Play By the Rules But Be Ferocious

“Play by the rules but be ferocious” is the advice given by Phil Knight, co-founder and past chairman of Nike. I believe that all of us need to take this to heart and make some adjustments in how we lead and run our businesses!

There is no need to be ruthless, dishonest, nefarious, or unscrupulous in any way. However, if we want to grow our businesses we need a “fire in our belly” . . . we need to be ferocious!

Can you imagine if your favorite professional sports team was not driven to succeed? I know we always complain about the overall performance of our teams (like the Calgary Flames!) but when you watch them play, they do play the game ferociously. Anything less would be pathetic!

What if this season they decide they are going to play a non-contact style of hockey? Or what if their leadership fails to create and communicate a strategic plan for the season? What if they fail to assign team members to positions or to clearly define the roles each team member is to play? What if they don’t build a sales and marketing plan and fail to reach the sales targets they need to remain viable?

Would this be acceptable? I don’t think so!

So, why is it acceptable for so many businesses today? Why are we not playing ferociously?

How to be Ferocious and Play by the Rules

As mentioned above, being ferocious in business does not mean:

  • Breaking the law
  • Being dishonest
  • Acting ruthlessly
  • Breaking trust and relationships
  • Being nefarious or unethical in any way

“Play by the rules but be ferocious” encompasses many aspects of a business but as a minimum it means:

  • Defining and communicating a clear and powerful vision for your business
  • Building a clear strategic plan for your business
  • Communicating this strategic plan, complete with SMART goals, to the organization
  • Building and communicating the rules for every area of the organization
  • Ensuring that all your staff understand the vision, strategy, and goals and how they each contribute to the overall success
  • Making sure that all your staff know their role in the business and what personal success looks like for them
  • Rejecting the status quo and innovating relentlessly
  • Coaching and empathetically supporting the staff in all areas as they strive to achieve the goals and strategy
  • Regularly celebrating successes, small and large
  • Accepting nothing but the best performance out of each and every employee

Take Action

Take some time this week and review your business. Identify all the areas where you are not playing by the rules and fix these areas immediately! Identify areas where there are no rules and get some rules in place as soon as possible.

Then, identify all the areas where you need to kick things up a few notches. Attack these deficiencies ferociously and set the tone for your whole organization that success is important and anything but ferociousness is not acceptable!

Finally, review these posts for more ideas:


Play by the rules but be ferocious.” Phil Knight


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2 thoughts on “Play By the Rules But Be Ferocious

  1. Fantastic post to motivate people to take action more and enjoy the little successes for your business. Working towards a specific goal can be stressful for the entire team and when that goal is achieved, show your appreciation to the whole company and set a new goal. Innovating and adapting to new trends and ideas is also key to the success of any business. Never give in to fear of the unknown and continue moving forward. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us!