Business Tips Learned from College Football

5 Things Every Company Can Learn from College Football

Work is hard. Sometimes it can be really really hard.

Business is Hard.

You know what else is hard? Getting hit by this guy.

Nick Fairley's take on business

As an overly avid college football fan, I’ve recently been noticing a lot of parallels to the business world. At least this is the excuse I’ve been telling my wife when I don’t leave the couch for 8 hours every Saturday.

So today I will save you the trouble of mindlessly cursing at an inanimate object while laying in a pile of empty Natural Lights, and share with you 5 things that every company can learn from the greatest sport in the U.S. of A.

1. Execution > Talent

Having talented football players and coaches only gets you so far. Those players have to be able to execute day in and day out or else they will find themselves out-hustled and beaten on any given Saturday. That’s why Notre Dame will be playing the last game of the year in Miami and USC finds itself licking its wounds after a very mediocre season (that started with a #1 ranking).

Business is no different. The most talented engineers and sales reps in the world don’t mean a thing if they aren’t executing on your company vision. They will find themselves getting beat by a less talented, scrappier company that is consistently executing.

If there was a Heisman for business, would you be in the running?

2. Success Today Does Not Guarantee Success Tomorrow

The Auburn Tigers were on top of the world in 2011. SEC champs. National champs. And a Heisman winner. The season couldn’t have been better scripted.

Fast forward 2 years. Auburn finished the season 3-9 with 0 SEC wins, and a freshly fired head coach in Gene Chizik.

The business world has seen this story time in and time out. Enron. Lehman Brothers. Groupon. The list goes on. Get caught up in today’s success and you can find yourself on the outside looking in tomorrow.

Success Today Does Not Guarantee Success Tomorrow

3. Saw the Wood

The funny thing about sports and life in general is that most of the time it comes down to one very simple concept. How hard are you willing to work?

When Bill Snyder was hired at Kansas State in 1989, he took over a program that had a cumulative record of 299–510 in 93 years of play. The school had been to only one bowl game and had not won a conference title since 1934. The program had also gone winless in 27 consecutive games. It was literally the worst job in sports.

Fast forward to 2012 and Bill finds his Wildcats 1 game away from a Fiesta Bowl appearance and an outright Big 12 Championship. Bill’s overall record since taking over the worst program in history? 169-84-1. And he did it based off of the most commonly uttered phrase in the small town of Manhattan, KS:

Saw the wood.

Companies are a lot of freaking work. You have to be willing to saw the wood every single day to find success in your business or profession.

Saw the wood to succeed in business

4. Location is NOT Everything

Geographically, there is no better recruiting hotbeds than Florida, Texas, and California. 6’4”, 225 pound, 4.4 second 40 yard dashes abound. From a league standpoint, the SEC is king, winning the last 6 national championships.

But location isn’t everything (just ask the University of Texas). Teams like Boise State operate from a city that is not exactly a football “mecca”, and they play in a conference that is mostly overlooked by the rest of the country. Yet they are perennially a college football powerhouse, playing for major bowl appearances and keeping their school and team relevant.

The same goes for business. All great companies do not hail from New York and San Francisco. Great companies are sprouting up everywhere, in places you would never expect. Silicon Valley is losing headline space to cities like Denver, Austin, and Los Angeles. Household names like Zappos have built their foundation in a city you’d never expect such as Las Vegas.

With today’s technology and some hard work, the next great company can be built literally anywhere.

You can build a strong company, regardless of location.

5. Win or Lose, Your Team is Your Team

Football teams, especially at the collegiate level, run more like families than businesses. They sweat and bleed with each other for hours on end, every single day. If the middle linebacker is having an off day, there better be a free safety coming up to pick up the slack. They depend on it. If a right guard isn’t doing his job, there’s a pretty good chance the guy behind him with the ball in his hand isn’t either. Win or lose, you do it as a team.

Businesses are often treated as places that we go to for 8 hours/day as a disruption from our “non-work” life. It shouldn’t be like that. We spend too much time in our companies and professions to NOT treat them like our second families. Sales depends on the engineers to keep the trains running. Engineers depend on sales to be the voice of the customer. We don’t exist in silos, and your team is your team.

Business is about teams.


And there you have it. 5 things you never knew college football was trying to teach you.

I will be on the couch in my boxers and socks from approximately 8am to 8pm this Saturday continuing my education in a fashion much more appealing than Business School. Cheers!

Like this post? Share it:

Recent Posts