Guest Column: Industry Veteran Jim Hoff Takes On the COVID-19 Pandemic

Looking for a fresh viewpoint on the team business in these challenging times, Team Insight Extra reached out to industry veteran Jim Hoff for his thoughts on where the team business is today and what it needs to do to get back to business in a post-pandemic world.

Hoff has been a sporting good salesperson, manager and executive for more than 45 years. He has worked in retail and manufacturing as well as with corporations such as Spalding, Huffy, DP, Bollinger Industries, Avia, Asics and BSN Sports. He now operates JMH Consulting teaching best business practices for business operation, sales and marketing. He can be reached at 949-697-6436; hoff.james19@gmail.com


Here we are, likely experiencing the most unusual circumstances of our entire lives — and trying to figure it all out. How do we adjust our personal lives to deal with the new normal while we also try to make adjustments to run our businesses and survive? We question how to make a profit and still provide for our employees and make sure we serve our customers’ needs as well as we have done in the past.  

The market we serve has been reduced by the closures of schools, sports being suspended and normal recreational activity stopped to curtail personal contact in favor of social distancing. We know all of this is being done for a very good reason. All of us acting in a way to do our part in order to help stop the spread of a virus in the pandemic stage.  

Some areas in the country have already determined there is little chance that Fall sports won’t be conducted when school starts again in the Fall — if school starts again in the Fall. Still others have recently announced they will start school and, along with it, scholastic sports. Some school districts are considering the continuance of virtual education through December. Thus, no Fall sports. Other districts are considering flipping the Spring and Fall Sport season to see the results of these attempted virus controls through the Fall.  

If sports are to be conducted through the school system for Fall, I bet few, if any, purchases have been made to support them. Certainly buying decisions can’t be made until school decisions are made. There are so many possibilities for the local team dealer to consider as the business opportunity evolves due decisions and circumstances beyond our control.  

But I want you to consider whether that is that really the case. Is the situation beyond your control? Or, do you as a team dealer have something to offer your customers as they determine how and when to reopen?

Most team dealers are heavily involved in their communities. Perhaps school district leaders and city officials are also looking for advice and guidance from business leaders as they make decision going forward.  The bottom line is that “we are all in this together.” Schools want what is best for the education of the student. Thus, asking for a meeting with school administrators in your area could be welcomed with open arms.  

Thoughts from outside of the educational institution might be a catalyst for them to come to new or different conclusion for schools and sports to better safely coexist that had not yet been formulated. At worst, a meeting would help to provide insights for the team dealer on what decisions have been made, further endear the team dealer to community leaders and put that team dealer in a better position to make their own business decisions.  

As an independent team dealer who has experienced limited retail opportunity and no team sport activity, you want to stay as relevant as possible before school starts. In the meetings with schools you might suggest an opportunity to have some sports activities supported/run by your company on the school’s grounds. While you might not be able to organize team competitions, perhaps consider individual competitions that can have social distancing and no contact:

  • Basketball: Free throw contest by age group. Three-point competition by age group.
  • Football: Passing for distance, accuracy (through pre-set targets), kicking extra-points or field goals…all by age group
  • Baseball/Softball: Home run derby by age group with marks on the field for the home run mark for each age, fast pitch and or distance throw by age group.
  • Track: Fastest times for the 100, 200, 800, mile and two-mile by age group.

The team dealer can set up a small booth to sell ball, socks, hats, T’s or other impulse items. Prizes can be provided by local reps or suppliers.

Sure there are liability and safety questions that need to be addressed. But these are times when our most creative skills and use of our assets have to be used to their utmost.

I’m sure, with a little outside-the-box thought and organization, some excitement can be created for the local community athletes, parents and schools in your area. The team dealer can gain some nice, local friendly recognition. And, it might just lift some spirits in a time of great need.

It would be great if we didn’t have to concern ourselves with any of this. But, right now the Boy Scout’s motto, “Be Prepared,” makes an awful lot of sense.