Joe Hawley cleaned out his locker at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility for the last time a little over a year ago. He was retiring from the NFL after 8 long years as an offensive lineman. Although he was done as a player he was just getting started on his next amazing adventure.
This is Joe’s Story…
Joe was a kid who grew up in Southern California skate boarding and playing many sports. Joe is an interesting and very smart guy and he didn’t want to be defined in his life as just a guy who played in the NFL but rather someone that makes a bigger impact on the world.
Out of UNLV, Joe was an NFL’s 4th round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons, and battled most of his 5 years through a few injury’s, waiting his turn to start and blaming others for his lack of playing time. “I was blaming my position coach, offensive coordinator, the strength coach and everyone else I could. I was trying to figure out why they didn’t like me and why don’t they give me a chance”? Joe discussed this during the SportsBiz Podcast “Nothing about my attitude was creating a healthy situation for anyone, mostly it hasn’t good for me”.
What happened next was a pivotal point in Joe’s playing career and where most guys in the league point themselves right out of the league. Joe had enough of a sense of self awareness that he needed to stop pointing the finger and blaming others and start accepting that the responsibility of his playing time and attitude was on him and him only. The NFL is a lonely place.
“If I was left on the side of the road after getting released from the NFL, there is no one left to blame but me. I also realized no one cares, nor should they. It was 100% on me to change my attitude”.
That is when things started to change. After waiting his turn in the league to become a starter, backing up a starter that was retiring, he got his chance. Then the worst scenario for a player in the NFL, he suffered a season ending knee injury that required major surgery and once again he returned to the sidelines had a long road back with rehab and eventually was traded to Tampa where we finished out his career playing for a few more seasons.
“I learned a ton about myself during this time in my life”. Joe explained, “I worked through a bunch of adversity, figured out its 90% mental and that your attitude means everything for making your situation and how the people around you look at you different as well. It’s incredible how changing your attitude will lead to so many positive things.”
The day last Spring cleaning out his locker for the final time, a sense of relief overcame Joe that morning, "This sport us all I knew for so long, my body was used to it but mentally I was ready to move on".
"There still was so much more I wanted to do with my life and now I felt a sense of freedom to do that. For most of my adult life I was told when do be somewhere, what to eat, how much to weigh, how much to lift, have far to run and after a while that becomes mentally and physically exhausting".
Freedom is what he desired and appropriately, Freedom is what he named the dog he rescued to go on the next part of his life’s journey.
“I wanted to live with less and experience more. So, I ended the lease in my Tampa apartment, donated my furniture to a local charity, lost 60 pounds, got out of marrying the wrong girl and bought a super cool van to travel the country.” Explained Joe about having less. “I always wanted to go one of those road trips where you visit every MLB ball park. So that’s what I am doing.”
While listening to Joe’s story during the podcast, I thought this is one of the coolest life pivots I have heard in a very long time. If the donating everything you own, losing the weight of a 4th grader, ditching the wrong girl, buying a tricked-out travel van to set sail on the open road to camp, fish, eat, drink and go on MLB Ball Park tour wasn’t every guy’s ultimate adventure, then oh yea, let’s rescue a dog! I mean, come on!
So that is exactly what is doing, him and his dog freedom are setting off in a customized Sprinter Van this Spring criss-crossing North America visiting MLB baseball Stadiums and Historic National Parks capturing the adventure on YouTube and IG.
The only thing that could possibly make this adventure better and maybe into a TV show, if he took the other famous UNLV Alum, Food Networks Guy Feiri with him to Flavortown!
Joe’s new journey is about inspiring others to eat healthy, take care of your body, your attitude, have less possessions in life and experience more, travel more, meet new people, do things that are outside your comfort zone.
He is living a life that he preaches. In the past, he was never one for social media when he played in the NFL, a self-proclaimed introvert. Thought it was a huge waste of time.
That is part of his challenge to himself of getting out of his comfort zone. Joe now has a website and very active Instagram and YouTube channels. Heck he even bought a drone and edits all his own videos.
“When you don’t have enough video for your story, drone footage with some background music, is the greatest filler content ever”.
Like many former professional athletes, the transition from the lifestyle of being a public figure with unlimited access to people, attention and opportunities when you have that global platform. Everyone takes your call when you play in the NFL. It can be a challenge.
“However, life after playing, there is a transition process if you haven’t planned ahead and started to think about what you want to do that brings your life and those around you, value”. Joe explains “You aren’t going to just go sell cars for a living, unless you own the dealership”.
Joe was well aware that the next chapter in his life was creeping up and so he had this idea of Man - Van- Dog - Blog adventure brewing towards the end of his playing career.
This March he attended the NFLPA Speakers Bootcamp in SoCal to hone his public speaking skills. “If I want to go down this path of being a YouTuber, podcast interviews and keynote speaking sharing my story with the larger audience I want to get better and again challenge myself to be uncomfortable.
In the digital world we live in, this affords college and pro athletes the global platform to scale their brand and convert those fans/followers of athletes, like Joe to become an influencer.
The business of being a social media influencer is very real and the bridge connecting former athletes transitioning from a high profile sports career ending and a social media influencer solopreneur business beginning is becoming an easier path.
Besides Joe having a naturally conservative nature, living way below his means, and being the example that “Having Less and Experiencing More” by a former NFL player is inspiring to those following his same path or those career seekers who may look at building a “Life Resume” before they get locked into a career they may not love.
“My adventure with Freedom is just beginning, we are leaving Tampa in April and plan to experience new places, new people and continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. It’s the only way to get better".
It’s also the best way to experience Freedom.
There are moments in our lives that can alter our careers. Sometimes it's by chance bumping onto someone on a plane, at a conference or perhaps it's a friend of a friend. But I am really certain that100% of the time, it's because we made a decision to show up.
As the career development mentor for our sport management students I was asked to chaperone a group of students to Orlando for the 2019 ProBowl. I was going to make certain that we not only showed up to work the ProBowl Experience, but I was going to jam pack their schedule from morning to night and make this trip as close to what I experienced in 27+ years of running events for the NFL and the Walt Disney Company. Essentially my worlds were colliding to one big perfect storm.
Pre dawn flights are always rough, now add in unexpected extra long security lines caused by disgruntle TSA agents who haven't been paid in a month and oh yea it just happens to -9 degrees outside. Welcome to the sports industry, expect the unexpected.
After we landed in the land of warm sunshine in swaying palm trees, a quick tram ride and welcome from Orlando's Mayor Buddy, we headed off to our rental, piled in, rolled down the windows and set off on our adventure.
Before we made our first stop, I wanted to spend time with the group before it gets hectic to get to know them more, have our first meal together, set my expectations for the week and frankly hear what their expectations and goals were for the trip. Plus we were all starving!
Day 1: First Stop Orlando City SC
Our host, Cheif Revenue Officer, Chris Gallagher could not have been a more gracious host with his time, tips and practical advice on breaking into the industry. "What the University of New Haven has provided you guys on this trip, is unique and so valuable to your career growth having exposure to teams, facilities, executives and seeing first hand all the opportunities within a pro sports organization. I think that is amazing". Asked about his style when managing young sales professionals. "I don't believe there is one way of selling, the old days of 100 calls just doesn't work anymore. A young sales professional has to be able to use a mix of cold calls, emails, social selling and face to face networking at events". He explained. "Guys the numbers don't lie, either you can sell or not, it's rather simple".
Day 1: Second Stop Orlando Magic & Amway Center
Our wonderful behind the scene tour of the Amway Center and Magic operations, was lead by the talented and sports industry rising star, Manager of Business Initiatives Kayla Chesanek. The students were able to get a sense of running an NBA team out of a county owned and operated facility. Understanding what the business structure is like for a team tenant having to share assets, inventory / hospitality space and event dates with other teams. Totally different dynamic and business model coming from the Orlando City who own and operate their facility. But not without it's challenges. "Being in a building that you have to share space, not always having full access on non game nights, can be challenging at times but we seem to make it work." Says Kayla "We continue to look at ways to monetize spaces not just in the arena but within our neighborhood. Because there is so many entertainment options in the Orlando area, we have to constantly look at ways to make the overall experience of attending our game memorable".
Exploring one of the Magic VIP hospitality spaces and the future "Orlando Live" expansion.
Day 2: ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World
ProBowl Experience, Mascot Gets Crushed & Disney Springs
Guest Engagement and Data Capture. In order to participate in any of the Skills stations or get your picture taken, each participate had to download the ProBowl app and opt in. The opt served as a participation waiver, media waiver for use of your picture as well as captured emails and cell phones.
The "Come on Man" award goes to Dad NOT letting his 3 year old win in the 40 Yard Dash
Students attended the Live taping of the NFL Shills Challenge on ESPN. Watched how Live TV programming is produced in a format other than a game which other than time outs, doesn't stop. This delayed broadcasted event took 4+ hours to get 1 hour of footage. Plus the controversial hit on the Patriots mascot.
Day 2 End of the day
Disney Springs for dinner, shopping and sightseeing.
Day 3: ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World
Pro Bowl Experience, NBC Golf Channel & Seafood Buffett
Students worked a second full day at the The ProBowl Experience event. The event is free and open to the general public. An estimated 20,000+ fans per day attended the 4 day event.
Day 3 Afternoon stop NBC Golf Channel
A visit to the NBC Golf Channel was courtesy of Programming Coordinator, Kevin Van Dyk a 2018 alumni of the University of New Haven sport management program. Kevin shared with our group, some of which former classmates, how he landed at the Golf Channel in Orlando. "I did my internship at NBC Sports in Stanford, Connecticut and once I got my foot in the door I had access to other opportunities in the company. When this opportunity presented itself, I just said yes". He explained further "I was focused on going into facility operations with a team, or at least that is what I thought, programming was not on my radar. But I love it, It goes to show you that there are hundreds of doors to walk through in this industry. Even though the one you think you want right now may not open, just say yes to the one that opens and figure it out from there".
Watching behind the scene live broadcast production taking place.
On set at Golf Central.
Advice and plenty of stories from a legend "Kenny" our studio guide for the afternoon. Kenny shared his stories of a 25+ career and the rich history of the Golf Channel. He was hired before the first broadcast and spent the majority of his career as an in studio cameraman and later on production director. A real industry character who certainly had the students laughing with an endless supply of dad jokes. We asked him if he was passionate about golf before he started work there. "Not really, I am not a golfer, but I am really passionate about the people and the product." His advice to the students. "Just figure out what you like doing first and if you are good at it and stay positive. Heck I even joke and go into the on-air talents hair and makeup studio and the only thing the girls ask me is if I want paper or plastic. I still don't think they believe I'm actually retired because I keep showing up!"
Day 3: Dinner With Charger Football Alum Jeff Hazell
Jeff shared his story with the students of how he build his career and business coming out of the Disney College Internship Program. How he started the largest New England seafood distributors in the state of Florida along with the legendary Boston Lobster Feast restaurants in Orlando and Kissimmee.
Day 4: NFL ProBowl Experience at Walt Disney World
NFL FLAG Championships, Player Practice & Flight Delays
USA FOOTBALL hosts the 25th NFL FLAG National Championships
Students attended the ProBowl Player practices were able to engage with players and get autographs. More importantly was for the students to see first hand how the NFL used this opportunity in a family friendly setting to open up access to everyone for free and provide added goodwill value to fans with over 40 hours of one on one consumer activation opportunities for partners.
Despite a slight panic from the students when the original flight got delayed for 12 hours because of TSA and air-traffic control shortages, we quickly changed planes and rerouted to Tampa for an earlier departure time, a quick bite and a great ending to a very busy and educational trip. Expect the unexpected, take a deep breath, be flexible, figure out solutions and change plans without panicking. This was the students final trip lesson.
Until Next Time...See ya real soon!
Learn how you and your class can participate in GameDay! Experiences programs click on button below.
It's getting harder to recruit, hire, train and retain talent. Running a business day to day and having your head in the weeds doesn't help leading and developing a sales team. How much time can you and are you willing to allocate?
Our time is the most valuable commodity we all value, especially in business.
With technology and the way we network and community changing daily, developing sales talent is becoming a much bigger challenge in today's market. So much of developing sales talent is based on spending time with them on sales calls and closing business face to face.
So much is learned and developed BEFORE a sales professional walks through the office door. Personal daily habits, consistency's, integrity and behavior all build the foundation for business professionals.
I built a workshop / course for young professionals on being a "Sales Pro" which goes beyond the blocking and tackling of prospecting, relationship building and closing. It focuses on the development of talent as an all around professional.
Areas of Focus:
If you manage a sales and marketing team, we offer individual and group rates and can customize the course subject for your industry and business development processes. We offer 1:1 mentoring with industry executives, live virtual classes or half day training programs.
We are not one of those Rah-Rah motivational sales training programs where every other word used is "Excited" and there is a bunch of uncomfortable fist pumping and fake cheering from the instructor who seems to spend most of the time giving their business "Hall of Fame" speech of things they did 30 years ago, which has no relevancy to a 20 year old "What's a cold call" world.
We believe in keeping it simple, informative, filled with practical advice, and real world experiences that are relevant to todays young professional culture from a mentoring and foundation building perspective.
We are all in the business of solutions and saving clients time. So what is your time worth?
Click below to learn more.
Over the past few years, I have connected with what seems like hundreds of "Soloprenuers", many of whom have been through the corporate shuffle or wanted a career change.
Funny thing is, I find the same challenge with all of them, we know that we should be utilizing the amazing resource of social media to help scale our brand and business, but how?
I had those same question several years ago and by trail and error, which I spent way too much time on the errors, I landed on the simple formula of giving rather than asking.
Giving value to what my followers thought was interesting, organically changed the engagement rather than focusing on the views . I stopped looking for followers and focused on giving more to those already following.
what is this value thing?
I created a value based theory that helps remind me of my core content development belief, which I call "Relationship Building Content" or R.B.C. I break it into the three areas that I know are important to my followers which hopefully will also resonate with you. I ask myself these three questions:
1) Does it help someones career?
2) Does it help someones business?
3) Will it inspire someone who is facing a challenge?
what is important to my followers?
Once I understand who my loyal followers are, I needed to understand what is important to them and what content makes them react either by an emotional reaction "Hey that happened to me too" inspirational reaction "Thanks, I needed that today" or educational "That's an interesting perspective".
My three categories of RBC:
1) Emotional (Stories That Show My Vulnerability)
2) Educational (Providing Facts & Real Life Experiences )
3) Inspirational (Stories of overcoming challenges)
I recently published a Digital Marketing On A Budget eBook which provides these practical tips, tools and resources available to help soloprenuers, startups, career seekers, freelancers, and professional grow their digital brand and business.
I guess you're wondering why I would give it away for free? Full disclosure, you ARE NOT required to give me an email, cell phone, or any personal information to receive this free eBook so this is not one of those lead generators or funnel. It's practicing what I am preaching with providing RBC and not expecting anything in return.
Consider this free eBook another tip of how you build an online reputation. When I provide value to you such as the above RBC tips and a free eBook and do it without asking for any information so I can blast you with emails everyday to sign up for a webinar, I am building a foundation of a relationship.
So to download for free with no strings attached, click "Free eBook" tab above.
I hope this information and ebook sparks new creative ideas and helps you grow your brand, business and become a social media rock star!
Ok I do ask one thing, If you found this information helpful, kindly share with others that you think it would bring value to as well. I would love to read and share comments of your success so please let us know your thoughts!
Best Wishes On Your Journey - Rob Thompson
Don't be that person all over LinkedIn for several months looking for a job and hounding people to help. Then once you find that job, we never hear from you again.
You stop posting, commenting and DM'ing and the kiss of career death is not replying to an email when it's time to cash in that favor chip. At some point you will be looking for a job again so don't ignore the people or platform that helped you along the way.
The point of LinkedIn is for you to build a network and relationships outside of your geographic circle so that you will never need a resume again. Don't be only a taker, be willing to keep investing in relationships no matter how high up you go and help out someone else who needs it as much as you did.
Your career will not be defined by how far you go, rather how far those you help go.
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
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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".