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Volume 21 No. 35
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You might be a successful organization if you have these traits

I ’m using Jeff Foxworthy as my inspiration for this month’s column. Foxworthy, famous for his “You might be a Redneck if” humor, was able to paint a picture that everyone could visualize and comprehend. I hope I’m able to do the same. Enjoy!


Ownership has demonstrated a proven commitment to the market
An “ownership presence” whether it is demonstrated by the owner living in the market, attending games and/or investing in the community is essential for an organization to be successful and a viable part of the marketplace. There is probably no better example of this than how the Tampa Bay Lightning — arguably the most successful hockey franchise in the South — built a base of supporters before the team was successful on the ice. How did this happen? Jeff Vinik moved to Tampa, attends most games, invested in building youth hockey in the area and established a Community Heroes program that provides annual funding of $2 million-plus to area nonprofits.

Your sales manager views his/her role as a coach and developer of talent
A successful manager recruits, trains and develops talent. This is done through interaction, caring, investing and coaching. The sales manager needs to be located on or near the sales floor so that coaching and observation can take place. Being in his/her office for the majority of the day and not being present on the sales floor and the day-to-day lives of the sales force can be very ineffective.

Your respective department heads think organizationally first and not departmentally first
Probably the biggest challenge for two reasons, department heads are trained about “hitting their number” so that is always the driving factor in their lives. The issue is passing up other opportunities that might not directly affect their number but would be helpful organizationally, or not acting on a lead for another department because you hope that in time you can get them to buy your product instead of the product from another department. Oftentimes this can be solved by distributing the revenue over both departmental goals and also splitting the commission. Organizational bonuses can also be weighted to favor hitting the organizational goal, which then activates an additional payout percentage on the departmental goal.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jeff Vinik is one example of an active and engaged owner.

Leadership has a vision for success and can convey to the staff what success actually looks and feels like
In my consulting life I have worked with a number of franchises that have been downtrodden for a significant length of time. Oftentimes a bunker mentality pervades the culture and it is difficult for the staff to work toward success because the vision of what success looks like is unclear and hasn’t been communicated well. Leadership needs to be able to craft a vision that is attainable and can be realized and most importantly articulate that vision of success throughout the organization and define their respective roles in helping to realize that success. Remember, informed people are involved, and involved people are inspired.

The team president is viewed as an inspirational leader internally and externally
To be truly successful, a team president needs to be well thought of and respected both inside and outside the organization. If you are only respected as an inspirational leader inside the organization then you really aren’t part of the true fabric of the marketplace and everything that goes on — thus your organization can be marginalized in terms of the bigger picture. If the president is not viewed as an inspirational leader from within — he/she is often seen as positioning for the next move away from that particular organization and thus not “present” in his/her current role. Inspirational leaders are great listeners to both internal and external forces.

Your leadership understands that talent trumps all — and is willing to pay to recruit new talent and retain established talent
The most talented team wins the majority of the time. There are exceptions but not with the frequency needed to ensure long-term organizational success. However, productive performers are going to be coveted by other organizations and so leadership will always be tasked with making decisions about retaining great talent. Oftentimes a decision will be made about promoting one of two very talented people at the risk of losing one — probably the most difficult decision one faces in terms of dealing with talented people. Retention and longevity bonuses are an effective way to retain talent and help realize organizational goals.

Your organization understands that content is the key element of the marketing mix and that it comes in a variety of flavors and with an even wider array of ways to disseminate and share that content
Content is king and attracting viewers to your content, thus effectively keeping them from competitive content, is the new normal. Your organization’s social media staff and budget should look like the print/radio budgets did 20 years ago. It should be your major communication strategy with your fans and the market in general.

Your organization is composed of people who are intellectually curious and have a “why not” attitude and approach
Great ideas should come from a variety of sources and not just the “C” level. Questions and ideas should be encouraged, recognized and rewarded. Internal town meetings and contests for ways to improve performance and results should be the norm and not the exception. Follow the mantra of Robert F. Kennedy: “Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”

Successful organizations view people as assets and being critical to the long-term future of the organization. These assets need to be cultivated, developed and given opportunities to contribute and improve the organization. Encourage internal debate, embrace all forms of diversity and in particular that of diversity of thought. Success is a never-ending journey; it continues to be a movable, evolving destination.

Bill Sutton ( is the founding director of the sport and entertainment business management MBA at the University of South Florida and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.