Smashville: A Model of Business Excellence

This past week, I had the good fortune to travel to Nashville, TN to meet the NHL hockey team and speak to them.  I was introduced to coach Barry Trotz several months ago when I spoke to the staff of the Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators.  Sean Henry and Marty Mulford of the executive team had heard me speak previously at a business conference several months back.

The Nashville Predators were an expansion team in the NHL who came to Nashville fifteen years ago.  Their start was rocky and the team experienced a change of ownership and operations a few years later.  Jeff Cogan, CEO, Sean Henry, President, and Marty Mulford, Executive Vice President of ticket sales, took over the daily operations of the business.  What a turnaround these guys have created.

Not only do the Predators sell out most of their games, the Bridgestone arena is one of the most profitable and popular venues in the United States, hosting more than 135 events annually, not just hockey games.

What’s their secret sauce?  I witnessed a taste of it yesterday.  The hockey team was to play a game Saturday night at 7pm.  Coach Barry Trotz invited my wife Angela and I to attend their practice at 10am that morning.  I arrived at the arena and watched the guys practice until about 11:30am.  On my way out, I noticed a seminar going on with a couple of hundred people in attendance.  It was a career fair put on by the Bridgestone arena helping college graduates understand how to start a career in the sports industry.  In attendance and speaking were Jeff Cogen, Sean Henry and Marty Mulford.  I asked Marty, “what’s in this for the arena and the Predators?”  His reply was, “nothing.  We just like to do stuff like this for our community.”  This is just one example of how dedicated the executive team is to doing business at what I call “the fan level.”  What I mean is that they make themselves available to the public in many ways.  They give out their business cards freely, which has all their contact information including direct dial numbers and cell numbers.  They are constantly involved in charities, speaking engagements and other community events where they personally show up and give their time.

I travel and speak to businesses all across the US and Canada non stop.  I have seen very few businesses where the executives give so much of themselves: their time, money, heart and so much more.  No wonder their is a strong emotional connection to the fans and residents of Nashville.  Whoever thought that an NHL team would not only survive, but thrive in the deep south of Nashville, music capital of the world.  The answer is simple.  The leader give of themselves like few are willing to do.  Well done Jeff, Sean, Marty and your entire team!  You’re a great role model and example for all of us to follow!