Winning in the Trenches

cocks 5Well, the college football season has begun and our first home game is this weekend at Williams-Brice Stadium.  This is the time of year I look forward to the most. Many of you know I am a huge South Carolina Gamecocks fan. Consequentially, most of you know Carolina fans, while very loyal, are often the most disappointed in the country.  I have season tickets to the home football games and have told most of my friends the best part of our game is our tailgating.  It can pretty much go down hill once the theme from 2001 plays and the players run out on the field.

In 1999, our team was winless for the season (0-11).   I should have known it was going to be a terrible year when I overheard one of our players from the sidelines say, every time he heard the national anthem sung… he had a bad game.  Still, Gamecock fans are an optimistic bunch – there is after all what we refer to as “wait till next year!”  Well it’s here and once again I’m excited. Cocks1

And we have the ‘Old Ball Coach’ Steve Spurrier that I still believe can, given time, lead us to an SEC Title and maybe a shot at a BCS Bowl Game.  Coach Spurrier once told a story about NFL Coach John McKay for whom he played during his NFL player days.  McKay coached the winless 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I remember a speech Coach McKay was giving us at one point in the season,” Spurrier said.  “He was emphasizing that games are lost in the trenches by failing to block and tackle on the front lines.  “As he was talking he noticed a lineman asleep in the back.  He called his name, woke him up and asked him ‘Where are most games lost?’  And the lineman says,  ‘Right here in Tampa, sir.'”

Our businesses are much like the football team that relies on teamwork. Each employee dependent on the other carrying out his assignment and in some case filling in the holes that might occur on the field.  Like football teams, the success of our businesses are won or lost in the trenches with our sales force, marketing, or personal interaction with our customers or clients.  A great football team takes months of preparation, drills, and practice before they ever snap the ball in competition.  A great business must also train its employees, encourage its staff to sharpen their skills, and create business and marketing plans that gain the advantage on the competition or assists them in better serving the needs of the client or customer.

Cocks 3I’m convinced that the Good Lord made me a South Carolina football fan to keep me humble. However, as the eternal optimist, I do believe if you keep working hard, a lucky break will eventually come your way.  One of my heroes Coach Vince Lombardi once told his Packer players, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”  That’s true in business as well as sports. And whether we win or lose will be defined by how we perform in the trenches.


Grandmamma’s advice

geeseWhen I was a little boy, I had a tendency to be a bit mischievous.  As hard to believe as it is, I seemed to have a knack for getting into some type of predicament. My Grandmother Russell used to say l didn’t have the sense God gave a goose.  Being the smart little lad I was at the time, I wondered why anyone would even want to be as smart as a goose.  Since then my grandmamma has passed on and I’ve grown a little older, but I’m not sure sometimes how far I’ve made it out of the mischievous state.  I did, however, do my research on this goose thing.

For instance, nearly all of us have observed geese flying south for the winter.  When they do, they fly in, a “V” formation. Did you know that flying in a “V” formation gives the whole flock a 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. What can we learn from that? People who share a common direction and a sense of community can get where they want to go quicker and easier if they travel on the thrust of one another.  Another interesting thing about a goose is when the lead goose gets tired, she rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.  It pays to take turns doing hard jobs … with people, or geese flying south for the winter.  I guess the last interesting thing I found out about a goose is when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by gunshot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow down to protect it. They stay with it until it is either able to fly or is dead, then they launch on their own to catch up with the group.  Wouldn’t it be neat if people stood by each other like that.geese 2

Yesterday, I heard the geese high overhead. I thought about what I’d read and the number of times I heard grandmamma compare me that goose. I’m not sure how much Grandmother Russell knew about birds, but she sure knew a lot about people. More importantly, she knew a lot about mischievous little boys who didn’t have the sense of a goose.

Showtime at Lake Norman

The out of breath delivery man from Barefoot in the Park
The out of breath delivery man from Barefoot in the Park

This past month I was flattered when I was asked to participate in the Davidson Community Players’ production of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park.” A few local elected and business leaders were asked to do a cameo role as the out of breath Lord and Taylor delivery man in the first act   While the cast was small – only five speaking roles – it is amazing what goes into a small production.  There was the stage hand that helped me prepare for the role and the prop manager who had the costumes coordinated for the 1960 scenes.  In addition, there was a stage manager in the booth who directed the assistant stage manager who actually gave the cue for the actors to take their mark – as well as the actors themselves.   Behind the scenes were the people who built the set, the businesses who supported the production, the Board who coordinates the season and the list goes on and on with the successful production we were treated to a few weeks ago.Sailboat

It is old news that in June, Huntersville was ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 2nd best place to move to in America.  This accolade coming on the March announcement by BusinessWeek that Cornelius was the 7th Best Affordable Suburb in the United States and #1 in North Carolina.  Mooresville has been consistently ranked as the #1 Micropolitan Community by Site Selection Magazine and while Davidson as a town does not have the population density to be considered in national polls, the college has made a name for itself in both scholastics and athletics.   Much like Neil Simon’s play, the success does not just lie in the talent of the performers.  While those major characters are critical, everyone plays a role in the success of the production.  The national recognition of the Lake Norman region is a testament to the vision and commitment of our community and business leaders, both now and those who have served.  Equally important is the role that the crossing guard plays each morning helping the kids get safely to school and the teacher who educates them for the starring role they will play in our future.

From the worker on the assembly line down at Prairie Packaging to the soccer coach teaching sportsmanship.  The server who brings the meals and the housekeeper who cleans the room is as important to our hospitality industry as the Director of Sales who books the events and the owner who operates the hotel.   The bottom line is that business, community, and elected leaders must model appropriate behavior at all times.  Whether we like it or not – we are always being watched and evaluated.  We often do not pick the times when we model our behavior for others to notice.  When each of us arrive at work each day, whether we are the owners or managers of our business or organization or the secretary making sure the work of the business gets accomplished – we need to imagine a big red curtain opening.  We must perform like a professional and like a good play, our actions will determine the success or failure of the production.

Curtain Call
Curtain Call

True professionals love what they do so much that when they get up in the morning, they are inspired by the work that awaits them and anxious to tackle the challenges of the day.  It separates the best from the rest and singles your community out as the very best of the best.   Here at Lake Norman, we know the sun may set, but the curtain never closes, on our award winning performance as an outstanding community.