The Great Sport of Entrepreneurship
posted by Michelle Harner
Being a huge sports fan and a corporate law geek, I have truly enjoyed the attention garnered by the Green Bay Packers’ ownership structure in the build up to the Super Bowl (see, e.g., here). The success of the Packers’ non-profit, fan-owner structure raises several interesting questions (see here). That structure also is a refreshing departure from the commercialization of the sports industry generally.
Nevertheless, the Packers’ appearance in Super Bowl XLV also highlights opportunity for innovation and small business profit in the sports context. Indeed, the infamous cheesehead hats were created by a Wisconsin sports fan on his way to a Brewers’ game (see here). Talk about innovation—he apparently ripped the foam from his couch and painted it orange. Before he knew it, he owned and operated a small foam-manufacturing company that caters to Wisconsin sports fans’ every need.
Interestingly, the cheesehead hat entrepreneur is not alone. There is an entire cottage industry of sports entrepreneurs who seek to profit from the loyalty of sports fans everywhere (see, e.g., here and here). And these are not just the high-profile athletes turned entrepreneurs. These are ordinary people with unique or innovative ideas. Take those sports entrepreneurs who are operating online sports stock exchanges (see, e.g., here). I suspect that Aaron Rodgers’ stock price is at an all-time high at the moment.
As I read these and other interesting and often successful stories of innovation and entrepreneurship, I have to wonder what makes these people different from lawyers. Commentators often suggest that lawyers lack an entrepreneurial spirit; some even suggest that this perceived flaw stifles innovation and has caused some of the legal profession’s current problems (see here; but see here and here). I do not think you can generalize about the profession, but certainly many lawyers’ risk-averse nature, discomfort with uncertainty and fear of failure run counter to typical entrepreneurial traits (see here). (To gauge if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, see here.)
So do lawyers need to be entrepreneurs? (For stories of lawyers turned entrepreneurs, see here and here.) I actually think that, for the most part, lawyers just need a better understanding of basic business and management concepts. In fact, that which makes a good entrepreneur may not necessarily make a good legal adviser. And being more of a lawyer than an entrepreneur, I will not be purchasing stock in any NFL players or speculating about the winner of Sunday’s game. But being a Cleveland Browns fan, I will be rooting for those innovative cheeseheads.