Football and Your Company’s Depth Chart

WVU+Dingle+BerryWhat lessons can companies and department managers learn from college football this season?

If your company is suffering from a talent shortage, then you may find the following post rings true in your organization.

Backstory: College Football

College football season is wrapping up and fans are either excited about their team’s successes or questioning what went wrong this year.

As a WV Mountaineers fan living in Knoxville, Tennessee, it has been a season of ups and downs for the two teams I hear the most about: WVU and UT.  Both teams had very close games, but couldn’t close the deal.

Why?  My humble opinion: each team’s depth charts.

Not enough experienced people

If a college football team has to burn a redshirt and start a true freshman, then their chances of success are slim to none.

WVU: In the Mountaineers’ case, they don’t have enough depth in their defense.  An article written in The Charleston Daily Mail last month sheds some light on this subject.  In the article, writer Mike Casazza, points out:

WVU played nose guard Darrien Howard even though he was on track to redshirt. The defensive line was without the starting defensive end and a backup nose guard against Texas Tech.

UT: The University of Tennessee has done a great job recruiting young, strong athletes.  That said, they are still lacking depth and it has hindered their overall performance.  The Tennessean was able to point that out in an October 31st  article.  In this article,  Coach Butch Jones addresses the depth issue head on by stating:

We need much, much more depth.  A lot of that will be addressed in recruiting.

Both coaches are obviously aware of their depth issue, and both of them have stated in several interviews that they are committed to fix this issue with short-term and long-term tactics.

How does this relate to business?

Regardless if you have a huge corporate organization or a small business, do you have the right people to fill in when needed?  Since I’m in the banking industry, I’ll use banking as an example for the business industry.  When I speak to most HR directors and managers in banking, two issues typically pop up in the conversation.

  1. Succession Planning
  2. Reduction in Branch Staffing

These two issues are independent from each other but do have a connection when a bank is reviewing their business depth chart.

Succession Planning: Who’s going to be in charge next?

The GodfatherMore and more Bank HR conferences and webinars focus on bank succession planning.  In fact, this issue continues to be a sticking point with bank regulators.  Regulators not only want to make sure a bank has long-term vision, but they also want to see how a bank is acting upon the long-term vision.

A 2013 article from American Banker, states a few facts about the lack of succession planning:

The absence of a thorough succession could derail a bank’s strategy, opening it up to a takeover. Since 2008, the average bank CEO age is roughly 58, while CEOs of banks that have been sold have averaged about 61, according to a study from Morgan Stanley. For the 35 bank deals announced during the first nine months of last year (2012), the average seller’s CEO was approaching 65.

Now if you work for a bank and your CEO is approaching, or has already reached, 65, don’t start panicking yet.  Just because you don’t know if there is a succession plan doesn’t mean there isn’t one.  There could be a succession plan written and approved by senior management and the Board of Directors.

But as previously stated, is the bank acting upon the plan?

Ask yourself, is there appropriate training in place?  Are the future leaders of your bank learning about possible future roles?

  • If your CFO is in place to be the CEO, are they learning about how to lead people?
  • If the CCO is next in line, does that person understand what needs to be done to raise low-cost/non-interest deposits?

If you answer no, again, don’t panic.  There is still time to fast track training and different ways to approach it.

Reduction in Branch Staffing: Do you have the people, but not the talent?

Old Bank Teller LineBanks across the country are running into the following issue.

For decades banks have staffed their branches with tellers.  Now with a decline of in-branch transactions, some banks are loaded up with a staff that doesn’t have anything to do.  Will they have to lay off teller (a current trend) or have they started training these tellers for other positions within the bank?

There are two factors to consider when training tellers (or anybody): skill set and passion.  For example, if you plan on transitioning a teller to mortgage lender, think about…

  • Skill Set: Does the teller have some of the natural qualities needed for this type of position.  Do they enjoy working with people?  Do they understand that mortgage lending requires a level of knowledge regarding regulations?
  • Passion: Most of the skill sets needed can be done through time via training, but passion is an internal mechanism that a person must have.  Without it, all the training and skill sets in the world will amount to nothing.  Make sure they have passion and find ways to keep that passion alive.

In order to successfully make this transition, branch managers, human resources and senior management all have to be on the same page.  All three must work together to identify what areas need more depth and then find the person who can fill in the depth gap.  This opportunity itself is another blog post for another day.

Wrapping Up

Whether it is football or business, being the best means always improving and looking for opportunities.  In order to do that, you have to make sure your team is loaded with not only play makers, but with rising stars.  Make sure to prepare your rising stars so that they can move into the play makers position as seamlessly as possible.

 

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Fighting a Mountain

Hatfied McCoy 2014Back in June, I ran my first half marathon of the year.  The Hatfield and McCoy Half Marathon was held June 14th and runs through both West Virginia and Kentucky.  This was a great event for several reasons:

  • Family – Jennifer, Max and I got to spend time with several family members.
  • Nostalgia – I grew up in the great state of West Virginia and (for a short time) the Commonwealth of Kentucky, so it was fun to run in places I haven’t seen since I was a child.
  • Conquering a mountain…this will take more than one sentence.

Part of the half marathon runs up Blackberry Mountain (elevation shown below) making the difference between the minimum and maximum elevation 635 feet.  In other words,  this half marathon was the most difficult run I have ever tried.

Hatfield Mileage

 

Training for this event required more than just running my regular routine.

Conditioning

I had been increasing my running mileage each week, but I realized that wasn’t enough.  In addition to increasing mileage, I also increased the number of hills I would run.  Though running Cherokee Boulevard would be a fun treat, I kicked it up a notch by adding Noelton Drive and Mellen Avenue.  To mix up my weekly runs, I would run the hills in my neighborhood or go to Dowell Springs.  By running different inclines at different levels and points, it conditioned my body to withstand conquering the Mountain.

Core Training

Working on my core, specifically my lower back and hips, really helped with my running.  Having a stronger lower back and abs section allowed me to run further due to having a more solid foundation.  Building my hips enabled me to increase my speed and keep my body more balanced.

New Running Stance

In a previous post, I mention working with the team at Provision Physical Therapy.  They watched me run on a treadmill and showed me a better running form and stance.  They taught me to lean forward and to have a midfoot strike.  This helped me increase my speed, and in the long run, will help prevent certain injuries.

Visualize

Mountain vs Red ViperLeading up to the race, I decided to visualize the Mountain as an actual person/character.  Being a fan of Game of Thrones, I pictured the Mountain as…the Mountain.  As I would run, I picture myself going to battle against The Mountain.  By doing this, I made sure not have the same fate as his victims; more importantly, it allowed me to think of the race in a different, comical position.

Notice how all four of these steps align with one another perfectly. Without the first two points: Conditioning and Core Training, I would not have had the strength to have a new running stance.  Without visualizing the Mountain, I could have lost interest in conditioning every week.

Though these points are tied to running, the same school of thought can be tied to other plans and objectives in life.  Think of your business, does your strategic plan have connected steps that align with your main business objective(s)?  Do you just put something together and hope it works, or do you create a plan that is measurable?

If I would have just went out running three times a week with no plan, I probably could have finished the half marathon, but I wouldn’t have finished with these results:

Hatfield Results 2014

What kind of mountains have you conquered?  Please feel free to share your story in the comments section.

 

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?

Alienating Your Fans

ClarkIn January, the Chicago Cubs announced they will be introducing a new mascot named Clark.  The announcement received mixed reviews that created a firestorm of comments on social media sites, sports focused websites, sports talk radio and other communication outlets.

It even caused one of my friends to make the following post on facebook:

John Clark Post

Which eventually led to this:

Pirates Jersey

The Chicago Cubs organization believes the new mascot will lead more families to Wrigley Field, which will lead to increased ticket sales and build brand loyalty to a new, young group; but will it work?

Anytime a company decides to make a change: update a logo or do a complete overhaul of their brand, there is bound to be a backlash.  A company has to decide how much they’re willing to pay for a change by examining the short term and long term impacts.

Price and Reward

short long arrowsBefore making a change, think about what it will cost you in the short term and how that will impact long term success.

Short Term Cost: Before a change is made, a company has to spend time to make sure the change works.

  • Time spent internally pulling the right resources together to develop the change.
  • Cost associated with researching to make sure change is worth it.
  • Assets used announcing the change, both within the company and to the public.
  • Potential loss of profit due to upset customers who decide to shop elsewhere.

Though these points are labeled “short term” they can lead to long term issues.  For example, if the change is so big and confusing, it can take years to effectively communicate the change to your customers.

What benefits will change bring?

  • Possibility of improved customer service and an increase in customer satisfaction
  • Increased repeat business from current customers
  • Brand new customers

The important thing is to make sure the company can survive the short term pitfalls so it can reap the long term benefits.

JCP

One real life example is JCPenny.  In 2012, the company tried to change it’s image from a store where coupons and everyday sales were the norm, to a store that had simple pricing. The change was big, JCPenny not only spent money changing their stores, but created a huge national TV campaign bragging about the changes, and essentially recreated their brand.

This had a negative impact on live long shoppers of JCPenny and created huge hurdles that the company couldn’t conquer.  People went to social media to complain, and the constant negative word of mouth reactions led to JCPenny to back peddle and go back to their old ways.

In the long-run, a strategy like that works on paper, but the backlash from their fan base led to short term losses that were so bad, JCPenny fired their new CEO and brought back the old regime.

So will the new mascot for the Cubs be worth it, or will it end up like the JCP’s simple pricing structure?

Have you

Branding Beyond Logo

National LogosEarlier this week, adweek released it’s list of Best-Perceived Brands of 2013.  According to the website, the list (which included national brands like Amazon, Ford and V8)  is created by asking people if they’ve heard anything negative or positive about the brand.

While looking at these logos, I noticed a few had a level a business model that included a level of customer service.  Two particular examples are Lowe’s and Walgreens.  Both companies are traditional brick and mortar businesses that sell products to people and hire a staff that must provide customer service.

This line of logic is a strong reminder that “Branding” goes beyond just a logo and successful branding is more than a pretty logo and eye catching commercials.

In order for a successful service-based brand to succeed, a business must focus on the staff it has.  A business can have a strong brand if it provides the team with product knowledge, customer service skills and company culture.

Product Knowledge

Homer dohEver walk into a store, ask a cashier about a certain product and get an answer similar to this:

I don’t know.  I just work here.

Drives you crazy, right?

Or have you ever been to a restaurant, asked the waiter about something on the menu and get the answer:

I don’t know.  I’ve never tried the salmon.

Drives you crazy, right?

It is impossible to train your staff to know every question that a customer can ask, but you can at least equip them with enough knowledge to know the basics.

  • Know What You Have: Educate your staff on your products and/or services.  If you’re a restaurant owner, make sure your staff tastes all your food.  If you own a pharmacy, make sure your staff knows the layout of the store and where products are located.
  • Create Study Notes: Be sure that your products and/or services are listed somewhere in writing so your staff can access it in case they need help.  For example, the bank I work at provides a list of services on our Internal website, our external website and printed brochures.

By providing the right training to your staff, you not only prepare them to answer customer questions, you are strengthening your brand and building a strong foundation for repeat business.

Customer Service Skills

jerry_brown_crossed-armsIn addition to product knowledge, your staff also needs to know how to communicate to people.  If you have a knowledgeable team member, but they are a complete jerk to people, odds are you will not have repeat customers and your brand will be tarnished.

  • Soft skills: The last thing you want is to make your customers think they are not welcomed at your place of business.  Make sure your staff understands the importance of making people feel welcomed.  Making eye contact with people and smiling are just two easy examples of soft skills.
  • Courtesy: Simple acts like saying, “Thank you” and “My pleasure” go a long way in service.  Think of the last time you had a positive interaction with a customer service rep, and I bet you the customer service rep used at least one of those two phrases.

These two steps may sound like common sense to you, but not all people are wired the same way and may need some guidance.  By making sure your team has a great set of customer service skills, it will add value to your brand, which will have a positive effect on your company’s success.

Know the Culture

toy robotBe sure your staff understands your company culture.  I’m not suggesting you create a group of robots who say and do everything the same way.  Instead think about a band; everyone is performing the same song, but they have individual parts that make the song complete.

  • Purpose: Be sure your staff knows the purpose of your company.  Some organizations call this their Mission Statement; while others may call is a Company Vision, but whatever you call it, make sure your team knows it and understands why it is important.
  • Goals: Set goals around the purpose of your company and make sure the goals will lead to your company’s success.  This will allow buy in from your staff and they will know they are part of the bigger picture.

Creating a strong culture that focuses on the success of it’s customers and staff will translate to strong profits for a company and lead to a strong brand.

All of these steps sound easy, but they are not.  If they were easy, there would be an infinite number of successful brands.

What brands do you like and why?  Have you ever had a bad experience with a company that has made you stop using a brand?

New Customers vs Top Customers

While walking into the gym the other day, I noticed a new advertisement:

Join Us New CustomerGyms are notorious for offering crazy discounts for new customers, especially during January.  Truth is, they are not the only industry guilty of this.  Shoot, I’m in banking, which is also an industry known for giving things away to new customers.  When I first started in banking, people kept asking me when we will be giving away free toasters.

But instead of wasting time, money and other resources on non-customers, why not focus on your customers? If something is in it for your current customer, then they will do most of the marketing for you.  For example, if my gym offered a rewards or referral campaign, then I would most likely refer people.  Why?  Because at that point, there is something in it for me.  That may sound selfish, but it’s human nature.

When you build a campaign around your current customers, it can also benefit your business. How?  Think about the tools you use for marketing.

  • Direct Mail: Believe it or not, direct mail is still out there.  Think of the list time you purchased a mailing list.  If you already have a customer data base, that’s money you are already saving.
  • Email Marketing: Creating an opt-in marketing list is a great way to make sure you stay in contact with your customers.  The best part is, you can get the email at the beginning of the relationship when you are collecting the rest of the customer’s information.
  • Branding: Not necessary a physical tool, but it takes time to build a brand.  Your current customers have already established a connection to your brand, so you can cut back on the “Honeymoon” phase (along with the Honeymoon cost).

So when creating a campaign start by focusing on your customers.  Here is a quick way to remember to keep your customers in focus.  It’s easy as A-B-C and 1-2-3.

abcLearn your ABCs

Segment your customers into three groups: A, B, and C

  • A Customers: These are your top customers.  They’re your most profitable customers, they bring you all their business and refer their friends.
  • B Customers: A list that consist of customers who are just barely outside the “A” bubble.  They may refer you customers, but you may not have all their business.
  • C Customers: People who take up all your time, complainers who cost your company money, etc.  You know who I’m talking about…

123Create your 123s

Create a three point plan for each group, or at the very least, for your A Customers. Here’s a quick 123 example using the A Customer list.

  1. Find out what your A customers think about you and promote it throughout your company.
  2. Get the A customers to recommend you.
  3. Reward your A customers.

From there, you build action plans and marketing campaigns based on each number.

So when creating a campaign, ask yourself: What’s in it for your current customer?  If you have a clear answer, then you are going in the right direction.  If your answer is lacking clarity, then you may want to go back to your A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s.

By the way don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset with my gym as a customer; I’m upset with them as a marketer 🙂

What experience have you had with businesses who offer special incentives for new customers?  If you are the new customer, do you stay around after the special incentive ends or do you switch companies?

What if you are already an established customer with a business and you see they are advertising a special for new customers; does it bother you?  Do you stay with the company or do you take your business elsewhere?

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.

Communication

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.

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?

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