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President's Weekly Brief: To The Playoffs And Beyond

WFT_President'sWeeklyBrief

Hi Washington Football Family,

Wednesday is the "Day Off" for the guys on the squad this week, where they are focused on recovery, spending a little time with family, and pivoting their attention to the next game. A deep breath if you will. I thought that I would take advantage of that natural break in the week to give you a weekly update on the business side of the Washington Football House. I use a slightly longer format to answer some of the things I expect are on your minds, since 280 characters don't allow you to get details and often bring out the shittiest aspects in all of us 😊. So here we go…

Reflections From Eagles Week

Over the course of last week I ran into several of our coaches in Ashburn, from the COVID testing trailer to the strictly traffic-directed hallways of Inova Sports Performance Center to the grab-and-go meal pick up lane in the kitchen (shout out to Chef Connor McGuire and nutritionist/coach Jake Sankal for the best cuisine I've ever had in the League… by a mile!).

Though always pleasant, each of my interactions with coaches seemed more brief than usual. The coaches who tend to stay late into the night moved around the building with an urgent pace that is unusual for the late hours. In short, this staff seemed focused and locked in at another level heading into this game. It reminds me of what my former teammate Kurt Warner would say to his family heading into the playoffs: "I love you but I'll see you in 4 weeks when this is over."

Great leaders and high-performing organizations are able to raise their level of focus, attention to detail, pace of work, and overall intensity when the stakes demand it. Coaches Rivera, Del Rio, Turner and the rest are clearly building this characteristic on the football side of the house as they successfully navigated a "do-or-die" game week. And the game's strong start, including the first opening-drive touchdown of the season, was an indicator that this ability to raise their game will be a hallmark of the football culture going forward.

As our business leaders head into this offseason, we will be led by a myriad of important, franchise-shaping initiatives, and it's imperative we raise our game as well. We're putting in place a way of evaluating performance of our business leaders that will hold us to high account for delivering great value to fans, driving excellent financial and operational performance for the company, and contributing to the positive culture and supportive work environment we're committed to creating. I'm eager to see us step up as the football team did this past week.

Business Question Of The Week

What can we look forward to learning more about the organization's plans in 2021?

A new year is finally upon us, which means people are beginning to look ahead and setting new goals and making lists of things they want to accomplish in 2021. We have already achieved some truly remarkable things in the past few months, but I wanted to give you some small teasers of what to look forward to this year. And since I am more of a structured thinker, I decided to turn them into a list.

Top initiative you can expect to be a part of: I want to start off by letting you all know we are looking at delivering better value for our season ticket members, the nearest and dearest people of the Washington Football family. We know this is important to you, and it is a huge priority for us. We are looking at our season ticket member packages and finding ways that we can shift benefits, gameday experience, and other aspects of value to better meet your needs. We want season ticket members to be able to confidently say, "this is a worthy investment of my hard earned dollars." We see this as the beginning of a multi-year journey to filling our stadium with our fans (our goal is to have no more of the Eagles, Lions or Giants fans packing the stands).

I know this has been a pain point in the past and there have been steps taken to address it that never got all the way over the finish line. But we have the mandate and support from all levels of the organization to make it happen this time. We are taking an analytic (yeah, I know I use that word a lot, but I need facts, y'all) approach that started in the fall and will continue into next year. I believe this will yield results that show we are serious about providing value to our fan base.

Top initiative you will hear much more about: The name change, rebrand, and rebirth of our identity. We've talked about the open and collaborative process, and we've received 12,000 suggestions, and we are using some industry leading third party analytic support to digest the submissions and understand what is important to our fan base.

We've also taken some other initial steps to more deeply understand what current and potential fans are looking for in an identity. We've engaged a few thousand current, lapsed and potential fans through surveys and focus groups, and we're getting some powerful insights. One of those is something we already knew but has been strongly validated is establishing a connection to our history. Another is the importance of our efforts in the community in building meaningful emotional connections with our fans; there is a sense that the team's brand should reinforce the image of positive community influence. There are many, many more insights that I won't share here, but suffice to say we are hearing you and learning about your aspirations for the organization and the brand very quickly.

Now is the time for all the people in my Twitter mentions to let me know we haven't spoken with them :). Yes, I am aware we have not gotten to you. We are unlikely to directly engage each of our several million fans across the world in this hands-on way, but we have more time and will engage many more thousands of you along the way.

Reasons you should have confidence we're moving in the right direction: There's so much to be excited about on the field with Coach Rivera, so I won't belabor that. On the business side, I would say the biggest takeaway is that we have made some hard and substantial decisions regarding our leadership. We have a very different, more diverse team that is really well-prepared to lead us in the right direction.

For those leaders who have been here, we have expanded the scope of their work to new and important capabilities. It's people like Scott Shepherd and Chris Bloyer who have taken on more responsibility and lifted up ideas from people who work closest to our fan base. It's especially commendable for leaders who have established careers here to help us push forward change so quickly. But most importantly, I'm grateful for the folks who have seen attempts at change here before, but decided that they're going to believe again and have felt confident in raising their ideas afresh once again.

We've made some important decisions regarding our leadership structure, but we have brought in new talent, whether they come from other sports or outside of sports, who are going to lead us in the right direction, both commercially and culturally.

One thing to be excited about: While we are all out of the office for COVID, there is a real opportunity for us to think about how we invest in Inova Sports Performance Center to evolve it into a more state-of-the-art practice facility and site for business activities. We want our facility to be an increasingly attractive destination for talent, both in the front office and on the field, and this is one of business-y things we can do to help Coach Rivera in building a cohesive culture across the organization.

Encounters Of The Week

Even though we've been a bit isolated because of COVID compared to a normal NFL season, I've had great connections with my peers in other organizations. Team presidents and others have been so helpful to me as I've gotten up to speed about our business. I want to give shoutouts to:

  • Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy
  • Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel
  • Chiefs President Mark Donovan
  • Raiders President Marc Badain
  • Eagles President Don Smolenski
  • Buffalo Bills SVP of Business Administration Jason Sinnarajah
  • 49ers President Al Guido
  • Ravens President Dick Cass
  • Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff
  • Jets President Hymie Elhai
  • Falcons Chief Executive Officer Steve Cannon and President Rich McKay
  • Panthers President Tom Glick
  • Cowboys President Chad Estis
  • Texans President Jamey Roots
  • Saints President Dennis Lauscha

All of these are people have lent me their time, candid advice and resources to help us accelerate the business and culture transformation we're undergoing here. And I'm really grateful because they don't have to do it. I find it so fascinating that we can be so collaborative, but the moment we're playing each other, we want our teams to molly whop the other on the field.

Due to COVID, I haven't had as much of a chance to connect with people in the league office and other owners across the league. I'm really looking forward to learning from those people as we step into the new year. There's a level of collaboration and openness on the business side of the NFL that I find very inspiring. And I'm looking forward to taking more advantage of that.

What's Next

No more blogs this year. Nobody really wants to hear about business and leadership stuff now anyway. Bring on the playoff football! It's been a pleasure getting to know and engage with you directly over the course of this season through this and other mediums. I welcome your feedback on how I can best engage going forward and whether or not you want this blog back next year. Don't be shy in sharing your opinion… though I have a feeling you won't ;).

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