Lessons to be learned from football’s best coaches.

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

Welcome to January, also known as Bowl Season.

Between Christmas and a week ago Monday there were exactly 238 College Bowl games. Almost every bowl name starts with a sponsor’s name (The Desitin Rash Bowl). Some end with the sponsor’s name (The Natural Gas Bowl, brought to you by Taco Bell).

Then, just as the college bowl and championship season is ending, the NFL ramps up with its playoff games, culminating in naming the intergalactic champion at the Super Bowl.

This year’s college championship game was a real nail-biter, with the losing team coming up a bit short, probably because they only gave 109 percent. Both teams made some questionable coaching decisions, leading to theories of what makes a good head coach in college and the NFL, and which different skills are needed at each level.

To be successful, college coaches must be great recruiters. Beyond that, they need a proven staff of assistant coaches who can take very good high school kids and convert them to well-trained adults.

College coaches cannot offer to pay players for their efforts and performance.  The old theory is that the “pay” was a college education. The greatest reward a coach could offer is “visibility” for the player.  That would be on TV, to be seen by scouts for professional football teams. Winning teams tend to get the most TV exposure; thus, winning coaches have a better shot at the really good high school players.

Of course, visibility alone is not enough. Colleges need to teach the skills and tactics necessary for success at the professional level.

In contrast, NFL coaches don’t need to recruit.  They just need to work for an owner with a thick bankroll who is willing to open his checkbook. Instead, NFL coaches work with millionaire and multi-millionaire players, all competing for the same job, and somehow herd these high-dollar cats into a cohesive team. Those coaches need an eye for talent and commitment, along with the ability to weed out toxic or non-performing personnel.

Operating your retail empire is like playing in The Dealer Bowl every day. Only you have it a little harder because you need the skills of both professional and college head coaches.

Like the college coach, you need to be a great recruiter. Sure, you can offer a salary and benefits, but the pay is probably level to the other employers in your area, meaning you have no advantage there.

Here is where you can win: You can recruit raw talent, but you also need to make that talent better. That means helping your players improve their skills, even if you are improving them for their next employer. You will need to invest time and money on training — real training. That means some reading (the playbook), some interaction (the practice field), and lots of correction and perfection (coaching).

Successful college coaches utilize assistants to coach every day.  For you that means factory reps, in-house sales managers, company leaders, and experienced winning players.

You need to give your players exposure too. That means bringing shoppers through the front door, or reaching out via phone, email and text. Your company doesn’t have fans buying tickets, but you do need incoming traffic. And you need to count that traffic and keep your players accountable for their actions on each contact. You’ll want to keep a scorecard with accurate statistics and share them with the players.

You’ll also need a bit of Bill Belichick or Andy Reid in you too. They coach big teams with big players in front of big audiences, and they face big expectations as a result. They’re able to spot good, talented players and make them exceptional performers. On top of that, in a world with free agency, they keep the best players on their team for a long time.

Watch Bill and Andy’s teams (and several others too) and you’ll understand that they expect flawless execution, meaning no dumb mistakes, just some human errors. They insist on short memories when it comes to failures. And they have no room on the team for bad actors with bad attitudes. That includes “stars” too.

Watch for this on your own Team Retail.  Make sure your sales team is executing the skills you’ve trained them on. That means showing all the products, not just the ones they like. It also means selling, not giving away, accessories. Weed out the toxic people who are poisoning your environment, as your best players should create the fewest problems. Your sales team also needs to work in harmony with your operations team. Both need to be flexible and respectful of their mutual contributions.

Disruptions and disagreements will occur. Winners recognize the problems, fix them, and move on. Losers let problems fester and hold extended grudges.

We, the people of The Retail World, get to play our biggest game of the season today. We also get to play it tomorrow, and for six or seven days next week. Recruit and practice to win. Your fans are counting on you!

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at Gordon.Hecht@aol.com.