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Lessons from the U.S. Open

by Cynthia Kay

Many business people use sports analogies and stories to promote teamwork, spur a spirit of competition and help develop the mental toughness of professional athletes. This past weekend I watched a lot of the U.S. Open. I love golf and I think there are some good lessons to be learned by watching the competition but that’s not what this blog is about. The lesson I learned is very different. It has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with business. First a little background for the non-golfers. This was the first year that Fox Sports became the broadcast partner for the U.S. Open. When the announcement came out it was a surprise. The U.S. Golf Association signed a 12-year multimedia deal with Fox network and Fox Sports 1 to be the domestic broadcast partner for the U.S. Open and other USGA championships. No one seems to know how much money it took to make the deal happen. Of course, there are always leaks with this kind of a deal and “a person with knowledge of the negotiations said the Fox bid was in the neighborhood of $100 million a year, more than double the previous contract. The person wasn’t authorized to release details and spoke on condition of anonymity” according to an online article in Golf. From my perspective the coverage was average… actually it was less than average. The reporters who interviewed the golfers lacked knowledge of the game and the individuals so the questions were sophomoric. The camera angles were terrible so you could not see some of the most exciting shots. In fact, a lot of the time the videographers could not even find the ball and missed the shots completely. There were lots of great shots of the water and boats but that’s not why I was watching golf. So what’s the point? The business lesson? It’s this. Fox took on an event that requires a lot of specialized knowledge of the game and skill to present a great broadcast. In my eyes it failed. That’s because it was outside their core expertise. As business owners we often get asked to take on projects, products or services that don’t fit with our core business. If we are smart, we don’t put ourselves in that position because it undermines the organization and diverts resources. If we do decide to stretch and reach beyond our expertise we should do it consciously and get prepared. Be ready to spend money and train people for the new initiative. Understand what it takes to produce the quality that is needed for the effort to be successful. Perhaps if Fox had done more work they could have pulled this off. But, it was disappointing to see what should have been a great event presented in such a lackluster manner. Oh well, they have 12 years to get it right. Most of us don’t have that luxury. By the way, in case you have been out of touch 21-year old Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Open.

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