8 Timeless Business Lessons From Bill Belichick


Editor’s Note: This post was published in 2006. Stats were updated in 2016 to reflect Belichick’s current coaching record — and the CD and TiVo references were left for posterity.

Many of you who are football fans or are from New England probably know who Bill Belichick is. For the rest of you, he is the head coach of the New England Patriots. Since he joined the organization in 2000, the Patriots have won five Super Bowls.

As a student of business strategy, I find Belichick to be a fascinating character. His accomplishment of winning five Super Bowls is truly remarkable because the market (NFL) he competes in is “efficient” by design, and rebalances itself to increase efficiency in clever ways.

Every year, the teams that were top performers the prior year are penalized by getting lower relative draft picks than the teams that didn’t perform as well. In addition, the NFL has a salary cap, so even if your team sells out every game, has massive endorsement deals, and humongous TV deals as a result of winning all those Super Bowls, there is a cap on spending that puts you at the same level as every other team.

I had a chance to listen to the Bill Belichick biography by David Halberstam over the weekend on CD and also happened to watch his interview on 60 minutes that I TiVo’d awhile back. Here are some of the highlights I pulled out of the two that are both relative to his management style and his competitive strategy formulation.

8 Timeless Business Lessons From Bill Belichick

Lesson #1: Skills and performance matter more than tenure. [Tweet this]


Belichick does not believe in “tenured” jobs for his players. They are constantly evaluating and ranking all their players. Senior people are not “entitled” to their job — it’s a complete meritocracy.

Lesson #2: Focus on being better organized than the competition. [Tweet this]

Bill Belichick Business Lessons 2.png?noresize

Belichick believes that being better “organized” than the competition is the way to win.

Lesson #3: Always challenge the status quo. [Tweet this]

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Belichick created a “modern, sophisticated” team that played by different rules and valued different skills/metrics than any other team. He exploited market inefficiencies much like a hedge fund would.

Lesson #4: Effective team management matters. Invest in it. [Tweet this]


After losing a particularly important playoff game to an injury-ridden Patriots team, Peyton Manning (MVP that year) commented that, “it doesn’t seem to matter who they trot out there, it’s their ‘system’ that wins them games.” It seems that winning football games is more closely correlated with smart management than talented players.

Lesson #5: Don’t let your ego get in the way. [Tweet this]


After having success, Belichick fought to keep the ego out. He feels like ego is a poison that kills teams.

Lesson #6: Team > individual. [Tweet this]

Bill Belichick Business Lessons 5.png

Belichick is all about the team first and individual second.

Lesson #7: Get to know your competition inside and out. [Tweet this]


Belichick’s father was an assistant football coach at the Naval Academy. His main role there was to scout opponents. Belichick literally grew up looking at opponent film with his father. He became an expert at finding weaknesses in his opponents’ offenses and defenses.

In particular, he became very good at identifying quarterbacks’ weaknesses. For example, he would track metrics on accuracy throwing left, right, center, short, and long while standing still, while moving out of the pocket left, and moving out of the pocket right. Based on those metrics, he would design his defensive schemas.

Belichick won five Super Bowls because he was better at understanding his enemy than anyone else. Not sure if he ever read The Art of War, but he’s Sun Tzu’s modern day poster child.

Lesson #8: Use data to drive your decisions. [Tweet this]

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From the book and the interview, it struck me that Belichick uses a sophisticated information technology platform to help unearth counter-intuitive insights about his business to create competitive differentiation.

What business lessons did we miss? Share them with us in the comments below.

free ebook: leadership lessons


Blast From the Past: 7 Websites That Were One Thing, But Now They’re Another


Once upon a time, back in 2005, there lived on the internet a website called YouTube. It’s a name that, today, many people recognize as a video-sharing website — and much more — that’s owned by Google. But over a decade ago, YouTube wasn’t what it is today. In 2005, YouTube was a dating site.

Yes, you read that correctly. YouTube began as a dating site.

It’s something that the co-founders have discussed in interviews, but the rest of us rarely do. Since the late 90s, how many websites have transformed into something completely different from what they originally set out to be?  Download our free collection of brilliant website design examples here. 

As it turns out, many of our most beloved destination sites — some of which we frequently write about and are essential to marketers — were borderline unrecognizable when they first launched. What were they then? And what can marketers stand to learn from it?

Spoiler alert: It’s been a long time since people recorded things in stone. It’s the internet, and it allows for progressive changes to design, product, and the way they’re marketed. But remember — be strategic. If you’re looking to make some big changes, check out our quick guide to branding.

7 Websites That Used to Be Something Completely Different

1) Amazon



Source: Newfangled

Founder Jeff Bezos is said to have chosen books from his list of 20 products he thought would sell online, because they were the lowest-cost and most universally-demanded. And sure, Amazon still sells books — and a lot more. The amount of growth it has witnessed in the two decades since its incorporation is beyond impressive.



2) Netflix



Source: Netflix

When Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph co-founded Netflix, the intention was clear — they wanted to create an easy way for people to rent and return movies, without having to drive to the now-extinct video store. Now, things look a little different.



3) Facebook



Source: Wayback Machine

There have been many pop cultural references to Facebook since its 2004 launch. But on the surface, founder Mark Zuckerberg’s intentions were fairly clear — to allow students at Harvard to connect online. Eventually, the network expanded to most U.S. colleges and universities, until it was announced in 2006 that anyone would be able to join.



4) YouTube



Source: Wayback Machine

It’s true — as we mentioned earlier, YouTube had very brief beginnings as a dating website. Its founders have spoken to the press about it on more than one occasion. CEO Chad Hurley once told Time that the intention was for YouTube to serve as “a video version of HOTorNOT.com,” a site in which users would rate the attractiveness of complete strangers on a scale of one to 10. To the delight of its many current users, that’s no longer the case.



5) Inbound.org


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Source: Wayback Machine

As the story goes, a pair of friends — Moz co-founder Rand Fishkind and HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah — started Inbound.org “for fun,” and to provide a platform for the content creators who were following the somewhat-new principles of inbound marketing. There were member-powered discussion boards, Q&As, and job listings. And while the foundation of that community is still, at its core, very much the same, the site provides even more to do and see.



  • Current model:
    • An online hub where good Marketers come to get better.
    • Members can do more than ask questions and start conversations — they can post original content on Inbound.org. That comes with the opportunity for other members to “upvote” it.
    • Offers discussion boards, original content, and ways for members to earn badges, among other marketing-related resources. As Casey Henry — who oversees growth for Inbound.org — says, it’s “a community where marketers access, share, and leverage marketing resources all in one place.”
  • Members: 204,929

6) BuzzFeed



Source: Wayback Machine

It seems like BuzzFeed has really earned a name for itself in the realm of listicles, like “6 Items That Totally Overreact To Being Microwaved,” and other light — but fun — content, like quizzes to determine how many marriages you’ll have, based on your favorite cheese. (Even we can’t make this stuff up.) But it wasn’t always like that. BuzzFeed was actually founded on the principle to detect only the most important news items that were “on the rise and worth your time.



7) Airbnb



Source: Wayback Machine

When Airbnb — first known as AirBed & Breakfast — started out, the mission was to help people make money. Much of the focus was on homeowners, and the efforts to help them earn supplemental income by renting extra space, empty apartments, and even fold-out couches to kind people. And yes, renters also benefitted by finding affordable places to stay when traveling. But since its inception, Airbnb has gotten a major makeover — one that’s safer, more expensive, and offers more than just lodging.



What’s Your Before-And-After?

Things change. Businesses, brands, entrepreneurs, and websites do, too. Maybe your original idea isn’t going in the direction you had hoped. Or maybe, you know you can make it bigger.

These examples show that it’s more than acceptable — and often beneficial — to ask questions like, “What’s next?” or, “What needs to change?” Of course, positive evolution takes time, and these brands had an average period of 12 years between their “Before” and “Today.” So be patient, but be creative. With that combination, there’s no limit to where your brand and its online presence can go.

What are your favorite before-and-after websites? Let us know in the comments.

25 website must-haves



How to Create Useful Reports Without Spending Your Entire Week in Excel [Free Guide]

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In today’s technology-driven world, executives and marketers can no longer afford to be satisfied with gut feelings and guessing. You need granular, relevant, enriching data to measure and surface the impact your programs and campaigns have on the business (and impress your boss).

At the same time, anyone who’s ever created a marketing report from scratch knows that it can be … well, tough. From starting with raw numbers to figuring out what information your boss will actually be interested in, extracting the most important insights is no easy task. In fact, you could end up spending weeks in Excel tinkering with your monthly reports and still have missing information.

That’s why the marketing and reporting experts at HubSpot and Looker have joined forces to bring you a brand new free guide, How to Create Marketing Reports Your Boss Actually Cares About. It’s got insights on:

  • What you need to measure before your report
  • The best tools to help you gather and display your report each month
  • How to find the data you need
  • Analyzing your data to establish measurable goals
  • Tips for visualizing and presenting your metrics and analysis
  • How to plan for better results next month

Click here to download How to Create Marketing Reports Your Boss Actually Cares About


46 Facts Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know [Infographic]


Popular culture makes entrepreneurship seem very appealing. Between “Shark Tank,” “Joy,” and “The Social Network,” it can be hard to deduce what the experience of founding and running your own business is truly like.

The hard truth of the startup world: 90% of all startups fail, and the most common reason for failure is a lack of market need for the product or service. Even though 68% of entrepreneurs believe that their business idea is better, a lack of market research can often prove that to be false.

If you think you want to start your own business, DealSunny.com has created this infographic to provide a thorough overview of the state of entrepreneurship around the world. One in 18 people worldwide own their own business, but they aren’t always in the countries or industries you might assume. Read the post to learn more about what makes startups successful and what entrepreneurs around the world have in common.


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The Introductory Guide to Search Engine Optimization in 2017 [Free Download]


Think about everything you’ve bought in the last six months, specifically the big purchases. When was the last time you didn’t start a shopping trip with a Google search? If your answer is anything close to “I can’t remember,” you’re in good company. Every year, over 2.8 trillion search queries are made on Google alone.

A strong SEO strategy will help your business generate more leads and get found by potential customers, but search engines are constantly switching up and tightening up their criteria for high rankings. If you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of search engines and their algorithms, how will you know what steps to take to help your business found?

OnPage.org and HubSpot have joined forces to bring you the answers you’re “searching” for with the foundational new ebook, What Is SEO? The Introductory Guide to Search Engine Optimization in 2017. It’s got data-backed, expert-recommended perspectives on:

  • How search engines work, and what it takes to rank in them
  • The keys to gaining inbound links to your site for improved off-page SEO
  • Which performance indicators to track when analyzing SEO performance
  • How to structure your web pages for maximum on-page SEO
  • How to identify the keywords your target audience is searching for
  • The keys to developing a successful SEO strategy geared toward ROI

Click here to download What Is SEO? The Introductory Guide to Search Engine Optimization in 2017.

What Is SEO

How to Have the Most Productive Q1 Ever: 11 Helpful Tips


Productivity is one of those things that’s too general to master quickly. You might be trying to get more done in a day, procrastinate less, or accomplish a lot with minimal resources. All of those goals fall under the “productivity” umbrella. So how do you prioritize them?

Depending on where you are in your career, and what your goals are for the first quarter, you might have different productivity goals. Once you know what they are, however, you can prioritize them — and determine the resources you need to knock them out of the park. Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your productivity at work.

We had a look at some of our favorite productivity posts over the past year, and chose the tips we believe will be the most applicable as we work our way through the next few months. Have a look, and see which ones will help you achieve the most this quarter.

11 Tips for the Most Productive Q1 Ever

1) Invest in personal assistant apps.

In 2016, Google Home was released in the U.S., furthering the conversations about voice-activation, AI, and the Internet of Things. But more than that, people wanted to know: Which is better, Google Home, or Alexa?

Technically speaking, not all personal assistant tools are created equal. Each has its own requirements, cost, and features. That’s why we looked at five of them, and evaluated which needs are best met by each one. Curious to know which one will fit best into your day-to-day? Check out our top picks in “5 Personal Assistant Tools That Actually Make Life Easier.”

2) Make the most of your downtime.

Between work and personal commitments, the modern lifestyle can be physically and emotionally draining. After all, that’s why we take vacations — or, at least, the 53% of us who aren’t afraid to take time off.

It’s kind of crazy that close to half of us feel ashamed to use that time, isn’t it? We shouldn’t be — it’s a great opportunity to slow down and do the things that don’t normally fit into our daily schedules. But once you do take a breather, take heed, and don’t overbook.

Instead, use that time to address some of the things that, as my colleague Sophia Bernazzani puts it, “have been collecting dust in your mental backlog.” Things like learning a new language, catching up with friends you’ve been meaning to check in with, or any number of things from her list of 20 ideas for productive things to do during your downtime.

3) Bookmark better resources.

It seems like there are just so many online resources for marketers, and especially for bloggers — just look at what a single Google search yields.

You might already have your favorites among the many options, but if not, here’s another place where you can prioritize according to your goals. Whether it’s staying organized, coming up with ideas, or promoting your posts, that’s what bookmarked sites are for — to keep all of your best, helpful resources in one place.

Not sure where to start? Check out the HubSpot blogging team’s ultimate list of websites that we think every blogger should bookmark.

4) Use browser extensions.

Browser extensions are one of those things that can be so helpful, but not enough of us take advantage of them. They can aid in everything from avoiding weak language in emails, to keeping the internet’s distractions at bay.

That’s why we’re partial to Google Chrome browser extensions, which can be highly valuable to busy marketers who want to make their time online more efficient. Check out our list of 28 of the best Chrome extensions for social media, SEO, content sourcing, blogging, and more.

5) Plan your content.

There’s a reason why 69% of marketers are using social media to build a following — it works, but only when best leveraged. A big part of that is making it manageable, and approaching its use strategically.

Sounds great in theory, but how does one go about that approach? Like many other things in life and in business, an effective social media presence requires proactive planning. After all, nobody wants to become one of those brands whose Facebook Page hasn’t been updated in months, so it’s important to plan and schedule your social media posts in advance.

When you set out to plan your content, check out these nine questions that marketers should ask themselves. They’ll help you break the process into manageable steps, with some helpful tools and resources to make it easier along the way.

6) Use your commute.

Commuting gets such a bad rap when in actuality, every minute spent standing on the train platform or waiting at a traffic light is time that could be spent getting something done. 

Check out our roundup of 15 easy ways to make your commute more productive, and you might even start looking forward to that part of your day. (A friendly note to drivers: We don’t advocate the use of any of the apps on that list that involve reading or typing.)

7) Try a new approach to project management.

Are you a member of the Multiple Productivity Tools Club? If so, you’ve likely spent more time than you’d like on such tasks as searching for an email, assignment card, or document — because you have so many tools and systems. Maybe that’s why over half of us are excited by the prospect of automation replacing tedious workflow tasks.

But in addition to right kind of technology, these tasks can be made more efficient with the right approach to team collaboration. That starts with strong communication among everyone working on the project, as well as the right kinds of tools — in moderation — that make the many pieces of project management more cohesive.

To help you get started, we put together some tips on optimal collaboration, to help marketers approach projects as productively as possible.

8) Experiment with to-do list styles.

Did you know that to-do lists date back to the 1700s? Since then, they’ve taken on many formats but still serve the purpose: to plan what we need to do.

Still, to-do lists are hardly one-size-fits all, and what works best for me, for example, might not be the best style for you. That’s why we compiled seven different to-do list styles to help you make the most of your daily responsibilities.

Plus, if you’re into history, there are some fun facts in there — as it turns out, your to-do list might not look so different from Benjamin Franklin’s.

9) Avoid guilt.

Simply put: Feeling bad about being unproductive will only make you less productive. And yet, we’re living among a guilt epidemic — in fact, one in five people cite it as the reason why they don’t take breaks.

But not taking breaks — and feeling bad about it, to boot — really sabotages the quality of our work. Want to figure out why we keep doing it, and how to stop it? Learn about seven ways we let guilt overtake our productivity, and some best practices for kicking those bad habits.

10) Manage long-term deadlines.

So, we’ve covered the fun facts about to-do lists. But while those can be great for day-to-day tasks, where do long-term deadlines and goals fit in?

As immediate responsibilities arise, it’s easy to lose focus on things like monthly or quarterly deadlines. It’s what Bernazzani alluded to as the “’doom loop‘ — a cycle of putting off tasks, feeling anxiety and guilt, and consequently working with lower productivity and efficiency due to these negative feelings.”

But that’s why she put together a list of tools that’ll help you complete long-term projects on time — without losing motivation. These resources can aid in the consistent progress towards your goals, and prevent you from letting that 90-days-from-now deadline fall by the wayside.

11) Learn more — faster.

Last year, my colleague, Lindsay Kolowich, posed an interesting question: “How long does it take to acquire a new skill?”

As it turns out, there’s quite a bit of misunderstood information out there in response to that question. One 1993 study published by the American Psychological Association, for example, claims that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert.

Look again: That’s to become an expert. Not to learn. To learn, Kolowich writes, “is to take a deliberate, intelligent approach to your learning,” especially when you want to do it quickly. And to help you do just that, she outlines 10 steps to help you make learning a lifelong — and enjoyable — journey.

How Are Those Goals Looking?

Do they seem as insurmountable as they might have when you first returned from the holidays? With these tips, they shouldn’t.

The key is to remember that we’re not superhuman — hence that whole idea behind avoiding guilt — and even the best laid plans often go awry. But no one can expect anything more than your best. And with these resources, your best can be even better.

How are you making Q1 your most productive yet? Let us know in the comments.

Productivity Guide

The 10 Most Watched YouTube Ads of 2016 (And the Agencies Behind Them)

Most ads on YouTube are something to be endured, muted, and skipped immediately after the mandatory five seconds has passed. It’s nothing personal — people just want to get to the good stuff. 

So how can advertisers create branded videos that users actually want to watch?

For an ad to be sought out and consumed willingly on YouTube, it needs to stand out as an enjoyable, compulsively shareable piece of content. It can’t just be a typical advertisement — it needs to compete for attention with viral, non-branded content.

To better understand what YouTube users want in a watchable online ad, let’s take a look back at what worked in 2016.  

Google released a list of the top 10 most watched ads on YouTube from 2016, and we’ve compiled them here to inspire your next digital ad campaign. All advertisers and marketers should be taking notes: These are the online ads people actually wanted to watch in 2016.

The 10 Most Watched YouTube Ads of 2016

1) Mobile Strike

Things escalate quickly in this extended Super Bowl spot for Mobile Strike, an online multiplayer game. Starring former California governor and beloved action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, the plot follows Schwarzenegger as he’s attacked by a slew of characters after opening up the Mobile Strike app on his phone.

A deadly fight for the phone ensues, and pretty soon there’s a military tank crashing through the walls and marines rappelling from the ceilings.

Created by San Francisco-based 215mccann, the one-minute spot was the number one watched spot on YouTube in 2016, amassing over 102 million views since its release in February.

2) Knorr

MullenLowe created this clever digital campaign for global food and beverage brand Knorr. In the three-minute ad, a group of singles are paired off based on their favorite flavor profiles (e.g., spicy, hearty, salty etc.) and then asked to feed each other a meal matching the flavor preferences they share. The results are delightfully awkward. 

It’s a weird but undeniably touching social experiment, and Ukonwa Ojo, senior global director at Knorr, insists the emotions they captured on film were completely candid. “It’s as real as I can humanly make it with cameras and equipment and people standing around,” Ojo said to Adweek.

The ad has been watched over 60 million times on YouTube since its release in April.

3) Nike Football

Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo experiences a Freaky Friday moment with a young fan in this short film from Nike and Wieden + Kennedy. After taking a tumble into the crowd during a match, Ronaldo and a young British soccer fan switch bodies

Naturally, the kid is in awe to find himself inhabiting the body of the famous footballer, but he quickly learns he’ll have to improve his soccer skills if he’s going to pass as Ronaldo. Meanwhile, the real Ronaldo — trapped in the body of a teenager — steadily rises through the ranks of youth football. Over the course of a year or so, he’s made it to the pros.

Clocking in at nearly six minutes, it’s Nike’s longest brand film ever — but it’s definitely worth sticking around for the climactic ending. It’s no surprise that it’s picked up over 58 million views on YouTube. 

4) Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

Developed in-house at Samsung, this extended ad introduced consumers to the much-anticipated Galaxy S7 and S7 edge back in February.

The introduction video excels at condensing a lot of information into an easily digestible format, with sleek graphics and a dramatic soundtrack.  The video was watched over 46 million times.

5) Clash Royale

Leave it to creative agency Barton F. Graf to produce something zany, offbeat, and yet somehow still universally appealing enough to get almost 38 million views on YouTube.

This ad for Clash Royale, a multiplayer mobile game, stars an turtleneck-clad keyboard player exuberantly explaining “the rules of the duel” — in song, naturally. And not just any song. The whole ad is set to an altered version of “Flash” by Queen.

6) Mtn Dew Kickstart

This ad raises more questions than it answers. What the heck is that thing? How did it get into that apartment? What made those guys think following it outside would be a good idea?

The Superbowl ad for Mtn Dew’s energy beverage, produced by BBDO, rapidly gained viral attention for it’s visually unsettling main character: a Frankenstein creation with the head of an adorable pug, the torso of a monkey, and the legs of a human baby. It’s not pretty to look at, but no one can deny that puppymonkeybaby accomplished what it set out to do: Get people talking. The ad received 27 million hits on YouTube.

7) Always

Always worked with agency Leo Burnett to produce this ad focusing on female empowerment through sports. The ad, which ran during the summer Olympics, features a group of young women and girls explaining discouraging comments they’ve received about their athleticism, and encouraging all young girls to stick with sports no matter what.

The positive message propelled the ad to 27 million views

8) Hyundai

Hyundai’s Superbowl ad from agency INNOCEAN USA opens on a couple racing through the woods — with two vicious grizzly bears in close pursuit. Thanks to the voice activated technology on their Hyundai, they’re able to make a speedy getaway.

The grizzly bears, discouraged by their prey’s escape, plop down for an unexpectedly cartoonish conversation. “I was just gonna hug him!” one of them says. It’s an amusing example of thwarted expectations that drew in 26 million YouTube viewers.

9) Pokémon

This Superbowl ad from Los Angeles-based agency Omelet celebrates 20 years of Pokémon with cinematic flair.

Taking cues from sports advertising, the commercial follows a series of kids and young adults as they train in their respective fields, drawing inspiration from each others’ successes. In the final scene, a young boy witnesses an epic Pokémon battle on TV, and his dad declares, “You could do that.” The ad received 25 million views on YouTube.

10) Skittles

Skittles is no stranger to delightfully weird advertising, and their Superbowl commercial this year was no exception. In the DDB Chicago-produced spot, Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler is presented with a portrait of his likeness made entirely from Skittles. And it sings, of course.

24 million people tuned in to see the ad.

What ads did you watch on YouTube in 2016? Let us know in the comments.