The will to win and the will to excel

The will to win and the will to excel

You may be wondering what kind of advice can a football coach give to a carwash owner? We revisit a Vince Lombardi interview to find out.

If Vince Lombardi was still around, I’d like to sit down with him and ask him some questions.

Some of you may not know who Vince Lombardi is. That’s too bad. For those who remember, a smile may have just passed your lips as you recall Lombardi as the head coach of a bunch of madmen in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that put in the work to become a team of NFL Champions. 

When Lombardi arrived in Green Bay in 1959, the Packers were coming off their worst season ever and hadn’t had a winning record in 11 years. In his first year at Green Bay, the Packers finished 7-5. In 1961 and 1962, Green Bay became NFL Champions. In 1965, 1966, 1967, the team again became NFL/Super Bowl Champions. (Keep in mind, 1966 and 1967 were Super Bowl I and II.)

What could a football coach from the 60’s have to say that is relevant to running a carwash business in 2022? Well, let’s have a listen to my interview with him. (Questions are my own and quotes are courtesy of vincelombardi.com.)

Me: Thanks for spending some time with us today Coach Lombardi.

Coach: You’re welcome. Now hurry up and ask your questions, we have a game on Sunday.

Me: You often compare coaching a successful football team to running a successful business and life in general. What are some of the most similar traits?

Coach: Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile. The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual. People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the problems of modern society. Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

Me: So, for our readers who are trying to get their employees to buy into what they’re trying to do, what advice would you give them?

Coach: In order to succeed, this group will need a singleness of purpose, they will need dedication, and they will have to convince all of their prospects of the willingness to sacrifice.

Me: Our industry is becoming increasingly more competitive. Do you have anything to say to those who run the day-to-day carwash operations?

Coach: Yes, I’d tell them that winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while … you do them right all the time. Unless a man believes in himself and makes a total commitment to his career and puts everything, he has into it — his mind, his body, his heart — what’s life worth to him? A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.

Me: What about discipline?

Coach: There is only one kind of discipline, and that is the perfect discipline. As a leader, you must enforce and maintain that discipline; otherwise, you will fail at your job. Also, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline.

Me: Last question, any advice to young managers who are maybe just getting started in the business?

Coach: Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile. Leadership is not just one quality, but rather a blend of many qualities; and while no one individual possesses all of the needed talents that go into leadership, each man can develop a combination to make him a leader. No leader, however great, can long continue unless he wins battles. The battle decides all.

Me:  Ok so, winning is important?

Coach: The objective is to win: fairly, squarely, decently, win by the rules, but still win. Second place is meaningless. You can’t always be first, but you have to believe that you should have been.

Me: I hate to lose.

Coach: Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.

Me: Well stated.

While Coach Lombardi is no longer with us, his philosophies are as relevant today as they were 60 years ago. It’s funny, hard work, discipline and dedication never seem to go out of style.

All the best!


Bob Fox is the SVP of Sonny’s CarWash College and Technical Support and has 37 years of industry experience. Bob can be reached at [email protected]

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