The Future of Football Comes Down to These Two Words, Says This CEO

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This week on The CEO Series, we went to Riddell headquarters to get a peek into the leadership playbook of the sports equipment giant’s president and CEO Dan Arment.

“Smart helmets will be the future of football,” Arment told me. “What we do at his company is really important — we’re continuing to make the game for athletes with innovative technology.”

Watch the video above to hear Arment’s insights into his company’s growth and the multi-billion-dollar sport that it supports. And read below to get highlights of that conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity.

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Making an impact through safer impacts

“Riddell’s share at the NFL is roughly 75 percent and our collegiate share is 85 percent. Riddell develops technologies and equipment for all levels of the game, and one of our focuses is to ensure that those technologies used at the elite level are pushed down to all levels of the game. Most innovations in helmet technology have come from Riddell. And that’s because we saw an opportunity to utilize a database of over 8 million impacts and start mining data for teams, coaches, trainers, strength, and conditioning coaches to understand what’s happening with their athletes from an impact standpoint.”

Game plan for dealing with inflation

“Due to inflation, we’ve seen cost increases across the board, whether it’s material costs, labor costs or transportation costs. The challenge is that football program budgets are pretty constant. They don’t necessarily react to inflation immediately. So we have to balance what cost increases we can pass along while still making sure the product remains accessible at all levels.”

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Leadership heroes

“I’ve had great mentors throughout my career, but if there’s the one person who has really been most supportive of my career, it is my wife Julie. We’ve moved around the country multiple times with three kids in diapers. When you up and leave a support system and have to go somewhere else and start all over, it is not easy to do. And I wasn’t home much. I was traveling a lot, running the business. So I think it’s fair to say that her support through this process has been a crucial part of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Lifelong passion for football

“I grew up loving football, wanting to play football. I’m the youngest of six kids. I remember going to one of my older brother’s college games and my other brother and I were in the tunnel as the team was coming out on the field. The roar of the crowd — it was like electric. I said, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ And I have. Football has always been part of what I’ve done.”

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Lessons in leadership

“I’m very focused on results so I tend to be pretty direct. But at the same time, I’ve learned through the years that you’ve got to empower people. Set a strategic direction, align people on what you’re trying to do, and step back. The longer you are in a role, the more you understand the rhythm of the business and where your priorities are and where you should focus. So I’ve learned where I need to lean in and where I need to step back and let people do what they do.”

Check out more profiles of innovative and impactful leaders by visiting The CEO Series archives.

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