There’s an adage about the difference between little league soccer and FIFA. It’s not about a certain level of talent, training, experience or endurance – it’s about a mentality of teamwork that embraces the critical nature of unique roles.
Often when you watch young kids on the soccer field, it’s as if 22 pint-size jerseys are clustered around the ball, jostling and ineffectively moving it nowhere. At first, they only seem to comprehend a flawed perspective of the game: the location of the ball and their efforts to be close to it. Contrast that with a professional’s deeper understanding that playing roles dispersed across the field will give a greater chance to put their team in scoring position.
At times, we all lose our perspective on our relationship to the “ball” in our work – whatever that sphere may represent. It seems to be in our nature to gravitate toward where the action is, even if it’s to the detriment of the role we need to play for our team to be successful. The team at the high-quality footwear brand Peter Nappi understands this principle well. Here’s what they told us:
Phillip Nappi, Co-founder and Creative Director
“I learn something new from the team every day. I think above all I’ve learned in the creative space we live in, a team effort always trumps an individual’s: designs evolve more deeply, the message becomes clearer, the story is better articulated. Our business isn’t as easy as right and wrong answers. It’s more than balance sheets and sales forecasts. We have to continue to evolve with fresh ideas, yet still relate on a personal level to our audience.
“Respect, dedication and patience are the ingredients for a successful team; probably in that order. Respect – for each other personally and for each other’s work professionally – is paramount for any team to function effectively. There can be no question of dedication in a small business. We each are called on to serve several roles – sometimes roles outside of our comfort zones – but to move forward we need to know each role will be filled and each need meet. And we need patience to realize all of our hard work is part of a journey, not a race. There will be changes and challenges along the way, but if we continue to head in the right direction together, working as a team, we’ll end up on top in the end.
“To keep a lean, efficient team, define the role and the requirements before you talk to anyone. You need a clear picture of what the ideal candidate would be prior to interviewing. When it comes to fit, experience is just as important as personality. When you have a small team, every addition has a great impact on the group.”
Dana Nappi, Co-founder, VP Branding & Communications
“It’s important to recognize strengths and weaknesses. Everyone enjoys being good at something – and we have some people here who are dynamite at what they do. But everyone, especially me, struggles with weaknesses. A successful organization either provides support in those areas or reallocates tasks to alleviate the unnecessary burden. You simply can’t expect someone to preform well when he or she is not properly equipped for the role.
“The more talented people we have on board to help execute today’s needs, the more I am able to plan for the future. A solid plan enables to you move from being reactive to being proactive. Working proactively means a less stressful and more efficient environment.”
Heidi Ross, Senior Art Director
“Over my career, I’ve learned the difference between cohesion and giving in, and between healthy friction and combativeness. Healthy friction is essential – being able to express different points of view without fear leads to better ideas and products. And cohesion makes going to work something I really look forward to, not just something I have to do.
“Collaborating with creative people whose strong views are integrity-driven rather than ego-driven always makes me better at what I do. I work closely with Savannah Yarborough, our product designer, and she definitely fits the bill. And because I can recognize and appreciate the quality of the work she does, I never feel like my photography or branding has to “make up for” something that’s missing in the product design.
“There’s no denying the importance of compatibility, but beyond that, to me the most successful teams are the ones who respect and support each other’s processes for getting great results, and who strive to show that those results are appreciated.”
Savannah Yarborough, Senior Designer
“I love a challenge and always work with the team to hear their thoughts and reactions to a product I am designing. It always helps to make things better when people challenge you and, in turn, it makes the product better.
“Heidi has made me better because she expands on what I do, and gets my point of view all the way down to the consumers, which is the part I can’t do. It’s amazing how rewarding it is to see your ideas photographed so beautifully and described in ways you could not come up with.”
Ryan Parker, Studio Director
“There is a lot to be said about the phrase ‘it takes fire to make steel.’ The only way I know how to successfully come out of the fire, so to speak, is to have a leader who has defined clear objectives for the team and team members with the skill set to execute their roles effectively, trusting each other to make the decisions needed to keep things moving forward. We have a very talented team at Peter Nappi from top to bottom. It’s exciting to see what has been accomplished in such a short time.
“Being able to spend time with Savannah in the design studio has definitely made me better at what I do. Seeing the design and production process up close, and at times being able to weigh in on colors, has really opened my eyes to an entirely different part of the business. I’ve always been the one in front of the customers selling the products that arrived at the store. At times it was difficult to connect to the product. Now, seeing the designs go from an idea to a finished product, creates more of a sense of ownership in what I’m communicating to the customer.”