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What Does It Take To Be “The Best”?

As the New Year approaches…are you willing to go “all out”?

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First off, I have to pass along that I’m absolutely thrilled that “Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out & Move Up While Your Competition Fails” was named by highly esteemed reviewer Richard Pachter of the “Miami Herald” (and national syndication) as one of the ten “Best Business Books of 2009.”

It got me pondering the question about what it takes to be “the best”…especially in light of yesterday’s Indianapolis Colts game. I’m a HUGE Colts fan — and, not a “fair weather” type, either. I was going to games when they weren’t winning and were the league’s laughing stock.

In case you’re not a football fan, the Peyton Manning-led Colts were the NFL’s sole remaining undefeated team with a record of 14-0, with only two games left on the schedule. Only three other teams in the history of the game have gone undefeated for the regular season, and only one — the Miami Dolphins of 1972 — also won the Super Bowl, finishing the season and the playoffs without a loss.

Midway through the third quarter yesterday, against the New York Jets, while the Colts were leading — the decision was made by Coach Jim Caldwell (perhaps also by team president Bill Polian) to pull many of the Colts leading players from the game. The rationale was that saving Manning and other top talents from the rest of the game reduced the chance of injury that would ruin the Colts’ chances of winning the Super Bowl. However, it also ensured that the Jets would likely come back and win the game, spoiling the Colts quest for perfection.

Many fans were outraged…including this one.

Most importantly, there are two important lessons from this decision by the Colts that applies to all of us in business.

First, there is an unwritten — often unspoken — bond between you and your customers. The Colts violated that yesterday. Certainly, if they had a couple of losses and nothing to play for, we fans would have been understanding. However, that wasn’t the case here. The Colts built a stadium financed, in part, by taxpayer money — and in total from fans spending for tickets.

If you booked me for a speech for 200 people and found out I had one the next day for an audience of 5000, would you be upset if I tanked the last part of my program to “save my voice” for a later one? Of course! You have paid for — and have a right to expect — my total effort for the entire engagement. When you break that trust with customers, there is space between you that didn’t exist in the past…and, you’ve planted the question regarding your future integrity.

You can stand to lose a customer. You can probably stand to lose an employee. You can NEVER stand to lose your integrity.

Second, it became obvious yesterday that Colts fans (or, “Colts customers”) didn’t want the team to forsake its opportunity to become recognized as one of the best teams EVER simply to attain a goal of being the best team this YEAR.

There’s a Super Bowl winner every year — and the Colts were champions not long ago — however, there has only been ONE team in HISTORY to achieve the distinction of undefeated champion. For the Colts to attain that level is the equivalent of football immortality.

Which brings us full-circle…because “Collapse of Distinction” suggests that customers have become bored.

To switch to a baseball analogy, we are tired of incremental improvements and organizations that hit singles instead of home runs. We are in an age where we would prefer you strike out by swinging hard than get a walk by taking every pitch. (Note the enthusiasm and buzz about Apple’s rumored tablet — or iSlate — as an example.)

The Colts probably won’t make much of an effort this coming Sunday in Buffalo…then, they have a week off before their first playoff game. I wonder if they’ll be able to recapture the excitement and timing essential to winning? The only year they won the Super Bowl was the only recent year where they had to play all-out, every game. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

As the New Year approaches…are you willing to go “all out”? Are you willing to risk injury for the glory of perfection?

Are YOU willing to be DISTINCT?

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More Stories By Scott McKain

Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers ( & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.

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