What it takes to be #1

Do you have what it takes to be #1?  Do you watch others around you succeeding in driving results amidst the retail challenges and wonder why not you?  I believe that you can be #1, if you want it bad enough.  Maybe for you, it’s not about being #1.  Maybe it is about striving for excellence.  Or about finding Work-Life balance.  Those are good things too.  Maybe in this world of COVID-19, being #1 is the last thing you are concerned about.  The question is…do we have the luxury of settling for less than #1 and still be able to achieve our goals and standout in this competitive and saturated retail market?  

I am going to be honest, I feel like COVID-19 has made many throw their arms up in the air and give up.  It sure would be easy to give up but I wrote this post to help us all remember that we choose whether we win or lose.  I want you to feel encouraged and empowered to fight back and choose to win regardless of the difficult circumstances that have surrounded all of us this year.  

Intensity is Good

Maybe this belief is what has made me a driven individual my entire life.  Maybe its why people call me “intense” at times.  I was recently coaching a client and when asked what the experience was like working with me, they responded “It was great, maybe a little intense, but great.”  For this particular client, we had one chance to get it right. You bet I was intense.  We were in it to win it.  And you just don’t win it being happy with second place.  He quickly realized that my intensity translated into his increased intensity which translated into the win he wanted.  

Your Win is the Team’s Win

When I worked at BBW, there were 1600 stores. A lot of Districts and a lot of competition. So much talent.  The idea of being #1 seemed like a stretch. My focus was on hiring the best talent, developing them and learning all I could from peers and leaders around me.  What happened? I was honored with the title of #1 DSL and won $10,000. How did it happen?  My focus was on 7 competencies (shared below) that would help me differentiate how I led my team.  I give my team the credit for the #1 slot that I graciously carried for 12 months. My win was their win.  The truth is, you cannot win without a team behind you who are focused on winning.  

Vince Lombardi Inspiration

Early in my career, I came across a great little book called “What it takes to be Number One“. It was a book based on the famous speech delivered by Coach Vince Lombardi. The first time I read this, I was a young manager and was so inspired by it and honestly, has helped form who I am today. So that you don’t have to google it, I am going to share an excerpt of the speech here.

What it Takes to be #1…

“Winning is not a sometimes thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game and that is first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay and I don’t ever want to finish second again…It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win and to win. Some guys play with their heads. You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with ever fiber of your body. If you are lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he is never going to come off the field second. Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization. The principles are the same. The object is to win…fairly, squarely, by the rules, but to win. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline…I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour – his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear – is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” Vince Lombardi 

Wow, I still get chills when I read this speech.

Not Just for Football

While I am not a football coach, each of us who lead retail teams are coaches. Our ability to learn from the best coaches out there will help us lead our  teams.


What are the competencies that we need to live out?  We could probably come up with an enormous list of competencies that will get you to the top of the heap.  I am going to share 7 that Vince’s book highlighted as they are qualities that I have been focused on for my entire career.  

Commitment to be #1

The first one is Commitment.  It means giving 100% effort 100% of the time. Whether it is your work or your personal life, commitment means you are in it to win it day in and day out.  There is an internal drive that pushes you. 

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence.” VL

Discipline to be #1

The second on is Discipline.  This is not punishment, it means hard work and sacrifice. This is doing what you know needs done whether you feel like it or not.

Want an example of discipline?  The OSU Buckeye Football coaching staff lives at the university right now.  They cannot afford to go home and potentially get exposed to COVID.  So they have sacrificed being with their family to make the season count.  That is discipline. It may not be a decision we all would make or even agree with.  Just a really good example of discipline. 

“Winning is not everything, but making the effort to win is.” VL

Excellence to be #1

The third one is Excellence.  As a manager, you are a coach and a teacher to your team.  Everything you do must reflect excellence. It isn’t what you say that they will follow, its what they see you doing.  Good behavior is caught, not necessarily taught.  Tell your team the why’s.  The extra time and effort is always worth it. 

“You don’t just tell them, you show them.” VL

Mental Toughness to be #1

The fourth one is Mental Toughness.  You have to stay the course, even when things go wrong. Look at 2020.  Everything that could go wrong, has.  No one knows that better than retailers!  But we cannot let circumstances deter us from being our best at all times!  Especially when we don’t want to. 

“Leaders are made, not born.  They are made by hard effort which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” VL


Photo Credit to Drew Beamer 


The fifth one is having good Habits.  When I think about habits, I think about good ones and bad ones.  Do you have good habits?  Things you do without thinking about it?  Has your team caught those habits?  Habits are your routine.   

Good habits:

  • Do I recognize the team for a job well done, every time?  
  • Do I dedicate time to networking, even when I don’t have any openings?  
  • Do I invest time to get to know my team, really know them –  what motivates them, their job satisfaction and what their goals are? 

Bad Habits:

  • Being in such a hurry, I forget to thank them and tell myself, “I always thank them, they know how I feel about them.”
  • Losing control of my calendar and finding no time to network and recruit. This equates to desperate hiring which is usually bad hiring decisions.
  • Time spent with Direct Reports only and not with their team to get to know the talent that the leader is bringing onboard. 

Take a moment and think about your habits – good and bad.  Then decide what you will do differently to impact your success. 

 “Confidence is contagious and so is lack of confidence, and a customer with recognize both.” VL


The sixth one is Passion.  When people say I am intense, what they are feeling is the passion I have for what I do. 

Think about something you are really passionate about. What drives that passion?  Do you feel passion for your team?  For your customers?  Or for your career?  Is passion driving you to deliver results even when times are tough?

If you don’t feel passion, is it possible you are in the wrong profession?  

“There is only one way to succeed in anything and that is to give it everything!” VL


Are you a results oriented leader?  Have you ever worked for anyone who has achieved results but left a wake of bodies behind?  Those are not the results I am talking about.  I am talking about driving results and achieving them the right way…through your team, with your team.  

“Some of us will do our jobs well and some of us will not, but we will all be judged on one thing, the result.” VL

Not everyone wants to be a Lombardi-type leader. Perhaps his style is too intense for you. It’s ok, be the leader you are designed to be. The principles however hold true regardless how you communicate/execute them.

It’s Your Turn

What actions will you take based on what you read today? Are you “in it to win it”?

Do you have the patience and the grit to hang in there and keep pushing even when you aren’t getting immediate results?  

We live in an age where we don’t want to wait 16 seconds for a web page to load. 25 seconds for a traffic light to change. Or 20 seconds for the ink on a card to dry so we can place it in the envelope. We want immediate results…it doesn’t always work that way. It requires us to be purposeful in what we do each day.  Are you purposefully preparing to be #1?

If you are struggling with what it takes to be #1, let’s talk about it.  Contact me at Rachel@runninggreatstores.com.

Always in your Corner,

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