I know. It’s terrible.
The season has shut down. Sales have dwindled to near zero or below zero. Sports property staffs are starting to see layoffs.
I know it’s terrible because I face the same challenge with my team, the Macon Bacon. I also have talked to dozens of team execs in the last two weeks.
One thing I tell all of them - There is one huge positive that can come from this unprecedented sports shutdown.
It gives you time. Specifically, it gives you time to build your business plan. A business plan that answers the question:
“What’s it gonna take?”
Here’s the deal though. You have to finish the second half of the question. “What’s gonna take to do xxx?”. You know what ‘X’ is. I don’t.
‘X’ could be:
- How do we return from this shutdown with a dynamically better sales staff?
- How do we go up 15% in group ticket revenue next year?
- How do we increase season ticket sales to the business community by 200 seats, 300 seats, 500 seats?
HOW TO GET APPROVALS
Before we dive in to how, I’m going to make two big assumptions.
The first big assumption: You asked yourself the question, “What’s it gonna take to (fill in the blank here)?”
The second big assumption: You need to get approval from at least your boss, or your owner. Here is a two-step process that will get you an easy approval:
Outrageous Preparation. Very few bosses, including me, respond well when an employee comes up and wants to send up a trial balloon on a new idea. It usually goes something like this.
Employee: “Hey, I’ve got a new idea. What do you think about this?” (Insert here a very sketchy description of any new idea that you may have heard lately.)
Boss: (Because the idea is sketchy and not fully fleshed out, the boss will automatically and instinctively see the problems with the new idea.) “Have you thought of this?” (Insert any objection to the idea that the employee floated in front of the boss.)
Employee: “Well, yes, ah... ah... you see... that could be worked out...I think...”
Boss: “See yah.”
Sure, I might have over-simplified this little discourse. Maybe. I could have put stronger words in the bosses mouth like, “That’s a stupid idea,” or “That won’t work,” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.” Any of these phrases would, of course, scuttle the idea. Repeat this a few times, and the employee will finally get the message. If the employee stays with the company, that employee will be covered with scar tissue that will always be there to remind them of the personal risk of proposing new ideas.
Preparing Like You’re Going in Front of the Supreme Court
There is an antidote to that. Preparation. Real preparation. Written preparation. People might have a different interpretation of what real preparation is. Let me put it this way:
Imagine you’re defending yourself in front of the Supreme Court, where if you win, you walk away scot-free and if you lose, you go to prison for life. How much would you prepare? Would you prepare just enough to wing it? I don’t think so. I think you would prepare more seriously than you have ever prepared for anything before in your life. I suspect you’d prepare with maniacal fervor.
Well, that’s the type of preparation I’m talking about here.
The Supreme Court, in your case, is anybody you need to say ‘yes’ to what you’re recommending.
This preparation isn’t a trial balloon. You’re preparing to get the idea accepted.
This preparation isn’t a trial balloon. You’re preparing to get the idea accepted.
The written part of the preparation shouldn’t be in volumes; think in terms of a written Executive Summary that will be six or seven pages.
The written preparation (or ‘Executive Summary’) should consist of the following:
- Foreword: What are the present conditions of your team in areas that would be affected by the initiation of the new idea? This could be a summary and graph of how your team is trending in group ticket sales for the past three years. This has to be an unemotional and accurate picture of the situation. If it is not accurate, or if it is skewed by emotion, then your opening premise could be seriously challenged. If the opening premise is wrong, then the solution will be considered wrong. This foreword is a vital point in establishing your case. The length could vary from one to two pages.
- Concept: This is a concise written statement of what the idea is. This could be the concept of increasing group sales by 50% over three years and what it would take to achieve that.
This Concept section should be one to two pages.
- Rationale: Why the team should initiate the idea? What’s in it fr the team? This may seem obvious, but when there are more sellouts, concession sales go up, sponsorships become more valuable, it’s easier to raise ticket prices the next season, etc. What does that new ticket revenue mean to the team? This is a good place to insert budget analysis. How much is the new revenue; how much is it going to cost? How long will it take to get the idea working and the revenue rolling in? Do a simple cash flow. This could take about two pages.
- Problems: These really are the objections you would expect to encounter in trying to sell the idea. Trust me, there’s no way you would skate through the oral presentation without facing some serious objections. After all, your bosses are experts when it comes to objections. The strategy here is to think of the precise problems and precise objections before the boss does. By thinking of objections before the boss does, you’re preparing how to overcome those objections. You’re preparing yourself to win. How you handle these objections in front of your Supreme Court is the determining factor whether you win or lose. Take several pages in this area if need be.
- Summary: This is a Call for Approval and a timetable. One or two paragraphs.
One word of warning about this written document.
Watch the hype! You shouldn’t use exclamation points!!!! Go through the document and look at every adjective, adverb, and wildly assertive sentence. Eliminate those that you find. A proposal that is hyped too strongly will lose its credibility.
You can use hype, but not in this document. It’s easier to use hype and emotion during the oral presentation without losing credibility. In the oral presentation, you are talking, it’s not being recorded, it won’t be examined and re-examined like a written document.
Presenting in front of your Supreme Court.
You’re now prepared to meet the devil face to-face. This is your chance to be F. Lee Bailey or Johnny Cochran.
First and foremost, never, ever, ever, ever go in front of your Supreme Court to present a big idea without practicing. You’d never go make a big sponsorship or ticket sales pitch without practicing, would you? No way you step in front of your bosses, your owner or anyone else on your Supreme Court without extensive practice. I would even go practice it in front of an audience of your fellow staff members.
Now you’re ready. At the beginning of your oral presentation, tell your Supreme Court that you have all of what you’re going to talk about in writing. Show them the spiral bound booklet that you’ve prepared. That’s show, not give. If you give your Supreme Court the booklet, your oral presentation is over because your Supreme Court will jump ahead, page by page, leaving you mumbling to yourself.
By just showing the booklet, you are underscoring the fact that the meeting isn’t just a trial balloon of what do you think? It shows that you are serious. This will set a very good stage for you.
Once you’ve shown your booklet, you start innocently enough by just re-stating your foreword. This isn’t a reading. This is more conversational, setting up the idea. If you’re accurate in relating the present situation, you’ll be able to smoothly go to Point B, your concept.
If you’re not accurate in reading the present situation, or you tried to skew the situation to fit your concept, be prepared to fight and lose a battle here. By losing here, you lose it all.
Your oral presentation should flow in the same order as your written Executive Summary except that you’re talking it.
While explaining Point B, your Concept, you may encounter objections. Try to delay defense of your Concept at this stage by saying something like, “I think we have the answer for that, but first let me finish describing this concept.”
When you start talking numbers, you should have them on a separate piece of paper. Hand the piece of paper to the Supreme Court like you’re presenting evidence. If the numbers are reasonable and not pie-in-the-sky, this should be a smooth part of the presentation.
Your finishing statement is simple. You summarize, you present the booklet to each member of your Supreme Court and you give the timetable for when you would like to start.
The Supreme Court (or maybe just the Supreme Justice) may look through your ‘Executive Summary’ or they may put the booklet down and just start spouting objections. Here is where you can really impress.
The Supreme Court will ask a question or state an objection, and because you have prepared for it, you can answer something like this, “Yes, we have considered that problem and we feel the solution is blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and the answer is on page 6.” That type of response often stuns your Supreme Court, although they’ll make their best effort to hide it.
(If you’ve recruited some soul mates to help in the presentation, make sure each person has a carefully rehearsed role. There should be only one captain or “play-by-play person.” The others on the team should remain silent except when it is appropriate for them to contribute as a “color commentator.” You don’t leave these roles up to chance; you’ve practiced them.)
FACING THE NAYSAYER
I’ve gone eyeball-to-eyeball against some of the best naysayers in the world. These people have made a career of saying no. And yet, when I’ve used the steps described in this chapter, my batting average is about .900. That’s nine hits out of 10! I attribute that high batting average to preparation.
There are some things in this world that aren’t fair, and after preparing for my Supreme Court, sometimes the oral presentation was too easy. It wasn’t even a contest!
It wasn’t easy preparing the written document. But, once that was done, it was easy in getting the approval.
These victories are based on human nature. You see, the Supreme Court is ready and prepared and poised to say no. The Supreme Court can easily reach back and pull out a few objections. But, the Supreme Court is not ready and prepared and poised to meet an executive that is so well prepared. When the Supreme Court throws out an obvious objection, the executive has a decisive and well thought out response. C’mon, that’s not fair to the naysayer!
THIS SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF WORK
You’re right. To get a big idea and a big boost to your business plan is a lot of work to get approved. But, you have time right now, for the next 20-30 days, to put this written plan together and get it approved.
If you want help with your big idea, give me a call or send me an email. I’d be delighted to be your ‘naysayer’ to help you test out your theories and ideas. You can reach me at 702-493-2661 or email@example.com.