Blocking and tackling Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

Although CEOs tend to overuse the phrase “building a team” to explain their stance on collaboration, Bill Shreffler takes the analogy to a new level as president and CEO of Broadstripe. In an effort to foster healthy competition and keep Broadstripe’s vision and culture alive and visible, Shreffler has organized a sort of organizationwide customer satisfaction fantasy football league. The system, which uses football terminology and is based on key performance indicators, has been successful for Shreffler in other organizations, and he says the results have been no less positive at Broadstripe, which posted 2006 revenue of about $100 million.

Smart Business spoke with Shreffler about concentrating on the basics and why a good coach supports every member of the team.

Maintain a positive culture. People in this company know that they have a right to fail. We have a phrase that we call ‘bias for action.’ We would rather have somebody do something than not do something.

We are also aware that we’re going to make some mistakes, and the people that I work with know this. If you are truly trying to stretch and do something good for the company and you fall a little short, that’s fine.

We’ll meet, talk about it and figure out how to do it better the next time. The overall goal is that we grow the company.

As I was coming up through my career, I always thought, ‘If I ever get the chance someday to lead an organization, I want to make it a place where people love to come to work.’ They have not only just an enjoyment of their job but an enjoyment of the enriching experience in their career.

It’s extremely important to maintain that. A culture is a living, breathing thing. You can actually touch culture. Culture is sustainable, but it takes a large amount of ownership and care and feeding from the leader of an organization to maintain. As the CEO of this company, if I start to veer off course, the implication to the culture is significant.

Build a team ... literally. We created a fictional football team. Each of our regions created their own subteam, and we’ve created what we call key performance indicators, the key things in our business that move the needle in customer growth.

We use those key performance indicators to scrimmage the regions, and whoever has the best KPI wins the scrimmage for the month. When we built the KPI, we built them as a customer advocate. We looked at it from the eyes of the customer. It’s so easy in business to measure things that you think are important, but at the end of the day, we need to measure things that are important to the customer.

We use football analogies about scoring points, getting in the red zone and scoring touch-downs, making passes and completions. We talk about where we are, what our field position looks like, how we scored, how the team’s holding up, how special teams is doing. ...

There are many times during the quarter that we will send out updates using the football theme, talking about how we are on field position, how we’re moving the ball, what are some great plays we just ran. These are the ways we continue to keep the vision and culture in front of folks.

You can use this concept anywhere, anyhow, and it works. It takes an engaged senior management team that believes in the concept and is willing to takes some risks. We wear jerseys at our corporate, off-site meetings. We wear jerseys at our board meetings. We’re not afraid to walk through lobbies of hotels in our jerseys, with our names on the back and ‘Champions’ on the front.

When we first did this, there was this hokey factor that people worried about, but forget the hokey. People love it. People embrace it. They think it’s great because who doesn’t want to belong to a team?

Master the fundamentals. When you boil it all down, it comes down to blocking and tackling. Using the football example, you can run the trick plays all day long, but no matter how fancy you are, it’s how you’re blocking at the line that really matters whether you’re going to move the ball.

A lot of companies get lost in the details. You’ve got to block and tackle. You’ve got to do the very simple things right every single time. Once you get that blocking and tackling down, then you can go on and build those trick plays and do the fun things, but without blocking and tackling, you’ve built a house on sand.

Support your team members. I like to flip the organizational chart upside-down, and I put myself at the very bottom. My job is to support everybody in my organization all the way up to the very top, which is the customer. I have got to walk that talk every single day and not vary from that at all.

I like to think of myself as someone who lifts people up or helps people become the best they can possibly be. I enjoy seeing people reach far above what they think they can achieve, and then watch them achieve those great efforts.

Everybody wears a badge, and that badge says, ‘Make me feel important.’ If you take the time to not just make the employees important for the sake of doing it but truly take the time to get to know people and help them become the best they can and make them feel like they’re an important part of the organization, it moves the needle in a big way, helps your organization and helps everybody.

HOW TO REACH: Broadstripe, (636) 534-7400 or