In 1959, Vince Lombardi (1913-1970) took over as head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
The team was coming off the worst record in their team history, winning only one game the entire season.
To make matters worse, the team hadn’t had a winning season in 11 years.
At his first team meeting, Lombardi looked the players in the eye and said, “I have never been on a losing team, gentlemen and I don’t intend to start now.”
Keeping his word, Vince Lombardi never had a losing season.
In his first game as head coach, the Packers won 9-6 over the Chicago Bears in their new City Stadium (later renamed Lambeau Field).
His first season was a huge success. The Packers finished with seven wins and five losses and Lombardi went on to win unanimous Coach of the Year honors.
In his second season, the Packers had eight wins and only four losses, capturing the Western Conference title, which brought Lombardi to his first NFL Championship game.
Although the Packers lost 17-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles that year, the next year, in 1961, after finishing the season with eleven wins and three losses, Lombardi lead the Packers to a crushing victory over the Giants, winning 37-0 in the NFL Championship game. The Packers first title since 1944.
Over the course of Lombardi’s 9-year career as head coach of the Packers, he guided the team to an impressive record that included five NFL Championships, two Super Bowl victories and a career record of 105 wins, 35 losses and 6 ties.
The thing is, in Lombardi’s first season, he didn’t get new players. He used many of the same players from that dismal 1958 record of 1-10-1.
He didn’t try tricky new strategies either.
Although strategy was important to Lombardi, his key to success was mastering the basics.
Lombardi was famous for his hard work and pursuit of perfection. He once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal or any goal.”
He would often dedicate long hours of film or practice study to just one element of play.
He drilled his players over and over on the basics such as blocking and tackling.
On the opening day of practice at the beginning of each season, before the team would go out on the field for the first practice, he would address his team of talented, veteran players with proven skills. He would say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” That was the most rudimentary thing he could say. From there he would take them through the essential elements of the game.
He understood how easy it is to neglect the basics, so each year, he’d remind them.
What assured his team of winning was executing those basics well. Time after time, the Packers defeated teams by using a simple and methodical offense, not a clever strategy.
In business, it is tempting to look for the next new strategy and to forget about executing the basics well.
Don’t get me wrong, strategy, like in football, is definitely important.
However, when you work at mastering the basics first, you’ll find you can win consistently.
For example, creating a good solid unique selling proposition (USP) that you can use in all your marketing materials such as your website, elevator pitch, phone script, ads, etc. is a critical basic. Something that even businesses which have been in business for many years have found by going back and perfecting to make a huge impact on their business.
Take GKIC member, Dwight Woods for instance. Owner of Unified Martial Art Academy, Dwight says after years of being in business, he saw a dramatic boost in business after refining his USP. He says that if it hadn’t been for GKIC his business wouldn’t have survived. “Martial Arts schools can easily be commoditized… I learned about using the USP from GKIC and how to set my business apart,” he says.
The hot strategy right now is social media, using the Internet and mobile marketing. Sure, all of those are important, BUT first you want to focus on the basics—print and direct mail.
The backbone of direct response marketing is the long form sales letter. Again and again, it’s proven to be a winner and a solid, reliable tool for driving sales.
These are just a couple of the basics, however the point I want you to get, is to stay focused on the basics. When you do, you’ll find like the Packers did, that you can not only come from a losing place to a winning one in a short period of time, but you can hold on to it year after year.
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