Nick Saban to Business Leaders: It’s About the Process For You, Too


Nick Saban sitting at his desk attending a webinar
A screenshot from Wednesday’s webinar featuring Coach Nick Saban.

Running a successful business can be a lot like coaching a successful football team, and that begins with the process.

That’s one of the main messages University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, known for talking about “the process” as it relates to his team, imparted during a webinar presented today by the Birmingham Business Alliance.

“Process is very simply the things that you have to do to get the outcome that you want,” Saban said. “Whether you set a goal, or you have a vision for what you want your business to be, now you have to sit down and define this is what we have to do to do it. … To me, that’s the process. That’s really what you want people to be focused on. Do all these little things that are going to lead to the outcome.”

Saban’s remarks came during a pre-taped webinar with author Jon Gordon. BBA is among those airing the series, 21st Century Business Forum.

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Saban, who has led teams to seven national championships (including six at Alabama, where he has been since 2007), spoke to the webinar audience about leadership techniques that could apply to sports and business.

“What it takes to be successful in business or in football or in any sport is probably very similar,” he says.

Saban covered an array of topics during the 35-minute interview:

  • On being a leader: “The first thing about leadership to me is that you really have to be somebody that somebody wants to emulate,” Saban said. “You have to set an example. You have to do things the right way yourself.”
  • On outcomes vs. process: “People want to focus on outcomes, and I think outcomes are a bit of a distraction,” he said. “I think if you can focus on the process – what do I have to do to get the outcome – I think we’re all a lot better off. … Around here, we don’t have any signs up in the building that say, ‘Win the national championship’; we don’t have any signs up that say, ‘Win the Sec.’ We do have a sign up that says, ‘Be a champion.’”
  • On learning from failure: “You never want to waste a failing,” Saban said. “When you fail at something, that’s a great time to self-assess or evaluate the situation that created the dysfunction or whatever it is. Learn from it, grow from it, research it, find out a better way.”
  • On shutting out external distractions: “If you know what you need to do in your business to make your business work, and you look at it in a very process-oriented way and not be influenced by external factors, then you’re going to have a better chance probably to function the best possible way you can function based on the circumstance and the hand that you’re dealt,” he said.

The key, Saban said, is to evaluate what you have and make the most of it.

“You don’t always get good cards, but good card players always can play the hands that they’re dealt,” he said.

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