Vail Daily column: Is your business like the NFL? |

Vail Daily column: Is your business like the NFL?

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

With all due respect to Major League Baseball, the National Football League has grown into America’s Pastime. League revenues are upwards of $9.5 billion, greater than any other sport. NFL teams capture the headlines on local news stations and newspaper coverage during their offseason, even over baseball teams in the heart of their seasons. The NFL draft has turned into a prime time spectacle that earns higher ratings than NBA playoff games — even when you combine the playoff ratings of two games.

Bloomberg Business recently looked in depth at the NFL and compared the league to the 14 Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index 500 companies with the most comparable revenue numbers (from $9 billion to $10 billion), and found that the NFL has, by far, a higher market cap ($46 billion) than any of them.

Clearly, the NFL is a successful business enterprise (technically they are a nonprofit as they funnel revenues back to the individual teams) with strong annual revenue growth, loyal and passionate customers, and positive momentum moving forward.

Change for the Sake of Change?

This model — annual growth, loyal customers, positive momentum, year-round viewers and market dominance — is one that businesses and organizations across industry sectors would seemingly want to emulate. So, why change for the sake of change? Business owners and nonprofit executives would do well to emulate many things about the NFL, but not making changes to a successful model without regard to the user (customer) experience.

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NFL owners voted last week to change the league’s extra-point rules to make the almost-automatic scoring attempts after touchdowns a bit more challenging. NFL kickers make 99.5 percent of extra point attempts (taken from the two yard line); the league apparently sees this as a negative as they voted to move the kick to the 15-yard-line and allow defenses to score should they block the attempted kick.

Broncos kicker Connor Barth was quoted in the Denver Post saying “I still think we’ll be in the high-90-percent range on extra points, even from the 15. We’re too good not to make those for the most part. I think they’re just trying to find something to change, and I feel like they should keep the game as it is.”

I’m with Barth on this one and find many parallels to business, including lessons to learn, from the NFL rule changes. Why mess with success? What’s the pressing reason for changing what you’re doing? Is it change for the sake of change or is there a compelling business case to be made for the revisions?

Businesses, such as sports leagues, need to make constant and continuous improvements to remain relevant and to meet the needs of their customers. For the NFL, this might include player safety issues, specifically rule changes to prevent leading with the head, or enhancements to the stadium experience to better meet the demands of customer access to real-time fantasy football information.

Businesses in the Vail Valley might make constant and continuous improvement by participating with the Vail Valley Partnership on programs such as improving customer service through our Platinum Service Program (mystery shopping), improving workplace wellness by participating in Health Links or becoming more sustainable by achieving an Actively Green Certification. Numerous ways exist to improve and enhance individual business growth through participation in various chamber programs.

The challenge, for enterprises as large as the NFL or as small as a mom-and-pop local business, is to make changes that are relevant and meaningful to your customers and to make changes that enhance the business operation.

It’s easy to make the argument that the NFL made a change for the sake of making a change and moving the extra point from the two-yard line to the fifteen-yard line; as Broncos kicker Connor Barth said about the rule change, “Most guys can hit 33-yarders in their sleep.”

Businesses should learn from this and make changes are made not for the sake of change, but rather changes that work to address a fundamental business challenge or to fix a problem that customers might have with the user experience. Change for the sake of change and creating solutions in search of a problem don’t typically end well for organizations — regardless of how much revenue growth you have or how loyal and passionate your customers might be.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.

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