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3 Meaningful Lessons Businesses Can Learn From the NFL Franchises

When you think of the NFL, what comes to mind? Your favorite team? Favorite players? Favorite fantasy draft pick?

Most likely, you don’t think about how the NFL will reach revenues over $9 billion this year, or perhaps how they have the lofty goal of one day reaching $25 billion in revenues. But, maybe you should. Remember, it’s football that is the game, and the National Football League is the business that runs it. And for a business making that much money, it’s definitely one, as a business owner, you should be paying attention to.

What makes the NFL so prosperous are the franchises that comprise it. Some of the leading franchises do billions of dollars in business themselves. As a small business owner, it’s important you look to organizations that have found immense success and explore what’s made them great. Here are a few (of many) meaningful “lessons” you can learn from franchises across the league:

1. Eliminate Obstacles to Revenue Growth

The Minnesota Vikings are on their way to having a new stadium, and it’s about time. Having just played their last game at the Metrodome in 2013, the Vikings are saying goodbye to one of the oldest and smallest stadiums in the NFL. In fact, the size of the Metrodome has caused the Vikings to rank towards the bottom of NFL revenues, despite being in one of the larger markets. They’re actually getting subsidies each year from smaller market teams like the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.

The Vikings knew something was wrong here. They needed to rethink how they were making money at home. Now, teams wanting new stadiums to increase revenue isn’t a new idea but the Vikings felt the demand was there, given 1 out of 2 Minnesotans follow the Vikings each Sunday.

What is currently holding back your revenue growth? Think closely about how something like your equipment or venue could be inhibiting your business. Just as the Vikings suspect they can greatly increase revenues by building a larger stadium, if you moved to a different part of town could you get more business? Or if you opened a second location? Is there a piece of a technology you could invest in that would increase the output of your product, allowing you to sell more? Don’t settle for the status quo. Take serious time every year to review what could be serving as a barrier to your business’s growth, and then make an action plan for what you can do to remove it.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Compete With the Big Guys

As the youngest teams in the NFL, the Houston Texans made a big bet entering into a market that competed with none other than the most popular and profitable franchise in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys. This is also considering that the former Houston franchise, the Oilers, left and moved to Tennessee in 1997.

However, Houston wasn’t afraid to face off against Dallas, and it’s proved to be a wise decision since. Although they’re still working to become a consistently winning team, they have certainly found their fans. The Texans are within the top 10 in attendance and are 5th in overall valuation. Considering the odds, those numbers are impressive.

The Texans were smart. Texas is a big state, and there is certainly enough people there to have 2 teams (after all they have 2 MLB teams and 3 NBA teams). Texas itself is a “football” state and many Cowboys fans were becoming frustrated with the ownership and the playoff drought, so the Texans’ entrance was timed perfectly.

Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t compete with the big guys. There’s a lot you offer that they don’t (or can’t). It’s important you identify what these things are and use that to sell your business. Being small can in fact be your unique value proposition, as many Americans want to shop small. It’s simply your job to make sure they can find you.

3. Invite Customers to Be Part of the Team

Being a Seattle Seahawks fan is a special experience. Beyond getting to watch one of the best teams in football play every Sunday, you get to be part of the 12th Man. The “12th Man” is what Seattle uses to reference the fans that come out to support them each week.

The Seahawks make a significant effort  to ensure their fans know they are part of the team. They’ve retired the number 12 jersey as a tribute to their fans. Before their Super Bowl win in 2014, they ran onto the field under an enormous 12th Man flag. In that special moment for the Seahawks, they wanted to make sure the fans knew they were with them, and show appreciation for helping them get that far. And, we mean that literally. Visiting teams suffer from false-start penalties when at Seattle, thanks to the combination of the stadium architecture and it being filled to the brim with passionate fans each week. In fact, they’re known as the loudest fans in the game. In a 2011 playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, the deafening crowd literally made the Earth shake.

How can you get your customers involved more in the day-to-day of your business? Could you call on them to vote for important business decisions? What about showing them your appreciation? Have you made a real effort to send them a sincere thank-you, or perhaps reach out to them on special days such a birthdays or anniversaries, or even during tough times? If your business can find a way to make customers feel on “the inside” and as if they are part of your organization, and not just a visitor to it, you’ll find they will soon help your business find more success and, yes, customers. How can you turn customers into your 12th Man?

Photo: Jai Agnish /

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood