Vicki Vannieuwenhoven, the Packers' director of finance, recently attended a seminar for NFL and team executives at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The purpose of the seminar was to broaden the understanding of the "bigger picture" that guides decisions at the team management level and at the NFL level.
In its second year, the NFL-Stanford Program for Managers is a week-long seminar featuring a variety of lectures given by Stanford professors and NFL executives, including two Packers executives -- executive vice president/COO John Jones and vice president of player finance/general council Andrew Brandt.
The seminar, which covers the many facets of the NFL including public relations, scouting, corporate sales, broadcasting and more, was co-directed by Stanford Business School professor of management George Foster and Business School lecturer and Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh.
Also among the speakers were NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, Pro Football Hall of Famer and current NFL senior vice president of football operations and development Art Shell.
Focused on enhancing skills in the fields of finance, marketing, personnel and negotiation, Vannieuwenhoven attended several workshops including "Salary Cap Management," "Team Economics and Stadium Management," "Foundations of Team Effectiveness," Marketing/Branding Principles," "Negotiation Frameworks and Applications," "Globalization Challenges in Sports" and "Sponsorship Challenges and Athletes."
"It was such a unique experience because of all of the people that were there with different backgrounds," Vannieuwenhoven said. "It was certainly different than the league meetings that we attend each year with people from other teams in our specific departments."
Through a series of case studies, small group sessions and large group seminars, Vannieuwenhoven admitted that she learned even more than she initially thought she would.
"(The seminar) was a very intense five days," Vannieuwenhoven said. "There were areas that I thought I knew quite a bit about but discovered that there is just so much more involved than I ever imagined.
"For example, I'm around people from our scouting department all the time, but it wasn't until now that I realized that I had only scratched the surface of understanding all that goes into what they do. From the amount of time that they're on the road and away from their families, to all that goes into the recording of data about hundreds of college football players."
The NFL-Stanford Program reaches further than looking just at what goes on behind the scenes within the league and team operations.
"One of the more intriguing topics was a look at football on a global scale," Vannieuwenhoven said. "As a sport, football definitely has a ways to go when you compare it to basketball and soccer. Soccer is growing here in the United States but because of its complexity, football is a difficult sport to teach as well as one of the more expensive sports to play and participation is not as great as it could be in other parts of the world."
In all, Vannieuwenhoven says the week spent learning from others from across the league will benefit her for years to come.
"It was an opportunity of a lifetime," Vannieuwenhoven said. "I have an entirely new appreciation for sports in general, for football, the league office and for all the people that work in other departments. It's so amazing how it all comes together. To be a part of the NFL is truly a great thing."
And although she received answers to questions she didn't know she had, Vannieuwenhoven also received confirmation about something that wasn't such a mystery to her.
"In just about every subject area, there were positive comments about the Green Bay Packers organization, whether it was from former players or different executives from around the league. They mentioned everything from Lambeau Field, the grass, Mr. Harlan, the structure of the organization and the new stadium. Throughout the week it was yet another reminder of how exciting it is to be working for one of the top organizations in all of professional sports."