Business Lessons From Two Football Teams

By Darrin Tonsfeldt
The Village Business Institute

Since Sunday’s Super Bowl, I have been thinking about business lessons we can learn from the franchises involved. Now, I am not a fan of either the Packers or Steelers, probably because they have much better play-off records than my favorite team. I do however appreciate their resolve, despite ups and downs, to renew themselves and be successful. So what do you think… anything we can learn? I believe there are a couple of lessons we can take into the non-sports business world.

Each franchise has a different ownership structure; the Packers are a nonprofit owned by their fans with profits going to charity. The Steelers are a for-profit business with controlling interest owned by the Rooney family. They both have long histories in their hometowns and what looks to be a genuine dedication to those communities.

Even though each franchise has had bumpy times, they have persevered and are often cited as two of the most stable franchises in the NFL. The Packers were established in 1919—the Steelers in 1933. How many U.S. businesses can you name that have existed as long? General Electric, 1892, Ford Motor Company, 1903, Boeing, 1916—though the U.S. Small Business Administration statistics indicate that 7 out of 10 new employer firms last at least 2 years and about half survive 5 years, a fairly high attrition rate.

So what are the lessons we can learn, well… leadership and culture count, period. All businesses have good times and rough stretches. Those that have strong leadership and a strong sense of who they are and how they behave, survive. Those that don’t, fail, or get taken over by a competitor. Customers’ preferences change, technology changes, economies change and if you do not know who you are, how will you respond to those changes? More so, how will your employees know how to respond if their leadership is clueless and the work culture is chaotic?

Despite not being a Packer or Steelers fan, I can appreciate how the two franchises know their history and honor it, respect their fans (customers), have strong cultures that allow their employees to succeed and either grow or hire leaders who continue their traditions while adapting to meet the changing demands of their customers. Good lessons for anyone running a business.

About the blogger
Darrin Tonsfeldt has a background of program administration, employee supervision, and clinical experience, as well as 20 years of experience in organization consulting and planning. He provides oversight of The Village Business Institute, Regional Counseling Services, and Financial Resource Center programs. He also provides consulting services that include strategic planning; career, leadership, management, and executive coaching; corporate training and group facilitation; crisis response in the workplace; and organizational consulting.