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1/30/2009
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How Business Is Like The Super Bowl

For many, Super Bowl Sunday is the official end to the holiday season. And while at first glance you may think football is far removed from your business, think again -- football can have a role at work beyond the office betting pool. Here are some lessons to take from the gridiron.

For many, Super Bowl Sunday is the official end to the holiday season. And while at first glance you may think football is far removed from your business, think again -- football can have a role at work beyond the office betting pool. Here are some lessons to take from the gridiron.The two major takes from the wide world of sports are: Pay attention to how they market and promote themselves.

Marketing is vital. Whether through e-mailed newsletters about your favorite teams or score updates sent directly to your cell phone, enjoying sports doesn't mean you need to be typecast as an armchair athlete -- you can attend your kid's soccer game and still be up to date on your Sunday morning football game. Smaller businesses would be wise to pick up on this instant advertising as well. If you're a restaurant and have a bounty of ingredients, use Twitter to alert people that you're having a dinner special. If you're a retailer, send a regular e-mail update to let previous customers know what new inventory you have or any promotions. Speaking of which ...

Promotions don't hurt, either. If you live in a city where there is a sports team, you're probably used to hearing about Bobblehead Night or Free Hot Dog Days. And yes, there are those of us who will attend a game just because of these promotions -- and are even willing to line up hours before the game to be one of the first 10,000 fans to get a classic jersey. Businesses these days can't count on repeat customers. People are much more careful with how they spend their hard-earned dollars, and businesses need to make customers feel like they're getting something special -- a deal, a rare item, whatever. Throw dessert in for free one night, offer to do a teenager's taxes for free in addition to one standard tax preparation. Sure, it might cost you a couple of bucks, but you could attract more customers and hang on to old ones.


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And for some Super Bowl-specific lessons:

Age doesn't matter. The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin, is 36, making him the youngest head coach to reach a Super Bowl. If you're feeling like no one will take you seriously because of your age, take heed of Tomlin, who used determination and varied experience to get to where he is so fast. And this is a man who never played in the NFL. So even if you don't have the exact experience for a job, play up your other assets.

Success requires patience. After college, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner couldn't get the NFL to commit to him. So rather than give up, he turned to the Arena Football League and then NFL Europe. But in 1998 he was the backup quarterback for the St. Louis Rams when an injury allowed him to take over as starter. He ended up completing one of the top seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. And now he's a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl -- all because he continued working hard, paying his dues.

Don't write off the underdog. The Cardinals went 9-7 this season, which means 14 other teams -- almost half -- had the same or a better record. Yet the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl. What started off as a mediocre season turned around when the Cardinals won a lot of their final games while other playoff contenders (I'm looking at you, Dallas) just floundered. No one expected the Cardinals to get this far, but they did. And that's what smaller businesses are like: They start off just trying to tread water. But if you have something to special to offer, like receiver Larry Fitzgerald, you could defy the odds. (Not that that means I expect the Cardinals' luck to hold out this Sunday.)

Stay positive. And finally, even though we're enduring a bleak economic climate, a positive attitude is needed -- it can be infectious and inspiring. Just look at Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. The guy is always smiling, usually gracious, and hard-working, and because of that, he's seen as someone to look up to.

On Sunday, as the big game winds down, you've reached the end of the seven-layer bean dip and now realize that, yes, tomorrow is a work day, keep the celebration going by putting your lessons from football into action. Go Steelers!

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