Are You A Chief Or A 49er?

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The Geek guide to Super Bowl LIV and what it means for your business?

Are you ready to take your business to the Super Bowl?

This Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs meet the San Francisco 49ers in Miami for Super Bowl LIV (54 to you and me!). We are sure that you won’t be mad enough to be staying up on a ‘school night’ but at least one Geek will; in fact he hasn’t missed a single Super Bowl since Super Bowl XX – 34 years ago when the famous ’85 Chicago Bears beat the New England Patriots 46-10 in New Orleans!

Now bear with us (see what we did there? 😉) as we promise that we won’t totally Geek-out on American football trivia that you have no interest in. We want to try and draw parallels between the identities of the two teams this weekend and our experiences in business.

A Quick Summary

The 49ers teach us the value of leadership, learning from failure and building a strong defensive line

The Chiefs are all in on leadership too. They teach us the value of nurturing talent, playing with no fear, the value of cheerleaders and the ability to change.

So strap on your shoulder pads and helmet and let’s dive right in.

The San Francisco 49ers

They have been great in the past but perhaps have rested on their laurels and are now looking to return to former glories.

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the great dynasties in American Football. They won 5 Super Bowls between 1982 and 1995 (trust us that’s a lot).

But that was then and this is now!

Apart from a solitary losing Super Bowl appearance in 2012 they haven’t been great since the nineties. The players and coaches feel the pressure from ghosts of players past. All-time greats like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott (You may even have heard of them) are constant reminders of the good times and the mediocrity they have seemingly embraced since.

(Our secret Geek can write about them like this because he is a 49ers fan – though he has a secret crush on the Chiefs too, but that’s another story)

If that description presses a few nerves for you, then that’s fine, embrace the fact that you have been great, so very few achieve that, however fleetingly. And don’t worry…

…because the 49ers have a blueprint that you too can follow to help restore former glories and the energy of youth.

Hire The Right Leader

Everything changed for the 49ers when they hired Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (the leader on the field) in 2017. After years of mediocrity and whether by luck or judgment they finally found the right leadership team to drive the team to new heights.

The right leadership is the cornerstone of any success in any field, not just the gridiron. We appreciate that it’s Hobson’s Choice when it comes to leadership for small or fledgling businesses and that everything will start and end with YOU. Great leadership though is rooted in honesty, so be let’s be honest about our own leadership skills. If there are gaps, that’s fine, everyone has them, but it’s brutal honesty with ourselves that will expose our flaws and lead us to do something about them. If you are searching or hiring a leader then we have a few Geek insights.

a) Hire a leader that fits PERFECTLY with your values or the ones you want to encompass.

That doesn’t mean we need a ‘yes women’, but we do need someone who is driving in the same direction as our company, albeit that we want them to drive in a different style.

b) Don’t be afraid to hire people more talented than yourself.

Whatever our reservations (and we will have them) if we can lock away our ego and need for control, then hiring super talented leaders is rarely, if ever, the wrong way to go. It’s a similar theory to “Buy cheap, buy twice”. Leadership matters so much – can we really afford not to attract the best?

It’s not always about experience at the top. Kyle Shanahan is only 40 and the 49ers is his first head-coaching job, but his pedigree was (almost) exemplary and his track record showed he fit well with where the team were looking to go.

What makes a good leader?

Well perhaps we can look to 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and what other people have said about him.

“(He has) The ability to be thinking of the next play and being a step ahead” – Kirk Cousins

“The one thing I really admired about Kyle. You knew when he was there, he was putting the work in, that’s all he was focused on.” – Brian Hoyer

“He’s a good leader. I think he’s got a good feel for talent evaluation and getting the guys that he wants to make it work for him.” – Matt Ryan

“Kyle has pushed me to become a better player. He’s pushed me to expand my game, to do some things different than I’d been doing for a few years.” – Matt Ryan

“Part of being good at any position of leadership in life is being a good listener and understanding where other people are coming from.” – Arthur Blank

“He is such a perfectionist. In this second year we have a complete understanding that we have the same goals in mind.” – Julio Jones

“The way you do that, with talent, is to respect each other and listen to each other. We all talk clearly to him. Whatever we see, we can talk about it. He’s that guy.” – Julio Jones

Of course that’s not a complete list of leadership qualities, but hopefully it gives some insight into the universality and transferability of leadership and where it may fit in our businesses.

Embrace Failure and Learn From It

In Shanahan’s first 2 seasons with the 49ers they won just 10 games out of 32. Even with a record of 13-3 this season, he still has a losing record overall since taking over.

In sport, results on the pitch are ultimately what counts. At SalesGeek© we understand that more than most, because short term results are what drives most sales environments.

So why is Shanahan ultimately still in a job?

Because the 49ers had a plan that wasn’t predicated in winning in the short-term.

They were playing the long game, accumulating the right pieces at the right price that would ultimately result in one of the most dominant teams in recent years. They understood the environment they were in, the mitigating circumstances (Garoppolo tore his ACL in the 3rd week of last season) and other factors that contributed to those poor results and crucially how to fix them going forward.

Our ultimate take from this for all our businesses is that: failure isn’t failure – if you understand it and learn from it. It requires a degree of humility to analyse where things went wrong but if we can do that, it will ultimately underpin our successes.

Build A Strong Defensive Line

The 49ers this season are renowned for their Defensive line. These are the guys that are charged with stopping the opposition running away with things and chasing down the quarterback. The Gold Rush as they are called has been historically great.

But what does that mean for us? What can our businesses learn from them?

Be focussed.

The Gold Rush have one goal every time they line up – Get to the quarterback. This doesn’t mean they manage it everytime or that other priorities don’t present themselves (like stopping the running back) but their ultimate goal is to crush the quarterback in a mountain of red and gold. Their dedication and singular eye results in a defense that has achieved greatness this year.

Be Tough But Be Agile Too.

If you want to be successful as a lineman you better be tough as hell, because it is a battle for every inch. But the best linemen aren’t just strong and tough they are elusive as quicksilver, escaping the clutches of those that seek to stop them achieving their goal. We can’t think of many better metaphors for your business and ours too:

Fight for every inch but be agile enough to pivot in pursuit of our goals.
Analyse Your Competition

The best offensive linemen know what their competition are going to do before they know themselves. They study film on their opposition as much as they practise every week to give themselves a competitive edge when they line up on the same field. Our businesses are no different. The most successful business knows their competitive landscape inside-out and consequently are able to plot a course through it.

Don’t take your eye off the ball!

The Chiefs

They are new, exciting, fast and agile, but inexperienced with zero recent track record of success. The Super Bowl is their first real opportunity to ‘play with the big boys‘ in FIFTY years


Welcome to Chiefs Kingdom. Our Secret Geek used to live in their neck-of-the-woods so he knows a thing or two about their history.

The Chiefs have been reinvented. For years they were pretty much irrelevant and almost forgotten. But they’ve always had a great brand and a very loyal fanbase, none of which translated into success. But that was then and this is now! Now the Chiefs are the most exciting team in football (American) with amazing young superstar talent and a much vaunted Head Coach. Their match up with the 49ers is much anticipated as it will bring together the best offence (Chiefs) versus the best defence (49ers) into the ‘Greatest Show On Turf”.

So what can we learn from the Chiefs’ rise to prominence?

Leadership Matters

Are you seeing a theme here!

We don’t want to go over the same ground, suffice to say the Chiefs, like the 49ers, have invested in great leadership, albeit with different approaches. The Chiefs went with experience. Andy Reid has over 20 years as a Head Coach in the NFL (Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers had zero years under his belt). They complemented that with Patrick Mahomes, the most talented player in the league who leads by example every week on the field.

The tip to take from this is that there’s no one-size-fits-all root to success. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes – you need the right ones for you!

Nurture Your Talent.

Your employees are your business!

They are the single most important factor in achieving success for our business.

Richard Branson said:

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”Richard Branson.

It’s a somewhat controversial opinion but one we agree with. We could write books on this subject but our employees are worth the investment.

The Chiefs didn’t just go out and buy the team, they built it and nurtured their players. They provided the perfect environment in which flair players could develop. Their players are encouraged to take risks and to fail in pursuit of winning. The Chiefs are not timid, they lay it all out, in everything they do. And that is because the players have been nurtured in a culture that encourages this approach.

The leaders aren’t afraid to make tough decisions either in pursuit of developing the perfect environment for their players to grow. In 2018 they released Kareem Hunt who was probably the best running back in the league at the time. They did so because it was the right thing to do (Hunt was accused of assaulting women and lied to the organisation when they asked for his side of the story).

Even though releasing Hunt potentially hurt the Chiefs on the field in short-term they weren’t afraid to make a tough decision because it was the right thing to do. In the long-run doing the right thing helped develop the very clear dressing room culture they have today.

Developing our teams isn’t always easy. Sometimes people have to be moved on, however talented they are because, if they stay, it’s to the detriment of the culture we are nurturing and undermines our other team member’s contributions.

Play With No Fear

The Chiefs go out to play with the theory that if you score 29 points, we will score 30. They aren’t interested in settling for 3 points when they can go for 7. And they will “Go for it”, even in the most tense of situations. It makes their games scintillating to watch because everything is always on the line. That risk taking has been the cornerstone of their success over the past few years. It can be summed up in a phrase our Secret Geek often appropriates:

I’d rather be hung for a sheep as a lamb

Meaning when the punishments for failure are the same he might as well take the biggest risk.

It’s not easy to play anything without fear. Experience dictates that we become more conservative in our actions as we grow.

This often seems like wisdom.

But in business conservative thinking is almost always overtaken by aggressive risk taking. A Businesses is defined by risk – The Kansas City approach is to embrace the risk with no fear.

Is that something we can embrace too?

Build Atmosphere With Cheerleaders

This is a short way to say: build our business’ brand by developing cheerleaders. Let’s give our clients’ such a great experience that they can’t stop shouting for us.

The Chief’s fans are renowned as the loudest in the NFL. They create a raucous atmosphere that can be intimidating for the opposition. Imagine if we could create something similar for our brand? It’s definitely possible these days because there are so many outlets and forums available for our customers to shout about us. If we get it right, the atmosphere we create around our brand can feel intimidating for our competitors and that can be a distinct advantage we can hold over them.

The Chief’s didn’t just achieve their notoriety by accident though. 

Their product is great:

They win; play exciting football; score heavily and have immensely talented players. They have also designed their arena to maximise the noise that their fans make.

We can do that in our businesses too.

All too often we are shy when it comes to shouting about what we do and how great we are at it.

Bill Gates said that:

“If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on PR”

It’s not hyperbole to say that one great story can make our business. Invariably it is our customers that make those moments.

So why don’t we create an environment in which we can tell those stories more effectively?

There are many ways in which we can do it. Whether we concentrate on improving customer experience; invest more in our social media; hire in PR or simply ASK OUR CUSTOMERS for their feedback; we are the masters of creating that atmosphere around our business.

Ultimately if you believe in your business and what you are trying to do then be like the Kansas City Chiefs, in fact, be like the Super Bowl itself:

Light it up, make a spectacle of yourself & your business!

So there you are. A journey as arduous as the NFL season, but we have finally arrived at the end!

Whether your season has been as successful as the Chiefs and the 49ers or even if it’s been one to forget like the Cincinnati Bengals’ there is always another day, another season. And if we learn from our past we can make successes of our futures.

Ultimately next year in the NFL there will be 4 or 5 teams that make the playoffs that didn’t this year. That’s a great lesson to take from Super Bowl LIV – even before it starts!

Hopefully you are now ready to take your business to the Super Bowl!

The Super Bowl kicks off in Miami at 11.30pm GMT

Coverage will be from 11pm live for free on BBC1 with Mark Chapman alongside former players Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell.

There’s also great coverage on Sky Sports which starts at 10pm. You can watch it for just £9.99 via a Sky Sports Pass on Now TV

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira have been confirmed as the Super Bowl 2020 act. Check out this guide to the Super Bowl halftime show – including timings and previous acts.

Check Out our very own Super Bowl talent and how Sales Geek can help your business.