Learn from the mistakes of the NFL

Our Minneapolis offices are on the same block as the Federal courthouse where all the NFL-lockout-related proceedings are going on. Every morning on my way in I can’t help but notice the media trucks parked outside with their giant antennas and satellite dishes. I can’t help but think about the NFL lockout while I’m at work, and what small business owners can learn from the NFL.

What can your small business learn from the NFL?
What can your small business learn from the NFL?
If you’re not familiar with what’s going on in the NFL, here’s a very basic interpretation: When the Collective Bargaining Agreement with players was extended back in 2006, some very powerful owners thought that they gave too much to the players, and they want to take that power back. Yahoo! Sports has a great NFL Lockout Backgrounder from last September where you can read a bit more.

The lockout means that the owners are locking out the players, basically halting the league in its tracks. Players aren’t getting paid. The owners are flexing their muscle here. The players are taking them to court to flex back and try to keep the league moving toward a 2011-2012 season.

I won’t pretend to know all of the ins and outs of the collective bargaining agreement or anything having to do with owning an NFL team. Frankly, I don’t care. I’m a fan, sure, and as a fan I hate seeing a lockout. If there’s no football this fall, I will truly miss it. Millions of fans will. But you know what? We’ll move on.

Yes, fans will move on because fans are really nothing more than customers, and the NFL is a business. What would happen if you closed the doors to your business just to prove a point to your employees? Your customers—your fans—would leave. They’d go to your competitors, and that’s what’s going to happen with the NFL if they lose a season here.

The NFL doesn’t just compete with college football, the young United Football League, and Arena Football. The NFL competes with family trips to the museum, hikes out in the woods, road trips to Grandma’s, outlet shopping, staining the deck, NASCAR, and just about anything else that you could think to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Whether you side with the ultra-wealthy players or the super-ultra-wealthy owners, there are some definite lessons to be learned here for small business owners:

  • Don’t close your business just because you disagree with your employees.
  • Don’t give your employees too much power to begin with. Treat them well, sure, but within reason.
  • Never lose sight of who your customers are and of what they expect of you.
  • Know who your competitors are! You’re not just competing for dollars, but for time and share of mind too. In a very real sense, anything that keeps your customers from coming to your business is a competitor.

Now, baseball—there’s a sport I really wouldn’t miss…

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