Lessons from 3-Time Super Bowl Winner, Joe Gibbs & Apple’s Steve Jobs – December 2014

Being raised in Frederick and being fortunate enough to build my house on the same parcel of land I was raised on is special. My location is unique when it comes to rooting for sports teams. Being born in 1976 makes it even more unique. I have always been a ‘homer.’ I have supported, rooted for, and some say I am a little obsessed with the local sports teams. There is equal distance between Frederick and Baltimore and Frederick and DC, so I consider the teams of both cities my home town teams. And during my youth, there was NO baseball team in DC and NO NFL team in Baltimore, so my local teams have always been the Redskins, Orioles, Wizards, and, at the college level, the Maryland Terps. Sports have always been a large part of my life, either playing or rooting for. I’ve learned many ‘life lessons’ through sports.

My friends and cousins loved sports and we always were throwing the football, playing catch, or shooting hoops at every event. My dad even built a miniature basketball court in the loft of our hay-barn for when it was too cold to shoot hoops outside. Six to Eight friends/cousins would come spend a weekend night when I was younger and we would play 2 on 2 knockout tournaments in the barn until midnight.

Looking back now, nearly 30 years later, I wish life were as simple and as black or white in determining who won and lost by a scoreboard. See, by playing sports I learned 3 things: First, there is always a winner and a loser. Second, and I realize this now, the competition is really what makes sports fun. And third, that the team with the best players rarely wins. It is the team that plays the best as a TEAM that is usually the winner.

More on these 3 life lessons in a bit. First I want to take you back to the team of my youth, the Washington Redskins.

When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s the Redskins were one of the NFL model franchises, and durin this time period the Redskins won 3 Super Bowls: 1982, 1987, and 1991. During this period there was one coach, Joe Gibbs. His vision, leadership, and philosophies guided the Redskins to their ‘glory years.’ In fact, he is the ONLY coach in NFL history to win 3 Super Bowls with 3 different quarterbacks. This was probably his greatest feat. He didn’t have a Joe Montana, a Dan Marino, a Brett Farve, or a Troy Aikman guiding his team. The best thing you could say about the Redskins during Gibbs tenure was that the TEAM was always greater than the sum of its parts.

Don’t get me wrong. Gibbs had some incredible players, including John Riggins, Art Monk, Darrell Green, Dexter Manley, and ‘The Hogs,’ to name a few, but unlike other teams that have become dynasties he did not have a ‘Franchise QB.’

Fans always knew that a team coached by Gibbs would be fundamentally sound and would be mentally tough. Having watched sports intently for 30+ years, there is one thing that I’ve noticed, no matter the sport. The players ALWAYS take on the personality of their coach. If the coach is well prepared and confident, the team plays that way. If the coach is high strung and energetic, his team will play the same way. Gibbs was always calm and cool under pressure, but NO ONE worked harder to prepare his team for games. There are stories that during the season, he rarely saw his family because a few nights a week he would sleep in his office as he prepared game plans late into the night and would be back at it, first thing in the morning. Thus, his teams, following his lead, were always prepared for any situation they would encounter in a game.

Joe Gibbs and his preparation, attention to details, and philosophies are the main reason why the Washington Redskins won 3 Super Bowls during his tenure as Head Coach.

In business, like sports, companies take on the characteristics of the CEO/President/Leader.

It doesn’t matter if it is a huge international company like Apple, Southwest, Amazon or a smaller local company, the team/employees follows the lead and direction of their ‘leader.’ I’ve recently studied Steve Jobs and how he built Apple in hopes of gaining some wisdom on Human Psychology and how Apple became an international powerhouse with loyal customers. What I found amazed me. I’ve discovered seven core principles that Apple uses and will be covering these over the next few months. Apple- at its core (no pun intended) – was built on the backbone and vision of Steve Jobs. I found nuggets of wisdom that I can bring to my real estate business.

Steve Jobs was the visionary, the leader, the CEO of Apple and he set the course and direction. Steve Jobs was so successful that he built Apple not once, with Apple II and Mac, but twice. After he was ousted from this position as CEO by the board of directors, Apple lost Jobs’ vision and lost their way. The board of directors realized they made a HUGE mistake firing Jobs and he was re-hired. It was during this second tenure that Apple revolutionized the music industry and forever changed how we listen to music with the IPod. Then later, with Jobs’ vision, Apple released IPads and IPhones.

What most don’t know was that Apple’s innovations were not the inventions of Jobs – directly. They were either adapted from other industries or improved upon. It was Jobs’ vision that led Apple through both boom periods. Jobs was not an expert programmer. Although he knew coding and how to build software, Jobs was not this great ‘inventor’. Apple- under Jobs’ leadership- had a TEAM of expert programmers. Every company had expert programmers, but what made Apple different started with Jobs and his vision. Unlike other companies, Jobs fostered innovations, he encouraged his team to think outside of the box and to always look for ways to improve! Yes, Jobs was a great marketer, an expert presenter, and even gave the commencement speech in 2005 to Stanford.

Steve Jobs’ greatest asset was being a leader and creating a movement.

He defined direction for Apple employees and their insanely loyal customer base. The ‘Think Different’ campaign came from Jobs. This was Apple’s motto and the ad campaign was hugely successful. Jobs was the captain of the ship and through his stewardship lead a revolution that spanned from the 1970s to today.

This research and my reflections on the leadership of Joe Gibbs and Steve Jobs made me remember a conversation that I had with Doug Wilcom as I was building the house that Susan, Anthony, Alex, and I currently live in. This conversation took place in the spring of 2005. We had just broken ground and were putting in the foundation of our home. Doug, a mason by trade, also was a home builder and has probably built 30-40 homes over the years. He has always been known for building a good, solid, home. Doug helped me lay-out my foundation, did my concrete block foundation, and did part of my brick work on my home, but he also acted as an advisor during the building process. We had about 2/3rds of the foundation done when Doug told me, “Eric, building a house is like building a football team. You can have the best plans ever, but unless you have a good team of contractors working for you, on your team, your home will be [poor] – I can’t use Doug’s exact words here. You have to hire good contractors. Now they won’t be the cheapest, but you are building your lifelong home and you want it to be something you are proud of. Hire good subs and let them do their job.” I took Doug’s advice, acting as the GC (General Contractor) for our home. I did what Doug said, and I hired good sub-contractors. Doug gave me access to some of his subs, and the rest were basically referred to me from other builders or subs within the industry.

The experience that I learned from building a home is that you are always preparing, coordinating, and problem solving.

You have to plan 3-4 weeks out with your subs to make sure the building process is smooth. And you learn how to quickly problem solve. A contractor will come to your home and notice something was not where they expected, or they want to make an adjustment. As a GC you have to be able to quickly assess the situation and come up with a solution. Our home took about a year from the time we broke ground in the Spring on 2005, until we moved in on April 24, 2006. Yes, there were hiccups along the way. And yes, it was a TON of work and coordination, but I learned a tremendous amount about building a home and constructing a team.

Over the next 3 years I went on to build 2 more homes. I had to tweak some contractors along the way, but the core group stayed the same on all 3 homes. In fact, the last home I built, a 3,800 square foot home with stone front, is probably one of my greatest professional achievements to date. From the day I broke ground, until the homeowners moved in, was 5 ½ months! Only one day in that 5 ½ months did I not have a contractor there working. On my 3rd home, my contractors and I were running a well-oiled process on building a home. What my team accomplished, with my vision and direction was completing a CUSTOM home that ended up being absolutely stunning. I built this home in the time it typically takes a Ryan Home or a Drees Home or any of the other regional builders to build a ‘tract’ –not custom- home of equal size. And I will guarantee you that this home was built better, as there were no corners cut, and my contractors all take extreme pride in their crafts.

My little team of contractors completed the vision and direction set forth with extreme efficiency.

Most of these guys are still friends and still help me today. Part of building a team is having trust in what your team tells you and knowing that their advice is genuine. I trust my guys and know that if I need them on a job today that they will adjust their schedule to make it work for me and my clients. Trust is huge in the real estate business and just as integral in the ‘contractor/trade’ business.

The advice that Doug gave me during our chat in the Spring of 2005 has also helped shape my real estate business nearly 10 years later.

I have a team of professionals that come along on every listing.

Then I have others on my team that are ‘on call’ should a need arise in their area of expertise. As I’ve learned from watching sports and growing up admiring the Redskins and Joe Gibbs and recently studying the accomplishments of Steve Jobs at Apple the team takes on the personality of the coach and the level of success is determined on how well the Coach/CEO can get the team pulling in the same direction and how well he can articulate his vision to the team.

This is why I bring the same ‘team’ on each listing. First, Limelight Staged Homes, Stacy and Sharon are brought in to ‘Scientifically Stage’ the home. Stacy and Sharon are the best at what they do and can make a lived in home look as close to a Model Home as possible. But they also work hand-in-hand with Annie Walters who photographs a home better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Stacy and Sharon know the angle from which Annie will take the photos, and they can then, on top of staging the entire house, also focus their attention on each room individually based on how Annie will photograph. This way, each room and each photo will tell an individual story. A good comparison here is to consider your home, and your home’s story, as a book. And each room is a chapter in that book. The job that I’ve instructed my team to do is to make sure each chapter fits the overall theme of the book. They understand that if one chapter of the book does not flow with the others, then the ‘story’ is lost upon the reader. Or in this case the buyer.

Having an incomplete or confusing story could cost a seller tens of thousands of dollars.

My team understands that my job is to find hidden ways to extract additional profits for sellers. My team has been able to construct 3 stories that have had the sellers’ achieve the 3 highest per square foot sales in their respective neighborhoods this year. Like Joe Gibbs did with the Redskins winning 3 Super Bowls with 3 different Quarterbacks and Steve Jobs did building Apple twice. I have found that if you surround yourself with an outstanding team, provide direction, and lead that team, then amazing results can happen. The results achieved by Gibbs and Jobs were not luck or happenstance, they were the result of providing the vision, hiring the right team, and letting the team achieve the vision.

Unlike in sports, in business, there is not a clear-cut winner and loser. There are only lessons that we learn, and what we do with those lessons to better ourselves and those around us can help us innovate breakthroughs.