Football season is here and, for me, that means the Green Bay Packers and memories of Vince Lombardi will add a punch of inspiration to my non-stop work week. Many an entrepreneur has been motivated by Vince Lombardi quotes; they’re timeless and inspired his Packers to great feats I’ll never forget. Memories dating back to my childhood in Wisconsin were made stronger by an article I recently read on Fox Business, by Michael Lee Stallard, President of E Pluribus Partners, speaker, and author of Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity.
He made note of Lombardi’s attitude toward winning: put in your best effort, with a strong focus on ethics and excellence. Mr. Stallard points out: achieving excellence in relationships and tasks, together, is the formula for success. This underscores my own philosophy:
how you win is just as important as winning itself.
It took many years for me to appreciate the depth of Lombardi’s values and understand their correlation to success, both on the playing field and in the business world. His legacy first touched me when I was twelve, and a staunch Packers fan. My business success at that young age reflected pride in earning $20 a week delivering newspapers to my community. I was the richest twelve-year old in town.
Decades later, as a businessman, I realized the richest man in town is the one who has an ethical business with loyal employees focused on the company’s success, knowing their individual returns will follow. That team effort to go the extra mile ensures a growing fan base of loyal customers. That was success. That was being rich in all the right ways.
As a young boy in Wisconsin, this winning spirit of Lombardi and his Packers promised an exciting football season every winter. The pride my friends and I had for our home team was also a bit personal. My neighbor was Larry Krause, who was a Packers running back from 1970-1974. After watching him play on TV, my friends and I would replay the game in subzero weather, for two- or three-hour stretches, passing a rock-hard football down our makeshift field, tackling each other and being too caught up in our adolescent fantasy league to notice the ground was as hard as cement and our fingers were numb from the frigid cold that was Wisconsin winter.
Sometime during that season, Lombardi’s focus on relationship and task success was executed by me, although I certainly didn’t recognize it at the time. My newspaper boss held a contest asking all the paper boys to knock on every door we could find to solicit new subscriptions. The top “salesmen” across various territories would accompany him to a Packers’ home game that season. I was one of the winners. Sitting behind the goal posts that bitterly cold day, I even caught a football. It was an exhilarating example of inspiration from a great football team. It also proved how creating new relationships and focusing on the task at hand could lead to wonderful rewards.
Today, I have my own publishing company and the Lombardi ethics are still inspiring me, as well as the value system of my business.
Our team recently sat down to develop a mission statement and lay out our value system. After almost three years of foundation building, content production and organic evolution, we know who we are and where we’re going. We’re now prepared to etch our corporate values in stone (or granite, in honor of Lombardi’s influence on the offensive line at his alma mater, Fordham University, nicknamed the “Seven Blocks of Granite”). The business of publishing, like most businesses, hinges on relationships and tasks. One of the cornerstones will be the respect we have for our affiliates, partners and readers. The value system we came up with reflects our commitment to never forget that as we also strive for top-line growth.
Our resulting six goals form an acronym, CREATE, which also happens to articulate why we love publishing to begin with:
• Collaborate through teamwork on all aspects of business and production.
• Respect each other, our authors, our readers, our partners.
• Ethics and integrity are mandatory, on all levels, for all personnel.
• Aim for outstanding quality across the board for titles, products and public relations.
• Trust is imperative, earned through consistent practices, production and roll-out.
• Endear ourselves to others by curating and nurturing the human legacy, in words.
You might notice there’s no overt emphasis on actual sales in our value system. Rather, it’s the overall goal of CREATE. We believe, as Lombardi did, true winners are those who place ethics and respect firmly at the top of their priority list. Success will come, if these tasks are consistently met. Even the Green Bay Packers saw success as a franchise, following the turnaround led by Lombardi, with consistently sold-out games since 1960.
As the great man himself once said,
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that, whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
In business, if we invest in “individual commitment to a group effort,” in Lombardi’s words, we’ll perpetuate eventual returns in the future, in the form of a great reputation and a growing base of customers. But we all need to participate to the best of our abilities to make it happen.
Teamwork doesn’t mean merely showing up to win the prize of a paycheck before the effort has been completed. Everyone needs to be ready to pick up the ball and “run to daylight.” If one partner needs to block, he must do it. If another needs to step in to formulate a new play at goal-and-inches, he must speak out, take the initiative, and make sure we win the game. Just as Lombardi’s Packers won as a team, we’ll win as a company by respecting each other, and recognizing and complementing our individual abilities. We’ll lift each other up to increase our chances of winning through teamwork. It’s a tried and true formula for success. Why change it?
P.S. Go Packers!