Everyone has a unique story to tell. Stories that are formed through good times in our lives and in times of horrible sorrow or painful setbacks.
But these stories are incredible learning tools for many young people and provide such comfort for others knowing that they are not alone in their journey.
The past few years, I have spent all of my free time mentoring career seekers who are trying to enter the sports industry for the first time. Either right out of school or they are completely pivoting their life's to follow their dreams, passion and reengineer their careers.
Each conversation I have and there are dozens each week with career seekers, I have found their goals to be the similar. However, personal challenges, skills and interests are vastly different regardless if you are just starting or starting over.
What I also have found with the experienced professionals who are pivoting careers and have done a self audit on their life, is that they mostly hate what they do for a living and are getting up each day unfulfilled.
Many of these folks started in sports early on in their career but were turned off by the industry too quickly by being in the wrong position with no training, or had a horrible boss and the incredibly long hours paid very little or straight commission. Most times expectations and the illusion of the industry is very different than the reality.
So they left those entry level sports jobs and went on with their lives and a new career path. Ones that have a nice salaries, big job title, plenty of time off, normal hours, marriage, kids, mortgage and all the things that you think you are suppose to have in life. All the while those are all great parts of your life, but most times you will be left with regret if you don't follow your passion and love what you do for a career.
It's safe to estimate, 9 out of 10 times you will figure out what you don't want to do before you discover what you love doing. Helping people figuring this out, is one of the reasons why I wrote a book. Along with putting the tips, tools and steps in a book that provides a career playbook but also inspires people with my story.
Circumstances for each career seekers are vastly different. Although the suggested strategy might be similar as everyone has a completed different story. That is actually my favorite and the most interesting part being a career mentor.
I love learning the unique individual stories, career aspirations and getting to define solutions and tactics to help help build a road map. Getting that first job is not as important as figuring out what you really love to do that has purpose. That's where a job turns into a long career.
Never did I think I would write a book, period. Let alone a book mentoring career seekers. I imagined my first book would be about all the crazy stories and interesting characters I met over the years. The business start ups, the many start overs and the magical moments working for the mouse house.
Perhaps I will save those stories for another time.
The best time to start a business is while you are still in school. High School, College or even Middle School. The younger the better and I here's why.
Having the ability to be creative enough to follow through on an "Idea", seeing the opportunity and put energy behind the execution answers practically every question a hiring manager will have about your ability and experience. Not to mention the great story you can tell about that process (Wins and loses).
If you asked entrepreneurs over the age of 50 what was their first job, they most likely will tell you they delivered papers, cut lawns, shoved snow or baby sat. They will also proudly tell you how they scaled those businesses in their neighborhoods.
Starting a business at an early age, especially in todays world, the point of entry isn't as labor intensive and can be done practically from your cell phone.
A few years ago, I had two high school seniors walk into my office and try to sell me their "Social Media Management" services. Their pitch was not on their expertise of social media because they where young and I am old and don't understand the channels, they both followed me on Instagram and Linkedin so that that is how we connected.
They pitched me on the value of my time. "How much is your time worth to you Mr Thompson". Brilliant.
They created a business on trading time. They saw a need for business owners that were consumer facing and who were in the weeds with operating their businesses and didn't have the bandwidth or perhaps skills to utilize social media to grow their business organically or through paid ads on Facebook and Instagram. Personal trainers, dentist, gyms, bars, night clubs, restaurants, hair salons, etc.
Their focus was on a matrix of how much time and energy they could save your business if you used them to manage your social media accounts. As a business owner you know the most valuable asset you have is your time.
I sat with them for an hour or so as I was fascinated with their story and unfortunately for them, I peppered them with questions on how they started and grew their business to over $500,000 in under two years. The business was growing so fast that they both decided not to attend college right now and pursue the business. They were growing faster than they couldn't keep up and were hiring their High School friends as Independent Contractors to help manage their accounts plus looking to expand to South Florida because one of their grandparents had a home there.
As they signed new clients, they recruited more friends. The figured out the formula to manage their expenses and not get buried in payroll.
The best part was utilizing one of their teachers to help set up an LLC who in turn recommended a local attorney who filed their incorporation paperwork for pro-bono and helped them get the filing cost paid for by a local non profit. The attorney in turn recommended an accountant to do they same and provide free advice on write offs, provide a basic understanding of business tax laws, quickbooks and IC employee contract templates, client contract templates along with W-9 forms.
They used the schools membership to a website development software to build their site, the schools A/V club to produce a video and another school friend that created a great logo. They had $0 start up costs plus no overhead as they lived and worked from home, their cars and coffee shops.
Teachers, professors, local business professionals, non profits, economic/career development associations, incubators, etc are all available and wanting to help young entrepreneurs. They also have the resources available at little to no cost, if you ask and do some research.
Understanding how a business works, managing client relationships, employees and cash flow are unmeasurable skill sets that lay the foundation for a career regardless if you work for a major corporation or own a hair salon.
So regardless if you are passionate about social media management services or sneakers, start a business that doesn't feel like work, something that you are passionate about doing in your free time regardless if you make $1, figure it out, make mistakes and be sure to ask for help and advice.
Your time is your only investment.
Good Luck- Rob
At a Touchdown Club meeting many years ago, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant told the following story:
I had just been named the new head coach at Alabama and was off in my old car down in South Alabama recruiting a prospect who was supposed to have been a pretty good player, and I was having trouble finding the place.
Getting hungry, I spied an old cinderblock building with a small sign out front that simply said "Restaurant." I pull up, go in, and every head in the place turns to stare at me. Seems I'm the only white fella in the place. But the food smelled good, so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A big ole man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says, "What do you need?"
I told him I needed lunch and what did they have today?
He says, "You probably won't like it here. Today we're having chitlins, collard greens and black-eyed peas with cornbread. I'll bet you don't even know what chitlins are, do you?"(small intestines of hogs prepared as food in the deep South)
I looked him square in the eye and said, "I'm from Arkansas , and I've probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I'm in the right place."
They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate. When he comes back he says, "You ain't from around here then?"
I explain I'm the new football coach up in Tuscaloosa at the University and I'm here to find whatever that boy's name was, and he says, "Yeah I've heard of him, he's supposed to be pretty good." And he gives me directions to the school so I can meet him and his coach. As I'm paying up to leave, I remember my manners and leave a tip, not too big to be flashy, but a good one, and he told me lunch was on him, but I told him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay. The big man asked me if I had a photograph or something he could hang up to show I'd been there. I was so new that I didn't have any yet. It really wasn't that big a thing back then to be asked for, but I took a napkin and wrote his name and address on it and told him I'd get him one.
I met the kid I was looking for later that afternoon and I don't remember his name, but do remember I didn't think much of him when I met him.
I had wasted a day, or so I thought. When I got back to Tuscaloosa late that night, I took that napkin from my shirt pocket and put it under my keys so I wouldn't forget it. Back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me. The next day we found a picture and I wrote on it, "Thanks for the best lunch I've ever had."
Now let's go a whole buncha years down the road. Now we have black players at Alabama and I'm back down in that part of the country scouting an offensive lineman we sure needed. Y'all remember, (and I forget the name, but it's not important to the story), well anyway, he's got two friends going to Auburn and he tells me he's got his heart set on Auburn too, so I leave empty handed and go on to see some others while I'm down there.
Two days later, I'm in my office in Tuscaloosa and the phone rings and it's this kid who just turned me down, and he says, "Coach, do you still want me at Alabama ?"
And I said, "Yes I sure do." And he says OK, he'll come.
And I say, "Well son, what changed your mind?"
And he said, "When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but Alabama, and wasn't playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of you and has ever since y'all met."
Well, I didn't know his granddad from Adam's housecat so I asked him who his granddaddy was and he said, "You probably don't remember him, but you ate in his restaurant your first year at Alabama and you sent him a picture that he's had hung in that place ever since. That picture's his pride and joy and he still tells everybody about the day that Bear Bryant came in and had chitlins with him..."
"My grandpa said that when you left there, he never expected you to remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept your word to him and to Grandpa, that's everything. He said you could teach me more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess I'm going to."
I was floored. But I learned that the lessons my mama taught me were always right. It don't cost nuthin' to be nice. It don't cost nuthin' to do the right thing most of the time, and it costs a lot to lose your good name by breaking your word to someone.
When I went back to sign that boy, I looked up his Grandpa and he's still running that place, but it looks a lot better now. And he didn't have chitlins that day, but he had some ribs that would make Dreamland proud. I made sure I posed for a lot of pictures; and don't think I didn't leave some new ones for him, too, along with a signed football.
I made it clear to all my assistants to keep this story and these lessons in mind when they're out on the road. If you remember anything else from me, remember this. It really doesn't cost anything to be nice, and the rewards can be unimaginable.
Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant
To learn more, click below.
In 2001, I led a small but scrappy group with an expansion Arena Football 2 team. A minor league team to a minor league sport but with a passionate fan base.
We came into a market that had a very successful AFL team there for 12+ years, which also relocated right after they won an AFL championship. We came in the following year after they left. Good luck with that one right?
Oh it gets better.
The welcoming press conference to the market announcing the coach, team name, logo, ticket information, website, TV and radio ad's ready to run was an interesting and horrific day. The press conference was at 10am September 11, 2001.
So it was an unbelievable time for us as a country, trying to launch an expansion team that no one wanted was so below anyones radar. We were all just trying to make sense of what happened let along sell a ticket.
Soon after we were told by the league to scrap our team name "War Birds". Understandable, but now we had to change logo's, collateral, websites, business cards, everything. And yea we had 6 months before the season started.
But we still could sell our revenue lifeline of season tickets as the previous team was kind enough to leave us a dusty box filled with twelve years of index cards with hand written season ticket holders information. Lucky for us we had somewhere to start and a focus.
Even without a team name, mascot, players, business cards we set off on a phone-a-thon to get those passionate fans to come back.
We practiced our elevator pitch, wrote up scripts and role played for a few days while we prioritized our prospects.
The big day came to start calling, we were armed with our sorted index cards, divided them up between 4 of us and we were all fired up.
We crowded around my office desk to make that FIRST call to one of the families that had 6 season tickets from day one of the original team.
Phone on speaker and I dialed the first number.
"Hello this is Rob Thompson from your brand New Arena Football Team, can I please speak with Sam?" A nice elderly lady replied "Hello, who is this"? "I am the General Manager from the new arena football team and calling to say hello, thank you for your continued support and tell you that we would love to have you and your family back to continue enjoying your local arena football team". Silence then crying on the other end.
I looked around my tiny office and the look of horror on everyones faces is burnt into my memory.
"Hello are you ok"? I asked "Sam loved that team, we watched every game together, our kids grew up going to those games". She bellowed.
"That's why I am calling you to let you know that we are back and we have Sam's same seats held for your family".
She stared crying again. "Sam died 2 months ago"!
The very first cold call to what we felt like was a lay up sale our most loyal fan past away. How much more can our scrappy team take besides Sam was in his 80's.
"Sam loved going to those games, he waited all year for the season, wore that damn game jersey everywhere. He was crushed when the team left." I took a deep breadth as there isn't a text book answer for this one. I looked around the room, forgot the script and went for it.
"Well then you should keep his legacy and attendance streak going, don't you think Sam would want you to keep his streak going? Silence. I tried again "So does that mean you will come back"?
"Call me tomorrow" then she hung up.
We called her that next morning and not only did she buy her original 6 season tickets but she also bought another 6 for her extended family and friends because she loved the idea of the streak and the legacy of Sam.
Her and her family turned out to be our favorite and most loyal season ticket holders. They were at every game and event we had over the next few seasons.
Regardless of the level of the sport or the circumstances that are beyond our control, this business teaching you one huge lesson. It's about people.
The people who work in the business, the people who passionately care about their teams.
That emotional attachment is much bigger than the players or the games. It's about creating and sharing memories for and with people.
Today you may not be able to get anyone to pick up the phone and take that cold call we made 17 years ago, but they are out there and waiting for someone to make their day a little brighter.
I will always hire former walk ons of NCAA varsity teams.
Why, because all they want is an opportunity to prove themselves and be part of the team.
Yesterday I was speaking to a head college basketball coach. He spoke proudly about a walk on senior. A kid that had zero minutes the last three years. This kid shows up at ever practice, 5am lifting, shooting alone after hours, an A student and putting in incredible effort everyday.
And yea, coach never received one call from the parents complaining. They only thanked him for the opportunity. Their kid is crushing it this season.
That DNA is not one you can coach, teach or parent. It's an internal engine that drives them which you can not measure in how they look in a uniform or in a suite/dress. Excuses or blame are not part of their thought patterns.
They think "Give me a chance and I will show you".
Those same kids who put in the work to be part of the team will become the stars of your business.
They will outwork the more talented employees on paper everyday!
Why, because all they want is an opportunity to prove themselves and be part of a team.
Only 6% of High School Athletes actually play NCAA sports at any level. Why? Because it's hard.
I made an extremely difficult decision at the very beginning of my career that massively altered the path of my young families life.
At the time we were living in a wonderful Northeast town in a great home we built a few blocks from the beach, great schools and close to our parents and siblings. What could be better?
I accept a position that required us to uproot the kids from their home and friends and sell our first home that we absolutely loved.
A brutal decision and one that there was so much risk and uncertainty.
Although the job we moved for only lasted a few years it lead to a much bigger job and career with the Walt Disney Company which would never had happen had we decided not to relocate a few years prior.
We learned a few things along the way...
1) There are great people where ever you go
2) Once you make a decision, make it your best decision
3) A geographical change is a good thing
4) Life and work is the journey there will be more good than bad
5) Get comfortable being uncomfortable
6) Live below your means
7) Always have a vacation planned to give you something to look forward to as a family because they will become your best memories together
8) Don't chase money, chase the opportunity
9) Follow the little voice in your head
10) When you don't like what the little voice says, ask your wife
Rob is a 25+ year sports marketing and media executive, podcast host, author, husband, father of four and dad joke extraordinaire.
To Learn More About Rob CLICK HERE
I was not a great student, actually I was terrible.
Had no idea why, I really enjoyed school.
Never was a trouble maker in a high school loaded with nit whits and punks. I guess the teachers passed me each year with heartfelt D's because a sense of feeling sorry for me?
Sports is what saved me from falling into the vortex of my blue collar town which so many became stuck. I wanted nothing more than to leave that town.
Admittedly, the only way I was able to go to college was because of athletics, the student part, not so much.
Although there were plenty of options to play football for a major college or military academies leading into my senior year, I ended up being a NCAA Prop 48 student. Which meant I did not qualify academically for D1.
So I was not able to pick a school that I wanted to attend, a lower level school had to take a big chance and pick me.
I was ashamed and embarrassed. I felt like I let my family, coaches, teammates and the entire town down.
It just happened that the college in that gritty blue collar town, only 5 miles from my home were the only ones that took that big chance.
However, there was a stipulation. I needed to pass a basic math class in order to be officially accepted, receive my scholarship and participate in summer camp.
If I didn't pass the class and didn't get the scholarship, there was no chance I was going to college let alone play football again. My parents had three kids by the time they were 21 and neither of them went to college either. So I had to make this work.
My Plan B was to enlist in the Navy only because I wanted to go to play at the Naval Academy and I thought somehow this made up for not being able to attend.
The summer math class was July 5, 1985 and I was not even 18 years old. You can say I was a bit nervous, no pressure or anything riding on this one class.
The professor was about as happy as we were to be sitting in a classroom during the summer, but she was energetic, smart and young and you can tell she wanted to help.
She proceeds to hand out an exam to a classroom of scraggly athletes at the very beginning of the class. She introduced herself and explained that this exam was to help her determine what level of math we were able to comprehend.
I believed it was titled "How Much of A Moron Are You To Make US All Take A Summer School Course". Well after we handed the exams back in, we could leave right away and I would be lying if I said I was little concerned amount my results.
The very next class, before we started the professor asked me to step outside the classroom. I thought I was done and she was going to tell me to go back to middle school.
However, she just smiled and said very calmly to write down a series of numbers that she would repeat two times, which I did. I handed the paper to her, she looked at it as if she was the bartender and I just handed her a fake ID. I wanted to throw up. She looked at me with a concerned look and said..
"Has anyone ever diagnosed you with Dyslexia"
The answer I assured her was No!
To be 17 years old and go through all those years of public school struggling and not finding out until the summer going into my Freshman year of college was frustrating.
She then adds "I can help you".
Which she did and it completely changed my life.
I was able to focus, digest the information and pass the class!
What resulted because of one persons kindness was my ability now to enroll in college, accept the scholarship, play 40 NCAA football games, be elected captain, All American, graduate, play pro football in Europe, inducted into three Hall of Fame's, marry my college sweetheart and wrote a book.
Here is what I learned from this one act of kindness:
1) We all have a story
2) Meeting people is never a coincident
3) You can't judge anyone by a piece of paper
4) Don't push people aside who want help and willing to work
5) We end up where we are suppose to be not always where we want to be
I went from not wanting anything to do what that little college on the hill 5 miles from my childhood home to enormous gratitude.
Before I graduated, I made a promise to the AD at the time that one day I will repay my scholarship back.
Well an interesting thing happened, thirty years later I returned to lead fundraising for the athletic department of the only school that gave me a chance. I even guest speak at sports management and communication classes.
Today my life came full circle and for that I am forever grateful for the people that have helped me along the journey.
Rob Thompson is a 25+ year sports marketing and media executive, podcast host and author. Click HERE to learn more about Rob's journey.
It's a big mountain to climb...
"Is it better to start from scratch or acquire a declining business and reengineer the biz model and rebrand?"
I would ask this question often to the investors, our team and myself.
In 2012, I lead a group that acquired several iconic amateur sports tournament properties.
Iconic in the sense that they had been in the market with brand equity for 25+ years. The intrinsic value before the acquisition WAS the brand equity, the challenge we discovered, was the perception of the brands in the market.
Here is what we learned:
1) Having a recognizable brand is great unless the market doesn't respond
2) Reengineering the brand and business model can take as long and require similar resources as starting one from scratch
3) Using social media platforms to listen to your audience and adjusting your content can open new revenue channels
4) Creating verticals utilizing current resources and assets to pivot will add value and new dimensions to your business
5) Wondering what happened and not making something happen is a business death sentence.
Operating a business is never easy, be it a start up or a start over, In this case I found the key was to look towards the resources and assets we had, listen to the market and focus on where the brand is headed, not what it was.
Rob Thompson is 25+ year sports marketing and media executive, podcast host, author and master of dad jokes.
Full disclosure, I never knew exactly what Digital Branding meant?
I thought Digital Branding was a trendy term used for consumer brands. Additionally, I don't believe most people who used the term understood what it really means either!?
When I went all in with LinkedIn in 2009, I discovered the real meaning of Digital Branding =Trusted Relationships.
Today, two out of three marriages start with online relationships.
So why not use the platform to help your career or business development and grow revenue?
There are still too many people today; public figures, recent college graduates and corporate executives who still don't effectively utilize the social media channels available.
Which is crazy actually, what other platforms are free to connect over seven billion people globally?
We are fortunate that these channels are even available, it's made the world smaller and the 6 degrees of separation is down to 2nd or 3rd degrees.
I few things that I learned by building my Digital Brand:
1) It takes time and effort
2) Consistency matters
3) It's better to give than receive
Today I am able to help business executives, recent grads, start ups, athletes and coaches discover their digital brand, as I have discovered mine.
Make It Matter Today - Rob
I started my first scouting and recruiting business at my small kitchen table when I was newly married, expecting our first child and only 24 years old.
Armed with a note pad, index cards, and a big yellow phone hanging on the wall that had what seemed like a 150 foot cord.
I can vividly remember where I was when I opened up my very first box of business cards. Such a wonderful moment for all entrepreneurs.
I don't think there is no bigger thrill and scarier moment than at that moment.
I'll never forget that feeling when I knew I had a business that was going to work, it took off so quickly as it was such an early adapter in that space during the early 1990's.
But an interesting thing happened along the way.
18 months later I was offered an opportunity to merge with a "Global Sports Agent".
My wife said, "Don't do it". I didn't listen.
Wow, I couldn't believe it, not even two years later I already sold the business and was anticipating a big payday being an equity partner in a much bigger business. So I thought.
Well, It sounded so good on paper, he seemed like a nice guy, problem was I never asked the right questions at the beginning of the partnership and come to find out, he didn't have the relationships he claimed he had and he was relying on a 24 year kid to bring in enough revenue to support two businesses.
Not long after settling into my new fancy office and opening up my second box of business cards, he walked away and his investor went to jail.
Lesson number one learned. Listen to my wife!
After 25+ years in and out of corporate America and start ups, I have had many highs and many lows, all of which prepared me to completely understand the most important core element in business...Relationships.
The relationship with someone who invests in you and truly believes in the potential of your idea, product or service is extremely powerful. It goes way beyond the funding.
It will only work, if the true intention is to make money together and not off each other.
So how can I help you?
I connect high level investors to sports businesses seeking strategic investment partners.
Rather straight forward.
There is one simple solution and that is for you to take your social media game more seriously.
Social media channels (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, Etc) are changing everyday which can be overwhelming learning how they all work together.
There is a strategy behind using them effectively and by committing to learning, creating and distributing content that will 100% change a career and business for the better.
In todays digital world, like it or not it’s our reality and also our greatest opportunity.
Social Media used properly opens up the world to all of us. And by this I mean it provides everyone with the most import elements in business. Trust and relationships.
How will it help your career and business?
We’ve all had jobs which we become unchallenged and eventually hit a wall. It can effect our personal life without having that sense of fulfillment and purpose in our careers.
The amazing opportunity in today’s digital world, you don’t have to stay stuck behind a career that hasn’t taken off or stalled.
If you are willing to make a change, we all have the chance to reengineer our careers by creating a digital voice that brings value to the world through our writing, voice or video.
The value of not just helping others but showing the world your expertise in areas of your passion.
10+ years ago it was a much greater challenge and honestly harder to build this digital voice as all the channels and platforms weren’t connected.
But today they all connect in this one continuous flow of shared information and content puzzle.
One major hurdle people face with utilizing social media still today, is not knowing how to put that puzzle together.
Coupled with most people frankly being uncomfortable and paranoid by being judged from friends, family and coworkers.
Do you tend to stay in one lane only posting occasionally on Linkedin and every once in a while comment or like a post?
This behavior and wondering why nothing is happening is like whispering at a concert. No one hears you.
The core reason for being uncomfortable is rooted in not truly understanding how to use social media channels.
Some people are just more comfortable and seem like an open book online and it’s easy to scorn them for being brash or self serving.
But the thing to remember is that you are reading, listening or watching their content and they aren’t consuming yours. They won.
It takes time and effort to learn all the tricks and psychology behind being effective and building trust in the digital space.
It also takes time to get into a rhythm of producing the content that is authentic to your personality.
After years of figuring out all the software tools that helped me start producing professional content with simple things like building a website, graphics, launching a daily podcasts and then discovering platforms to distribute all this content without it taking up all my free time, can be overwhelming.
Six years later I have developed, over time my social media confidence.
How I did that was by committing to learning how to do it effectively, understanding what my network liked and establishing a process to produce and distribute content everyday, 24 hours a day.
The transformation for me was when I watched and listened to my engaged followers and tested content until THEY told me what was valuable to them.
Until I shared with the digital world my stories through blogs, video and podcasts which at the time only my circle knew these things about me, everything than ramped up very quickly with a few bumps along the way.
What if I told you I can help accelerate your digital branding and career development?
So how I can help?
I provide one on one career coaching and training in developing your digital media voice.
I will take you through step by step tips, tools and hacks of social media content creation and massive distribution tool that will give you the confidence to master the digital space and transform your career and business.
So let's take that first step on this journey and sign up on by click on the webinar tab about.
Make It Mater Today! - Rob
Time is the number one currency for investors.
The same applies for those seeking sports start up investments.
Vetting the right opportunities can be arduous and time consuming.
Is the business the right fit, is the product or service an in an industry the investor knows and likes?
Does the business fit within the investors portfolio?
Does the investor like the product and leadership team?
Is the investment opportunity clearly presented?
What is the challenge in the market?
Is the solution scalable and clearly defined?
Are analytics, cash flow projections and the competition clearly outline?
Are you seeking funding for growth or a merger/acquisition?
Does the investor bring more than funding to the partnership; relationships, expertise and backend resources?
What is the funding going to be used for; marketing, product development, head count, etc?
"So many variables and allocated time goes into seeking, connecting, vetting and researching to determine if there is a match"
I started and sold my first sports business by the age of 24, raised millions for my own start ups and been on both sides of buying and selling sports businesses/minor league franchises.
I funded my businesses every way possible and learned the hard way through loses and a few wins.
"It isn't all about the amount raised, rather what your investor brings to the business other than capital"
After 25+ years in the sports and entertainment industry, my mission today is to help connect the dots with start ups and investors, bring attention to your story and big idea, vet investors and mentor start up leaders.
Entrepreneurs are typically financially and emotional so invested in their day to day operations that many times an outside voice and another pair of eyes to advise and connect the dots is the difference to going to market, growing and ultimately surviving.
Besides funding needs the second biggest challenge for start ups, is attention. If no one knows about your product or service this can end your dream before it even has a chance.
If you have been nodding your head and what I have written hits home, let's have a quick discussion so I can learn more about your business, dreams, funding needs and explore ways that I can potentially help - firstname.lastname@example.org
I am not a recruiter or one of those you can work from the beach social media guru's by any stretch of the imagination.
I'm really no different than you trying to stay educated with what seems like daily changes to social media capabilities.
Constantly exploring how they integrate together, where are the eyeballs all without having to ask my kids.
My goal now is to share information on what I find interesting or have experienced in the sports industry (Good and Bad) and more importantly, help bring value to your career / business.
The roadblocks that I keep hearing from my audience is; "I called and emailed my resume to over 100 companies without one response" or "It's getting impossible to get to the decision maker now, no one picks up their phone or returns an email".
Sadly it's the world we live in.
Meaning, how you connect with decision makers has changed.
The gatekeeper is no longer the assistant or front desk administrator.
The decision makers are really no different than you and I.
Think about the last time you actually answered your cell phone.
Even if you did recognize the number chances are it wasn't a good time to pick it up. Unless it's your mother!
How often do you return an email from someone trying to sell you something?
Lets face it, texting is the best way to connect with family and friends.
So think about how we screen people we don't know.
We look them up on Linkedin or Facebook first before we decide if we want to connect.
We look at pictures, perhaps we drill even deeper and look at websites and maybe read a blog or watch a video.
Depending on that first impression through social media is typically how we decide if we want to spend anytime with that person.
Decision makers are no different.
How good is your content on there right now?
Have you created a professional digital brand that gets their attention and cuts through the clutter where they remember you in a good way?
The one advantage you want, if you don't have a personal connection to them, is if they already know who you are by seeing your content somewhere online before your call or email.
Do you share and post content relevant to their business or interest?
Have you followed them on twitter or Instagram before contacting them?
I share in this free eBook the tips and the tools that I have used through a years of trial and error.
By watching and learning from others that I have admired online, I basically followed their process and educated myself on the science of building a following and getting the attention of influencers and decision makers in the industry now playing the long term game down the road.
Most of the tools that I share in the eBook are off the shelf free software that will quickly and economically help you build consistent, professional looking; websites, blogs, social media graphic designs, podcasts and social media scheduling/data software.
I am still learning and evolving as the digital capabilities change and new platforms are introduced to the market everyday.
However, I am now at a place where I have an understanding of utilizing the tools and have learned to adjust and create content based on what the market responses to and have created a system to distribute that content across all my platforms on a daily basis without spending a massive amount of time and money on execution.
Since discovering my digital voice in this space, I benefitted from tremendous growth, which has resulted in scaling my network organically connected me to countless new opportunities without picking up a phone or sending out an email.
Once I invested the time learning the available tools, making time each day to create and distribute content and discovering what works for me, I am very confident that this eBook will deliver the results you desire at a much quick learning curve.
As a result and at this point in my career, I felt obligated to share what I have learned and this my friends is the golden rule to what I have experienced first hand on how to build your digital brand.
"Share what you are passionate about consistently, professionally and go all in with helping others without expecting anything in return"
That is the simple core and essential element to building your digital brand and creating a digital resume of your body of work for others to see and ultimately help you stand out from the crowd.
This eBook will provide you with a step by steps playbook to drive the attention you want with potential employers and clients.
He started his career sampling Mellow Yellow soda for a local Coke bottling distributor out of Charlotte, NC right out of college. Traveling to race tracks, college football tailgating and concerts.
That experience sparked an interest in the business and launched a career that put him on tour working for Momentum and IMG leading activation for several blue chip brands.
Today he leads business development at Bristol Motor Speedway and wrote a book to help recent college grads and young professionals trying to figure out their careers "MindShift Getting A Job In Sports".
He provides a great perspective in working on the agency side which gave him a base of understanding brands and connecting to consumers.
"Agency's are fantastic places to learn from the sidelines but working for one gives you a valuable perspective on the sports industry because of the vast areas needed to support a brand"
This was one of my favorite podcasts and guests, Steve Hogan.
Tremendous information for anyone starting or building a career in sports management.
Steve shares practical advice on how important it is to follow your passion, doing what you love and the value of building and utilizing relationships to help your career.
"It's better to do what you love at less money on the front end than to get up everyday miserable"
The lessons learned selling cell phones and newspaper advertising early on and leveraging that previous experience to knocking his very first project at Florida Citrus Sports out of the park.
Managing the annual Citrus Bowl Parade.
But when given the opportunity, he didn't question why, he just dug in and got the job done.
So he went out and tripled the parades revenue in his first year which set the course of a 22+ year career which is now leading and carrying on the proud legacy of the Florida Citrus Sports Association.
I implore you to learn more about Steve's story and listen to this weekly podcast "Interview with Influencers".
I'm not sure if I was just too young at the time to know better or just incredibly eager to start a business out of what I saw as a need in college recruiting.
But I jumped in with two feet and started my first business with an idea I had way before the digital age of recruiting services that are around in abundance today.
It was 1991, I had just returned to the states after playing American Football in Europe, got a position coaching college football and discovered that making seven thousand a year coaching wasn't going to cut it in the short term financially.
Although I loved coaching, but wanted to get married and start a family with my college sweetheart Margaret.
So I had a to make a decision or create an opportunity for myself to start a career or business.
What I did love the most about coaching was the recruiting process and helping athletes.
One of my responsibilities coaching college was recruiting Junior College transfers and my assigned territory was California. Which if you know the business is loaded with talent and schools.
But during that time without the internet or recruiting services, the challenge was how do you find and evaluate talent without having to call every coach and shift through how is a fit for your school efficiently.
It's obviously doable but by being 3,000 miles away was certainly a challenge.
Until one day I met a retired Juco coach and athletic director from Santa Barbara community college.
He already had established what I was looking for that helped student athletes and colleges looking for those athletes.
However in those days his service wasn't very sophisticated for the times nor was it a business, it was his passionate to help connect people together.
So out of his garage which sat high in the hills next to the Santa Barbara Community College Campus, overlooked the Pacific ocean with this amazing post card view, he had this wonderful set up of a row of TV's, VCR's, grease board, a desk and an endless supply of home made California red wine.
He knew ever kid and coach on the West Coast. It was a one stop shop. Get your prospect list, drink a bunch of wine and listen to all his incredible stories. Plus he was an East Coast old school Italian. I felt like I knew him forever and trusted his evaluations.
So in 1991, recently married, living in a small apartment, Margaret was pregnant and I was volunteer coaching at my old high school and working odd jobs, I had the epiphany to start a my own high school recruiting agency from our kitchen table modeled after my Italian California friend.
Armed with a wall dial phone, a stack of index cards and a thick directory of every college in the US, I picked up that yellow phone, standing next to the wall, I started dialing.
I called every college and sent out hundreds of letters.
Although it was Connecticut overlooking our small apartment living room and not the Pacific ocean, the positive response I received from college coaches was encouraging.
Encouraging enough to eventually move out of the kitchen and into my own office.
I wish I took a picture of the place. You actually had to pass through an empty set of offices that had wires hanging from the ceiling and the lights didn't work. So at night I had to blindly go through a maze of wires, boxes and lord knows what else to escape that office every night.
My little wood paneled office in back had a mis matched furniture that I pieced together from left behind tenants, folding lawn chairs from Walmart, a two thousand pound metal desk that had to be there twenty years unable for any human to move, old TV's, VCR's, grease boards and a small fridge filled with Bud light.
But to me it was big time. I had my own business.
That dingy office hosted many college coaches passing through town, sharing stories, laughs and cold beverages.
We discussed prospects, talked about their families and the war stories of finding those diamond in the rough prospects.
I wanted to help and knew there was a need to connect the coaches and athletes who I felt were under the radar geographically.
Even though I had zero business experience, as a criminal justice major in college, I didn't take business or finance courses but was suddenly thrown into accounting, marketing, sales and operating every single aspect of my business.
The valuable lessons I learned from just doing it out of necessity, was invaluable.
I had no one to blame but myself and the pressure of providing for my family was certainly a motivator to work harder and harder. That right there was so vital to setting the bar for my career.
Those lessons starting a business from scratch taught me the most valuable business lesson I could ever learn about real life practical experience.
If you have an idea, see a need in the market where someone will actually pay you for that service or product and you can bring value to someones life, you need to figure out a way to start executing that idea right now.
Don't over think it, or wait to have the perfect logo or website, you don't need anything fancy to get started, just start. The market will tell you if it's a good idea by the revenue you bring in.
Starting and operating my own business at such an early stage set a foundation for truly understanding how business really works. Managing cash flow, balancing a budget, driving new business development, servicing clients and building relationships were so vital to my long term career as it gave me an appreciation and curiosity of how it all works.
I understood the value of both sides of the table. Not just whats in it for me, but how can we both benefit.
I eventually merged my little college recruiting agency with a more establish agency that was primarily sending pro baseball players to Japan and we eventually started recruiting for American Football leagues and teams in Europe and Australia.
So the business evolved and I had a massive sense of accomplishment from having an idea and taking that to market.
So from that cool garage in Santa Barbara to our kitchen table to that dingy office, ideas and businesses are born everywhere, be curious, follow your instincts but more import, execute on our ideas.
By the way, there is still a two thousand pound metal desk somewhere waiting for you!
The world is a much different place then when your parents and certainly your grandparents where wide eyed and ready to start a career.
They were most likely raised to go to a good college, get a job with a pension, buy a house, have kids, load up the family truckster and save their way to retirement.
It’s interesting how the world has changed.
We now live in an on-demand world of a freelance work force with a swipe of a smart phone or asking a talking hockey puck for on-demand transportation, on-demand housing, on-demand dating, on-demand food and status symbols that are rooting in “The Experience” rather than material possessions.
The massive difference is that most of our parents and grandparents settled for the safe road and probably didn’t chase what they were really passionate about for their careers.
Not sure many were satisfied unless they found a purpose.
Life may have got in the way and they didn’t have a chance the explore more or simply didn’t want to take on the risk of change.
That was not always a bad thing, but the benefit of today’s world is the ability to create more time through an on-demand culture.
By creating time, I define that as having access to faster resources that allow gaps in the process.
In the late 80’s, colleges were in the infancy stages of incorporating Sports, Media & Entertainment into their business schools and just started to acknowledge that this was an industry that could stand on it’s own because of the massive interest.
That era is very similar to the where the business and interest is with ESports today.
Today there are over 450+ colleges around the world offering undergraduate and post graduate degrees in sports management and the talent pool entering the marketplace is extremely crowded and competitive.
Because of the amount of talent entering the workforce, and this is very important to know that landing a job in sports today is much easier than keeping a job in sports.
What will keep you employable is a diverse skill set to first and foremost have the ability to do one of these three things really, really well; create, sell and execute.
Always remember it’s a business first and the value of entertainment and consumers experiences is the result of sustainable profits over time.
Now where does this leave you to figure out what you love to do by landing and keeping a job in the industry?
I mentioned in the title you will figure out what you don’t like before you find out what you love.
A good portion of your discovery process besides education is practical experience.
So think about the following;
Did you like accounting, legal and finance classes?
Did you enjoy collaborating on case studies and analytics on consumer behavior?
How was it volunteering for the 5K setting up tables at 5am and going home twelve hours later dirty, broke, tired and hungry?
Did you lose sleep the night before knowing you had to cold call 100 businesses the next morning?
Did you enjoy being creative with graphic design software or editing short form videos?
My point is you will find the things you don’t like to do through this elimination process by doing a little bit of everything.
Now write down what did you enjoyed during the process.
What did you do well in school and working?
Do you like interacting with the general public?
Do you like the creative side with design, social media, video, etc?
Do you like outside work with getting dirty?
Was it on the client side with activation, hospitality, solving problems?
How did you do planning, scheduling and the behind the scenes work?
Now here is the point that will help you with a long career more than anything else.
Despite how smart you are or how smart people say you are, having a true sense of self awareness is critical.
Look yourself in the mirror moment.
It is a sign of maturity when you can accept the fact that perhaps you may not be great at designing graphics but you are obsessive about details, love checking off your task lists and P&L’s.
You will need to get there mentally to focus on landing and doing a great job.
Going all in with what you enjoy doing because you are really good at it, combined with your passion in that specific area / sport is the magical moment of clarity and will be your career compass.
But what you should do is create time. Time to explore geographically, teams, leagues, vendors, agency's and time to try as many areas of the industry you are interested in and finding out what you don’t like will lead to what you love.
When you reach that point of meeting on the corner of self awareness and passion, your career will take off regardless if you’re still dirty, broke, tired and hungry.
But I do promise you one thing, you will be satisfied with your journey.
I was lucky enough to have amazing mentors along my career journey, but none made as big of an impact in my life both professionally and personally as much as Coach Tommy Groom.
I never played for Tommy, he was retired from coaching when we met.
It was perfect timing as I was just starting out on my career and trying to figure how it all worked with a young family and very little business experience.
Tommy was one of those once in a lifetime characters you meet and if you read this all the way through you will be inspired and hopefully entertained as he had some crazy stories!
His advice to me on the day we met.
"Everything will fall into place, if you're headed to the right place"
This is his story...
Tommy grew up in a very small town in what he liked to say, West "By God" Virginia. His blue collar, coal miner DNA, naturally allowed him to break down life into it's simplest common sense form.
He never made things overly complicated or dramatic.
Always looking for the good in people.
Tommy had a great college football playing career at Virginia Tech in the late 1960's and then spent the next 30+ years coaching at the D1 level.
Like most coaches he went through a gypsy life of transitions, packing up and starting over several times and even being married several times.
The one thing I really admired about coach was that he never seemed to miss a day of living without maximum effort, a slick grin and most important that infectious positive attitude!
I can remember this moment like it was yesterday. I asked him; "Out of all the places you ever coached, where was the best time in your life"?
At that moment this brilliant response forever changed my perspective.
"The best placed I've ever worked, is wherever I'm At"
He would tell me "Don't worry about your next job, make sure you are taking care of the one you're current in".
Practical advice and 100% true.
Coach and I traveled around the world for several years operating the National Football League's Youth Development programs.
We put on hundreds of NFL youth events, camps, clinics, tournaments from Boston to Bangkok and as you can imagine we had the experience of a lifetime.
We were very lucky and we knew it. Never taking it for granted.
We worked with incredibly passionate administrators, coaches and players from all corners of the globe.
All though there were communication challenges, all of us had one shared goal of expanding a sport we all loved and having the platform to make a difference in kids life's through sports.
A natural bond.
Tommy and I spent thousands of hours together on planes, trains, in airports, hotels, on football fields and occasionally in some of the wackiest bars on the planet.
We were invited into countless homes of our host coaches to explore their culture and spend time with them and their families.
Even though we were tired from travel and long days running events, he pushed us not miss a chance to I discover new things and build friendships that have lasted 20+ years.
He always said that no one really cares about how much experience you have or where you went to college, it's always about the relationships you build along the way that will be the single most import aspect to your career 3-5-10 years from now.
He was spot on.
His thoughts on experience were summed up in this classic Tommy quote:
"You can no more do, what you don't know, to come back from where you ain't never been"
Let that one sink in.
Each trip was unique and special. We discovered how small the world really is and that there are so many generous, caring people in this world.
That was our common connector on every stop, we heard and shared amazing stories about overcoming obstacles and resources and how sports is a microcosm of life.
I shared a front row seat to listen and learn from all his incredible stories and was a participant on a great deal of new ones.
But I will never forget one of the many classic Tommy moments. This one in particular was in Tokyo on a promotional tour for an NFL pre season American Bowl game.
What Tommy liked to do out of respect for our hosts, would be to attempt to begin every press conference or event when he addressed an audience for the first time, he loved to say hello in the language of that country.
He gave me the task of helping him learn it on our way to each event. Sometimes I would have to remind him what country we were in let alone learn a second language.
I would usually spend half the flight repeating how to say hello in whatever language over an over until he could finally say his standard greeting.
Sometimes I would be left to write the phrase on napkins, but he didn't just look for my help, typical Tommy would include everyone around him. He would practice on the flight crew, the people on the plane and just about everyone in the airport regardless if they were from the country we were traveling to or not.
I really do give him credit for trying, but he never got it right.
So this particular time in Tokyo, after practicing on the 11 hour flight, we entered the press conference room, I looked him in the eyes and had him practice one last time, which he nailed.
I'm not sure what happened in the five seconds from the time he said Konnichiwa, to the moment he bowed, hit his head on the mic, looked at the crowd, grinned and says in Spanish...Feliz Navidad!
The room went dead silent, we couldn't believe what we just heard and the look on everyone in that rooms face was a mix between confusion and sadness.
Until finally our Japanese interpreter respectfully broke the silence with a soft response of "Merry Christmas Coach".
It was July.
Tommy had so many incredible stories that were so out of this world crazy, but as I spent more time with him, I began to understand how and more importantly why they happened.
I could listen to his stories over and over again on our travels. They never got old.
The lessons of life he would weave into these stories were masterful and always relevant to what he knew was troubling me or anyone else we wound up meeting on the road.
His passion was people and he always had a way to put challenges into perspective, regardless if we were in South Korea of South Carolina.
A sad but a legendary Tommy story and the absolute moment when I knew he operated at a whole different level then the rest of the world was from a phone call I received from him right after the New Years in 1998.
Although it was very serious and horrible event, his positive attitude was like a slap to the head on a persons character being revealed through challenges.
But on January 2, 1998 I received that call from Tommy which revealed who he truly was.
"Hey My Man, I have good news and bad news."
I hesitated to ask, ok whats the bad news?
In a cool, deliberate voice and I kid you not he said "I burnt my house down"!
I shocking ask, "How did that happen"?
His response was "Deep frying a turkey on my back porch"!
I was shocked and wasn't sure if he was fooling around "Coach are you and the family ok".
"Yea we are all good, you know how quick I am on my feet, got them all out safe except for the kids pet turtle, that thing was always too dang slow"!
Somehow he found a way to let me know it's going to be all right.
We just cracked up.
I said "Well if the bad news is your house burning down, what's the good news"?
Without missing a beat..."We get a NEW HOUSE"!
So one day after such devastation, he still found it in him to find the positive side of life during an incredibly sad situation for him and his family.
Sadly, they lost everything. The kids Christmas presents, all their clothes, family photos and 30 years of championship rings, team pictures, mementoes that I am sure were very sentimental his coaching career and life.
He found a way which I'm sure was so painful at the moment to find something positive out of this unimaginable event.
At the time it obviously wasn't funny but as time passed and he sorted out his housing and got life back in order for his family, he would tell that very story with such gusto and detail it too became part of his legacy.
He simply would never allow himself of anyone around him act like the victim in any situation and was never looking for sympathy, he turned it into a lesson for all of us.
He lived his life exactly how he lectured so often about.
The funny thing was he never brought up that you should never cook a deep fried turkey inside a covered porch attached to your house. That part was assumed by everyone.
When you did complain to him about challenges or people he would always say "If you can't roll with it, buy new tires".
I learned from coach that it's all in your perspective on how to tackle a challenge you are facing. No matter how large or painful at that moment.
He would tell you to take a second, think about it, don't get emotional and break it into common sense and find a solution.
He loved to say this about the tough decisions:
"Once you make a decision, it will be the best one you make"He lived by the words he preached.
His zest for life, football, people and enjoying the exact moment that he was living in was contagious.
He believed in how you carried yourself, was how others would perceive you.
He would sarcastically say, "I always have a chance to prove them right once I open my dang mouth!
Regardless of the occasion, coach was always the slickest dressed in the room.
He always wore a standard sport coat, polo shirt, jeans and cowboy boots.
Out of our group of khaki and sneaker wearing schleps he was the boss.
We would always tease him about his year round tan.
Which you should know, was only on his face.
I even asked him one time "Why don't you ever tan anywhere else but your face"?
In coaches pure common sense he says "My man, it only matters what I look like walking into the bar".
Another life lesson learned coach!
Coach Tommy Groom passed away at the age of 55 in his sleep March 2003.
He was attending a coaching clinic doing what he loved. Helping and teaching others.
Coach had a major impact on all those who knew him, worked with him, lucky enough to be coached by him and call him a friend, dad, brother or even an ex husband!
I was so incredibly fortunate to have spent all those years with him and honestly never seen him mad or hear him say a bad word about anyone.
I do think of him often and the massive impact he has had on my life. Especially during trying times.
What an incredible mentor.
I only wish I had an opportunity to say good bye and thank him.
But I hope how I lived my life by always trying my best, helping others, staying positive and enjoying every moment is my thank you to coach...wherever he's at.
If you had a mentor make an impact on your career and life, please leave a comment and share.
Rob Thompson Former NFL, Walt Disney Company Executive and host of the weekly podcast "Interview with Influencers in Sports and Entertainment" Sundays 7pm EST www.RobThompsonLive.com
By now I am assuming you already had a few jobs that pretty much confirmed what you do not want to do for the next 5, 10, 15 years of your life.
However the burning question I imagine that keeps you up at night..."Where do I start, who do I call and how do I break into the sports industry"?
Well here is the secret sauce...you need relevant experience.
Here's the good news, relevant experience is transferable skills which you may have already gained at your previous job.
I can tell you that the market is extremely competative and no industry employer wants to hear you say "I'm a huge fan".
Become a fan of the industry and leave your emotional connection for the team at the door.
So what are the skills and relevant experience that will help you land that dream job?
Number One: Sales
Everyone, and I don't care who you are unless you are a bit demented and love to crank call complete strangers, probably hate making cold calls.
This is normal, as it's uncomfortable, not glamorous and good luck getting anyone to answer.
But if you have had any type of sales experience: cold calling, B2B, B2C or even worked a call center for a fundraiser, political campaign, etc, this experience is a HUGE plus.
If you consider yourself a bit socially shy there are plenty of areas that might be a better fit rather than direct sales.
Number TWO: Graphic Design / Content Development / Video Editing
Can you design social media content, snap filters, presentations, promotional collateral, edit short form video? Again very valuable skills.
Number Three: Social Media Advertising
Are you experienced with Facebook/Instagram Ad's, SEO, Google Ad Works, Sales Funnels, Utilizing Constant Contact, Email Campaigns and Analytics?
If so, this will make you stand apart.
Number Four: Social Media Strategy
How many followers do you have, are you an influencer? Do you have a blog or vlog audience?
All of these skills are transferable and will be looked upon as relevant experience.
Ok, so you have a few of these skills and experience in some form...now how do you get a job?
If and when you get an interview, bring examples, case studies, presentations, videos, of everything you have done regardless if it was for a hair salon, summer camp or lawn care service.
It's not theory, it's practical experience that will help you stand out with the interviewer.
So, you landed an interview but sadly you weren't offered the job. Now what do you do?
You should call the person who interviewed you, politely ask what you need to do to get the job next time and any advice they can offer.
Thank them for the opportunity and before you hang up, offer to volunteer in any areas they may need help at any upcoming events.
This will demonstrate your enthusiasm and at the same time keep the door open for future opportunities.
So if they except your offer to volunteer, be prepared to miss the parties, beach or that music festival with your friends. You show up, smile and know that you are one step closer to landing your dream job.
"You are better off to invest on the front end to train and provide ongoing education for your security staff than having to pay on the backend for lawsuits".
James DeMeo a twenty two year experienced security professional and retired NY Detective is CEO and President of Unified Sports & Entertainment Security Consultants.
He explains why security is critical to your guests overall experience and the importance of thinking strategically about how it fits into your planning and execution.
This is James DeMeo's story....