Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm
Is it a useful retreat that helps business people grow their companies or just a chance to schmooze with the brain trust of the Green Bay Packers?
Although that’s an either/or question, the consensus answer is "yes."
About 30 business people attended the recent Packers Training Camp for Business at Lambeau Field.
Demand has grown for the annual event, which began in 1999, according to John Jones, executive vice president, chief operating officer and the hand-picked successor to Packers’ CEO Bob Harlan.
"It has grown each year. Each year, it has gotten better," Jones says. "On a number of different levels, they can say they understand the success of the Packers a little better, and they’ve also said they’ve gained insights into how Bob Harlan handles a problem, how coach Mike Sherman handles personnel, how we’ve developed in new businesses and how we’re preparing in our organization for new growth."
Each participant pays an admission fee of $2,500 for the training camp.
In this year’s event, the participants checked in at Lambeau Field on the morning of Oct. 20, just hours before the Packers’ game against the Washington Redskins.
The campers are immediately treated to an exclusive tailgate party and enjoy the game from the comfort of a luxury suite.
Over the next two days, they are greeted by Harlan and Andrew Brandt, vice president of player finance. Speeches and presentations follow from Jones, Sherman and other members of the Packers’ front office, in addition to meet-and-greet sessions with current and former Packer players.
The campers receive memorabilia to commemorate their experience, and their pictures are taken with Green Bay legends. The campers are given exclusive tours of Lambeau’s facilities, from the locker room to the weight room.
They play a flag football game, coached by current Packers Javon Walker and Marques Anderson. In that game, one camper suffers a bloody nose, another pulls a groin muscle and quite a few others begin limping around – painful reminders that their 9-to-5 jobs have deprived them of some elasticity.
Along the way, the campers are peppered with various insights about how the Packers have grown to become one of the most marketable professional sports franchises in the world.
Gary Anders, founder of the Napoleon’s Tailor stores in Milwaukee and Chicago, has been coming to the training camp for three years. Anders acknowledges the business expertise he gleans from the annual event is not the reason he keeps coming back.
"It’s the fun of it – getting behind the scenes, the access," Anders says. "I’ve got a small company, with only five employees. You can hear the same things they talk about at any number of business seminars, but sometimes the way one person says it clicks."
Vince DeLaRosa, councilman of the Oneida Nation, which operates a casino in Green Bay, says the information he receives from the camp is easily applied to his professional life.
"I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn some insight to the leadership of the Packers’ organization. It’s a tremendous opportunity to learn," DeLaRosa says.
On this day, DeLaRosa is listening to former Packer guard Jerry Kramer, who chronicles his business career since he retired as a player.
Kramer speaks about the importance of convincing employees of all levels to believe they have a voice in determining how a company operates.
"I think Jerry Kramer made a great point – getting people to ‘buy in’ to what makes your organization succeed. Making people believe they can contribute," DeLaRosa says.
Michael Scanlan, founding partner of Strategic Resources Group International, a New York City security company, has come all the way from the Big Apple to attend the Packer camp.
The Beloit native is thoughtfully reflecting on Kramer’s speech.
"Look at the analogies Jerry Kramer made, the life lessons, not just on the football field. Playing for (former Packer coach) Vince Lombardi prepared them for life," Scanlan says. "The stories …. I’m having a great time. The team sort of thing they speak of; it’s very useful."
Mark Kass, who recently resigned from his job as the director of information and community education at the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District, paid the entrance fee out of his own pocket to attend the camp.
"I had a great time. Jerry Kramer can tell a lot of stories," says Kass, who plans to launch a new career in public relations and writing in the very near future.
"Let’s be honest. It’s a fantasy football thing for business people, but I got a couple of things. It kind of helped me focus. Bob Harlan was great. He talked about how he runs the team," Kass says.
"I liked Kramer. He was very good. He shed some light on Lombardi’s motivational tactics," Kass says. "It also exposes you to a lot of people, and I made a couple of contacts who might have work for me in the future, so I can’t complain about that."
Kass, Scanlan, DeLaRosa, Anders and the other campers will take with them a new network of acquaintances and even Packer executives, for future reference, Jones says.
"We share e-mail addresses," Jones says. "From a business standpoint, the Packers are taking a major leap forward. We are at the forefront of a new breed in strategic planning. No other team does this. It has to be, at the end of the day, a very successful, rewarding business experience that happens to take place at Lambeau Field."
Nov. 8, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee