3 Startup Lessons From an NFL Coach

With the 2013-14 NFL season kicking into full gear, and as I settle into my Sunday ritual, I’m reminded of why my hero, head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, is just that — a hero.

Since he took the reins in Seattle in 2010, Pete’s taken a below-average team and turned out a Superbowl contender. His leadership style can be applied to a startup and to leading a company. There is a lot to like:

“Do it better than it has ever been done before”: Pete inspires his team and his program to “do it better” than ever before. He believes this mantra at his core. I know I can certainly do a better job of evaluating, optimizing, and maximizing every area of production in my business.

So can you. Once a year, make sure to break down every aspect of operations — from your cleaning service to board meetings. Evaluate how you can do better than anyone has before.

“Be different”: The Seahawks leadership has specifically looked for players with unique skills and traits. They then put them in a position where they can take full advantage of their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Through this process, the Seahawks have acquired a collection of players that others didn’t value as highly. These players were able to fit together to perform at a very high level.

With the market for technical talent as competitive as it is, part of the challenge for a successful startup and technology company is to think outside of the box. Who are the right types of people and what skills should you look to hire for? With a specific salary amount available, it is critical to use dollars to achieve maximum output. What are the people and skills that are undervalued but can add tremendous value when put together?

“Compete”: Competition is about setting up an environment where people are driven to perform to their maximum ability. Doing this while retaining team camaraderie and spirit is difficult. I believe Pete has done an excellent job of communicating the purpose of internal competition – to make each player better. Grading games and practice tape, comparing players, and completing detailed evaluations naturally creates a meritocracy. Pete believes that if there is an available player who will improve the team, it is his responsibility to make a change in order to make the team as competitive as possible.

The takeaway: Set up an environment that requires everyone to up their game each day. Use data and transparency to show your employees how they are performing, and be very clear that it is your responsibility to use the limited number of positions and expenses to make the best company it can be.

And with that … Go Seahawks!

Matt Ehrlichman is the CEO of Porch, where you can get inspired by the best home projects your neighbors have completed, see what any home project will cost, and find the best service professional your neighbors and friends recommend. Previous to Porch, Matt was a founder and CEO of Thriva (acquired by Active Network) and Chief Strategy Officer of Active Network (2011 IPO). Matt lives in Seattle, WA.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.