How to lead your business like an NFL coach


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There’s a reason why football coaches use playsheets instead of making it up as they go along:


So why isn’t your business using them?


Imagine this – instead of dealing with each crisis as it comes, being able to look at a single sheet of paper and know exactly what to do – no matter what comes your way.


To be sure that you’re growing the company each quarter. Complete clarity on what to do, when. Your team aligned, and rowing in the same direction.


Here’s how to make business decisions easier with playsheets:


Step 1: Set a Macro Goal


Decide the outcome you want for your business (and your role in it). If you don’t have a destination, any road will get you there.


First decide on what the goals are for the company – and write it down. Now decide on the timeframe to get there.




Too often setting the goal is overlooked. Don’t skip it.


Step 2: Categorize

Break down the business into the categories that need to be systematized. Functional areas work well (Sales, Finance, HR, etc).

This is because as we build your playsheets (and scorecards), each functional department must know what’s expected of them.


Step 3: Success Criteria


For each area, decide “what must be true for the company to hit the goal in the timeframe?”

For example, to go from $4M to $6M top-line revenue in 12 months:

  • Sales: what do reps need to do?
  • Marketing: how many leads needed?
  • HR: how many hires? etc.

It’s important at this stage to just decide WHAT needs to be accomplished, not HOW. Too often CEOs jump to how, without assessing if they have the right WHAT.


In other words, we’re just staying high level. Remember that often the best HOW will come with your team involved. Your job is to set the WHAT.


Step 4: Draw a Line

Now you know what must be true to get to your goal (say $6M top-line). Before jumping to HOW, for each area you assess where you are.

Now you draw a line from today’s resources and expected performance to the end state. In other words, “I have this team now, with this capacity, and this performance… If I extrapolate this to the desired end goal, what would that look like?”


Back to the example. For $4M -> $6M in 12 months, let’s look at the Sales function. I need to average an additional $167K/mo in new revenue. Which means X customers/mo. Which means Y reps getting Z leads. Now I know I can’t magically hire & train them all at once, so I’ll need to look to the HR function for that. And I know that I won’t add $167K/mo in extra sales in month 1. So I’ll build a ramp of hiring, getting leads, and new reps closing.


So there’s this back-and-forth with the different areas, since they need to work in concert.


Just like you need the offensive coordinator to not just focus on the QB, ignoring the rest of the offense.


Now you start to put it together:


Step 5: Build Scorecards

Now you know how each piece of the company needs to work in concert. So you run all those interdependent projects on a master play sheet.


Here’s what mine looks like (high level):


You’ll see that my Play Sheet is super high level. But each exec’s (a functional area) will have one that’s specific to how their goals contribute to the overall plan.


I run my play sheet, they run theirs.


And best of all, we know if someone isn’t following it because it’s right there in black and white. So there isn’t any “drift” as the company lets inertia keep it down.


BUT, it won’t ever go right (does it ever?)… So that’s what the back side of the Play Sheet is for. If this unexpected thing happens (dammit), how does it impact the plan? What adjustments are necessary? A static plan is doomed to fail.


On the backside is a series of “If… Then” situations. You have scenarios. So that – again – each team member knows what to do. Now, this doesn’t rob them of creativity, because they’re developing those plans themselves. What it does is make sure that something going off track in one part of the company doesn’t catch the whole company by surprise.


But by using a play sheet, you know exactly what to do to grow.


When I work with companies, we get the entire company running on scorecards. The CEO running a Play Sheet – then handing it off to someone else. Which means you can get off the field and into the owner’s box.


Discover a weekly list of short, actionable steps to get out of operational deadlock, build a self-managing team, grow strategically, and increase company value in the Boardroom Bulletin™.


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by


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11 great business apps to improve productivity



Productivity, it is the key to our successes and the lack of it is often the cause of our failures.

After all, the more you get done, the more time you have in your day to achieve all your goals. To better understand how to master productivity we turned to small business owners like yourself to find out what apps they use to keep the work going.

Here is a list of the top 12 apps used by small business owners to stay productive.


This mobile email app boosts productivity by making emailing as easy and quick as text messaging. You can also add, remove or switch participants to “cc” or “bcc” status with an easy swipe, rather than using laborious cut and paste commands. It looks good, too—as Julie Liao from MailTime explains, “It reformats ugly email threads into clean bubble chats and strips out redundant metadata to make important information stand out.” And she adds, it also reminds her to keep emails concise when they are too wordy.


Raise your hand if you wish you had less email to read. This app encapsulates the full text of emails into short summaries that you can see from the home page, no clicking required. The app incorporates Natural Language Processing to help you know which ones need your immediate attention and even assigns emojis that show the missives’ relative importance. Dane Baker of Codeq, LLC, finds it saves him a ton of time; he relies on the quick summaries of emails when he’s otherwise too busy to answer any but the most urgent messages.


Nope, this app doesn’t give you the freedom to surf the internet as much as you want; instead, the app gives you the freedom to WORK so that you have the freedom to enjoy the rest of the day. In other words, it lets you block certain apps, websites or the entire internet, based on a schedule you set or a timeframe you impose. “It provides a distraction-free environment to get stuff done,” says Jamie Cunningham, the owner and founder of SalesUp! Business Coaching.


Are you killing trees? We’re not talking real trees (although do think twice before you print, please) but the trees that grow on this app, another one designed to help you focus by discouraging you from picking up your phone while you’re supposed to be working. Each time you sit down to a task, you plant a seed which will grow into a tree. But if you get distracted and leave the app, your tree dies. “It’s helped me eliminate distraction and hunker down to do work,” says Chris Ching, founder of CodeWithChris.





Are you free Tuesday at 10? No. How about 11? No, I’m booked. And on and on it goes… the email trail to find a time that works. That all ends with Calendly, which syncs with your Google, Outlook, Office 365 or iCloud calendar, and shows your meeting attendees what times work for you. “Using Calendly makes me look professional with potential clients because I’m demonstrating that I value their time as much as my own by eliminating even more email for them to have to deal with,” says Judy Dang of Avid At Work.




Jotting down amazing ideas on a napkin at the coffee shop? You know you’re just going to lose it. That’s where the app CamScanner comes in, allowing you to scan any document and send it right from your phone. “I use this app all the time; it lets me take a picture of a document or something I’ve drawn freehand and then acts like a scanner where you can send it as an email to someone for free,” says Heidi Lynne Kurter, founder and CEO of Heidi Lynne Consulting.

(Have your own business? Check this self-employed tax calculator.)




This is a to-do list app fave, because of its clean and intuitive interface that syncs seamlessly across all your devices, letting you jot down items you need to remember wherever you are. It also helps you stay up on recurring tasks, like making new business calls every Tuesday morning at 10:30 or hitting that 5:30 p.m. power yoga class. “I like it because it allows me to track, prioritize and schedule every task I have to get done, whether it’s work I need to do on my thesis, posts that I have to upload to my site or stuff I need to get at the store,” says Joey Daoud, CEO of New Territory Fitness.


AndreyPopov / istockphoto


“A” to-do list, as in one? How quaint. Most small business owners find that they are overseeing multiple checklists each day. That’s where Listables comes in with the ability to create and share multiples checklists with your team. It offers a real-time window into who’s doing what and syncs across all your devices. “Well-built checklists can help companies easily implement, share and track tasks and ensure they are done properly. Listables takes it a step further by giving users the ability to assign different items to different people, then track when the assignments were completed and if not, what the issue was,” says Vivek Chugh, founder, and CEO of Listables.


Sick of “shifting” between all the different email and social media accounts you use? Enter Shift, which allows you to access everything in one…and much more. That’s because it opens up all your other productivity tools too…Dropbox, Evernote, Flipboard, Pocket… and a plethora of other apps you probably already use that we didn’t mention above. Entrepreneur Summit Bansal is a big fan. “Since I have multiple sites, I need to access different emails and social media accounts, and this takes up a lot of my time. Shift solves this problem as I now just have to open one app, and everything I need is there.”


They preach it until it almost falls on deaf ears: Have a strong password. Yes, we know, it is important. But, let’s face it, we get lazy and oftentimes use the same lame password for multiple sites. That stops now with 1Password, which handles all those logins. And, even better, the latest version of 1Password can auto-open and auto-fill webpage with a single keystroke, reports Mike Morton with Morton Financial Advice. “Instead of the login page slowing me down, I now breeze right past,” he says. The app can also share passwords with collaborators on projects.

(If your business sells products, check out this sales tax calculator.)




Every business owner has to do a fair amount of writing, and that’s where QuillBot comes in; it’s a paraphrasing tool that will rewrite and restructure sentences and also offers a drop-down thesaurus when you click on any word, explains COO Rohan Gupta. “It really expedites the writing process for anyone who writes a lot. For business people, it can refresh your writing and make your sentence structures more diverse.”

If you are interested in learning more about how to make your new business more productive, check out our start-up guide

This article originally appeared on the Quickbooks Resource Center and was syndicated by




Featured Image Credit: gorodenkoff/iStock.