People interested in the agent business often ask me if they need to be a lawyer. I always tell them it’s a big bonus, but more importantly, you need to be smart about business and opportunity. That’s gotta be your first priority. I just got off the phone with Dave Schuman of Inspired Athletes, and he illustrates my point exactly.
Dave is the subject of today’s edition of our newsletter for people slated to take the NFL agent exam this summer (it’s free — register here), and he has a great story. Briefly, he played at Connecticut in the 90s, and after graduating, started a company called National Underclassmen Combines, which was aimed at high school athletes that wanted to get recruited for scholarships. After building it into a business on par with the Nike and Under Armour camps, he decided to get certified as an NFLPA contract advisor. His reason was not unlike many people who get into the business — he had been approached by many young men who needed trustworthy counsel and he wanted to provide it.
He didn’t think for a minute that he was unqualified because he didn’t have a license to practice law. In fact, he sees some disadvantages to having a legal background.
“I’m not a lawyer so I was never used to getting cases and having them handed to (me),” he said. Today, many attorneys with large firms “don’t have to go out and get (cases), and as an entrepreneur for so long, I’ve been in so many situations where things didn’t work out and I just had to think, ‘how can I make them work out?’
“I look at it like, where is the opportunity? Where do we fit, and how do we provide the service we want to do? We don’t have to be Drew Rosenhaus or Tom Condon. We can be very successful doing what we’re doing and growing by doing what we do well. We’re trying really hard not to get concerned with what other people do, but what makes us different and what we do well, and (finding) clients that think that’s something they want. You’re going to lose more battles than you win. You’re gonna lose 90 percent (of your battles), and you have to be OK with that.”
You might say, hey, Dave Schuman has access to lots of players I don’t have access to, and a lot of key relationships. That’s true, but here’s an interesting fact: none of the three active NFL clients he has in camps right now are NUC alumni. They all signed after Dave started relationships from scratch. That’s a really impressive year for a first-year contract advisor and his partner, Daniel Smith.
Actually, there are two lessons from Dave’s story. No. 1, you don’t have to be an attorney to be successful. You have to be entrepreneurial, and you must be able to recognize opportunities. No. 2, you have to be willing to fight and create a Plan B quickly if Plan A doesn’t work out.
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