titans’ fan base, but would not have increased his fan base. In addition to that, hardcore Colts fans would have turned their backs on Manning if he would have signed with a division rival; thus decreasing his personal fan base.
  • Overshadowed by Expectations (Not choosing The Titans): In addition to losing the love of die-hard Colts fans, think about the pressure to perform in Tennessee. Bud Adams literally offered the company to Peyton and UT fans have been waiting for “their favorite quarterback” to return to Tennessee. With all due respect to Peyton, how many Super Bowls has he won? One in 14 seasons. Let’s take it a step further.  How many National Championships did he win when he played in Tennessee?  None.  Based on those statistics, do you think he would win a Superbowl for Tennessee in his first year? Second year?  No offense, but Peyton + Tennessee doesn’t always equal Championship.
  • Conflict of Interest (Not going to the NFC): What writes a better story; two brothers fighting it out in the Super Bowl or two brothers fighting it out in the NFC Playoffs?  Having a Manning vs. Manning NFC Championship does have an interesting sound to it, but Manning vs. Manning in the Super Bowl definitely adds some excitement.
  • Mentor (working with John Elway): If you’re a traditional throwing quarterback, wouldn’t you love the opportunity to learn from John Elway?  ‘Nuff said.

The decision has been made.  Now who’s ready for some football?

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