How Nick Saban's "Process" Can Help Build Your Business Dynasty

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Fred Schonenberg, Founder, VentureFuel

At nine years old, I moved to Alabama from New York City and a priest welcomed me by asking who my team was. I proudly answered, “The Yankees.” He replied, "There are only two teams, Alabama and Auburn. And there is only one correct answer, son. Alabama." Cheering for the Crimson Tide is somewhat of a biblical experience and the infatuation has escalated as Head Coach Nick Saban has lead the team to four national championships in the past seven years. That type of dominance is unheard of within the modern college football landscape and Saban credits the success to what he calls “The Process,” his philosophy that preaches his players focus solely on what is in their control.  

Alabama started the 2016 season by beating USC 52-6 on Saturday night, with a freshman quarterback no less. As business leaders, how can we learn to deliver extraordinary excellence year-after-year as Saban has? What could we learn from “The Process?” Here are four “Process” driven steps that entrepreneurs can apply to their businesses today to help build the foundations of their own future dynasties.

Actions Not Outcomes

The expectations for Alabama each year are daunting – regularly ranked #1 and expected to win the national title. But these are 18-year-old kids playing on national TV where one mistake could cost the school the whole season and each of the players millions of dollars in future paychecks. How do you keep them focused on executing the game plan? Saban’s “Process” asks student-athletes to focus just on the current play not on the results, the hype, nor the pressure. In fact, after the landslide victory over USC, Saban commented that he wasn’t happy with the way the team played and to look at the internal scoreboard not the external ones. As the Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” As entrepreneurs, it’s very easy for us to dream or worry in extremes, like taking our companies public or how one folly might result in bankruptcy. By focusing on the immediate task at hand, and being mindful of each specific moment, you demand your best and avoid catastrophizing your situation.

Eliminate the Clutter

With hundreds of thousands of people shouting, a squad of 300lb guys lined up to tackle you, all the cheerleaders and marching bands, the “noise” around a college football game can be dizzying. But the beauty of the “Process” is to focus only on what you can control during this one play, this very minute. Do your job for this play and ONLY your job. The player next to you will do the same. Trust that everyone is focused on their respective role, and that together the team can do something spectacular. This is probably the most important element for entrepreneurs as we wear so many hats and have so many urgent projects that call for our attention. We only have so much time in the day, so eliminate all of the noise. Focus on your job for this play, this minute, and move the ball – aka the business – forward.

Define Your Standard and Be Consistent

As entrepreneurs we are all moving so quickly with our hires, our pivots, and our moves. Being nimble is a great strength, but it can also be difficult to replicate yourself over and over throughout the organization. By clearly defining your goals and being consistent, day-in and day-out about those goals and the standard of excellence you expect from your team, it becomes clear what they need to do in order to succeed. A lack of clarity leads to missteps and inconsistency, none of which we have time for when striving for explosive growth.

The Past is Past

People joke that Saban is already thinking about the next season before the Gatorade dries from the National Championship celebration, and they’re right. Once that Gatorade is poured and the trophy is handed out, that moment is over. Every great business coach should have their attention focused on the now AND the next step. While it is important to celebrate your victories and reward your team along the way, it is equally important not to dwell on defeats or victories for long. You want to continue to grow your company, your culture, and move it all forward, regardless of the past.

On his first collegiate play, Alabama’s freshman quarterback fumbled. He came to the sideline and everyone put their arm around him. The play was over. Focus on the next play. Don’t dwell we can only control what’s next. From that moment forward, you saw the laser focus of each player, completely enveloped in each play. They kept each moment simple, uncluttered, and acted with clarity and focus as they rolled over USC> We should all strive to perform on the field or in the office with this calm, determination to execute a plan. As a business owner, providing clarity, direction, and attention to the now will help you march down the field and bring your team victory. Roll Tide.

Fred Schonenberg is the Founder of VentureFuel, which helps emerging media and new technology companies grow their advertising revenue through brand partnerships with Fortune 500 advertisers. He is also an avid Alabama fan.

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