PR and Business Lessons from the New England Patriots
The Patriots organization is led by Robert Kraft, who is widely respected for his business acumen. The Patriots, once in jeopardy of moving from its home, are now the envy of other teams. Here’s a look at the business dimensions that make up this successful organization.
1. Leadership. It starts at the top. Once the Patriots were bought by Robert Kraft the whole organization changed. He’s a smart businessman with years of experience and strong ethical values. He is committed to the community and has made the organization and team a model franchise.
2. Benchmarking. Kraft made his vision known from the beginning that he wanted the Patriots to be modeled after the San Francisco 49ers' dynasty. He has done so by keeping the organization competitive year in and year out and built guidelines and standards congruent to his vision. He designed the team around leaders: an exceptional coach and a future Hall of Fame quarterback, while developing a brand and persona for the organization that attracts quality players, often at a lower cost than other teams offer.
3. IQ Points. Hiring Bill Belichick was a great move. He has been studying his craft since he was a young boy; that means thousands of hours of analysis about the intricacies of the game that other coaches can never recoup. Belichick is the Red Auerbach of our time. He oversees personnel, the draft, trades, coaching, offense, and defense. Belichick is arguably the greatest coach the NFL has ever seen. Kraft believes in hiring good people and then giving them the autonomy to do their job, while many other owners micromanage the day-to-day details.
4. Risk Taker. All successful business people take calculated risk. The Patriots were at a low when Kraft bought them and he has “picked up the organization from its bootstraps” and built it into the league’s crown jewel. Hiring Belichick for a first round draft pick and the associated risk with that decision proved to be an intelligent move.
5. Ethical Conduct. With Kraft, it’s about brand. The organization only hires quality players. If a player who has a skeptical past is needed, the hiring is done with great analysis and then a mutual understanding between the team and the player about second chances, expectations, and conduct standards.
6. Team. I was in the Air Force for four years and one of its mottos was: “Air Force needs come first.” Well, with the Patriots, it’s about team first. They made history when they came out and were introduced for Super Bowl XXXVI as a team rather than individuals. At Foxborough, nobody is bigger than the team. This is called “The Patriot Way.”
7. Managed Communications. If you speak publicly about issues you risk staying a team member. All matters are handled internally. All players speak on message, delivering talking points such as: “This game is over on to next week,” “Our opponent is very good,” “We’re focused on one game at a time.”
8. Intrapreneurship. Business people often think of ways to increase revenue from within. The Krafts built Patriot Place, own the New England Revolution, and sell events at the stadium.
9. Return on Investment. It’s easy to get emotional about a particular player, but the organization has a price point for the value of each position and sticks to it. This allows them to spend appropriately and to differentiate price vs. value.
10. Currency. The Pats’ brand took a hit with the so-called “Spygate” episode, but the team took its scolding and moved on. They didn’t try to fight it in the media and accepted the league’s ruling. Belichick has been such a strong asset to the organization that it was handled internally and he survived and has continued to thrive. If he was overseeing a losing record, the outcome might have been different; a long-standing track record of success has equity to an organization.
11. Model Fit. The coaching staff works with each player to develop them and have them fit into the system. Players' roles are clearly defined. If they don’t succeed or don’t buy into the team philosophy they don’t last. The team has its structured culture and nobody can break it.
12. Respect. Players are traded and cut, but when they do leave, they do so with their reputation intact. The organization takes measures and precautions not to criticize the person and to allow them to leave with their head held high for their contributions to the organization.
13. Mentorship. The Patriots have always relied heavily on veteran leaders and Belichick’s disciples to teach younger players how to fit into the system. Learning from more experienced players helps younger players excel on the learning curve.
14. Positive Platform. Nothing is ever gained by criticizing your competition. The Patriots are often baited by other coaches to fight battles in the public and in the media, but Belichick and his players don’t bite and stay on message and stay positive.
15. Citizenship. The Patriots place great value in being involved in the community, as well as with the National Football League. Being positive role models and engaged with the public is looked upon favorably.
You can’t argue with success and these lessons help clarify why success continues to happen to the New England Patriots.