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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics

By Dena Hillison October 20, 2020

In this uncertain time, we look to academic and industry leaders to share their wisdom and help to guide our next steps. We reached out to some outstanding members of our esteemed community of alumni at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics to share their experiences and guidance with our larger community. Jim Donofrio, UD Class of ’87 and ‘91 and vice president of sales and strategic partnerships at NBC Sports, was recently a panelist in the Lifelong Lerner webinar series discussion on “The Sports Industry’s New Normal.” Donofrio also sat down with Lerner to discuss lessons learned during the coronavirus pandemic, advice for his fellow Blue Hens and more.

Q: How have you and your company responded to the coronavirus pandemic?

Donofrio: This pandemic has definitely been a challenge for all businesses not just domestically but globally. NBC has experienced a big impact due to COVID-19 across key businesses including our theme parks and film divisions. Also, the absence of live events taking place during this pandemic has also significantly impacted NBC Sports. It has changed the way we do business and we immediately recognized we needed to make adjustments, think differently and become more innovative.

From day one we had to adjust to the way we managed our business including from both an individual basis, with our people working from home, to daily communication with our global partners (league properties, advertisers, agencies, etc.). We took advantage of technology tools such as Zoom, Teams, FaceTime and Videoconferencing, which have been a huge help, as well as ongoing calls and emails.

Although there continues to be a lot of uncertainties during this pandemic, we knew the one area we could always control was the messaging. After gathering all the necessary information across our businesses, we proactively responded to client questions, challenges and concerns through daily calls, even hosting virtual events utilizing our senior management, on-air personalities, athletes and talent.

Q: What are the greatest lessons that you’ve learned during this crisis?

Donofrio: Complacency is devastating. Businesses need to constantly evolve and innovate not only in the event of another pandemic but also due to the amount of competition they face on a day-to-day basis.

That being said, new businesses are being created and others are experiencing significant growth as a result of this pandemic. Categories who have been positively impacted due to COVID-19 include delivery services (GrubHub, DoorDash), at-home meal kits (Blue Apron, Daily Gourmet), personal care (Dollar Shave, Harry’s), finance (Robinhood, Acorn) and fitness (Peloton, Mirror).

Q: What pieces of advice do you have for fellow businesspeople?

Donofrio: 1. Always be ready for change.
2. Networking is key in all businesses.
3. Leverage your contacts for anything you need both professionally and personally.

Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at UD?

Donofrio: Greek life.

Q: What pieces of advice would you give to current UD students?

Donofrio: 1. Meet fellow students—best way to start building your network
2. Take public speaking classes
3. Get to know your professors as they will want you to be successful post-college
4. Work hard… and have fun!!

Q: What does it mean to you to be a Lifelong Lerner?

Donofrio: Being proud to share a bond and part of a distinguished group of inspiring innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who are all committed to succeeding in business and personal life while positively impacting the community.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share in your profile?

Donofrio: Although important, giving back to UD doesn’t always need to be financial. I’m also a strong believer in paying it forward through mentoring and participation in the classroom through guest lectures or assignments.