Friday, July 1, 2011

Preparation in sports translates to business

How does a baseball player make it in the big leagues? How does a coach get a head job at a NCAA Division I school? How does a PGA Tour player earn a spot in a major championship? How do people find great jobs in a tough economy?

They all get it by overcoming adversity, preparing, and executing. Mark DeRosa, third baseman for the Cleveland Indians and our longtime client, has taken a long path to success in the Major Leagues.

Mark made his debut with the Atlanta Braves in 1998 at the age of 23, and spent parts of seven seasons with the club but was never able to stick as a starting player.

Through hard work every off-season, Mark broke through as a starter with the Texas Rangers in 2006, hitting nearly .300 with 74 RBI. Because of that we helped secure him a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract.
Ryuji Imada, PGA Tour player and our longtime client, has dealt with challenges in his career, but has always been committed and determined to make a living as a professional golfer. He has lived a roller coaster, from helping the Georgia men's golf team win the National Championship in 1999, to missing out on getting his PGA Tour card via qualifying school or the Nationwide Tour on multiple occasions for several years.

Through preparation, resilience and executing, in 2008 he kissed a trophy after winning his first PGA Tour event, the AT&T Classic in Atlanta, and earned a spot to compete in The Masters this year.
Ryuji's commitment to preparation through off-season training ensured better execution and has proved rewarding.

Every job seeker needs to recognize the areas they need to improve on and effectively utilize their "off seasons." Remember, getting to the plate or the tee box --- getting the meeting --- only matters if you execute when you are there.

The difference between good and great athletes, I often tell people, is their ability to recover from adversity quickly --- a golfer's ability to go from a bogey to a birdie, or a pitcher's ability to go from walking a guy to striking the next guy out.

Mark and Ryuji's preparation might have included things like hitting thousands of baseballs in off-season batting practice or thousands of golf balls at the driving range. For those of you looking for a great job, embrace the fact that you are going to hear "no" a lot. But the more "no's" you get, the closer you get to getting a "yes."

> Prepare for every meeting, both informational meetings and interviews. Define your message. How can you add value to the company? When we sit in front of players, coaches or media talent, my team of agents and I illustrate the numerous ways that we can add value to their world. Whether it be our ability to create and manage their Web site or develop a branding plan for them, or to our contract negotiation strategy and track record, we are constantly showing them ways we do things better than the others.

> At the core of your preparation initiatives, do more than everyone else: Know something they wouldn't expect you to know. When I meet with any player, I know everything from their "greens in regulation" stats to the time frame of their equipment deals; or their stats vs. righties and lefties, all the way down to their children's names.

Any great sales person knows what I am talking about. When you are looking for a job, you are a salesperson, so get comfortable with it.
> During the meeting listen, listen and listen some more. Gather information --- via their verbal and non-verbal communication --- that might be relevant. Listen for things like personal and professional dates that they share with you. All of this data becomes part of your follow up plan.

> After the meeting, do the traditional things --- E-mail your contact within 24 hours and send a hand written note to them --- but remain consistently aware of their world and find creative ways to make them aware of your ideas.

I once did an informational meeting with a young man and during the course of the conversation I asked him, "What are some ideas you would have regarding marketing plans for several of our clients (i.e. John Smoltz, Ernie Johnson Jr.)?"

He answered the question well and "top lined" his thoughts, but what impressed me was the conceptual marketing plan he E-mailed just a few hours later. He showed great initiative and that he had some guts.

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