Last week, I talked about the importance of having the support of those closest to you personally if you’re going to make it in this business. Today, let’s talk about the next ring: your professional team.
When you’re starting out, it’s hard to find good help. At least, it has been for me. What’s more, depending on the nature of what you’re trying to do, you may or may not have people who are willing to buy into your vision. That’s been part of my problem until recently.
Here are some of the qualities I’ve found in the people who’ve been my best helpers/interns/assistants.
A sense of sacrifice: If you bring someone in as an intern, or a partner, or whatever, and it’s all about the money, it will never work. At least, not at the start. I moved heaven and earth early in the life of ITL to find students that would work for ‘experience.’ I found a couple that expressed early interest, but that quickly faded away. These days, when I meet someone that wants to work with me, I always give them my card, then tell them to call me. I make them make the first move. It always works. I never hear from them. They cut themselves.
Initiative: You have to give your people the chance to see what you do, why you do it and how you do it, then let them go. They have to be able to see a need and attack it without you having to tell them. When I was a plebe at Navy, they made us all memorize a story about a driven soldier who did without having to be told. The story was called ‘Message to Garcia.’ I can’t count the number of times an upperclassman screamed ‘Message to Garcia’ to us when we screwed up due to laziness or other inaction.
A remote location: I’m serious about this. It’s a real benefit as you seek out talented folks to help you. One of the battles I fight in Houston, Texas, is that everyone who is interested in working in sports (and who is skilled and able) gets something with one of the major sports franchises in town. That makes it tougher for me, but I’ve been fortunate to work with Rice University and have also crossed paths with some young folks who are exceptional. If you are in Fargo or Albuquerque, there’s far less competition for the people who want to succeed in football.
Work ethic: OK, this one is pretty obvious, but my three guys right now (Alex, D.J. and Kevin) are pretty whatever-it-takes kinds of guys. I’ve given them several projects this summer and they’ve done what it takes to hit the deadlines. That’s critical.
Loyalty: The best assistant I’ve ever had is my guy Murphy, who is not only a lights-out worker but incredibly loyal. He’s so loyal that he gets violently angry at people that are not exactly friends of ITL. That kind of passion is awesome, and pretty important. Speaking of passion . . . .
Passion: Anyone who’s going to work with you better be as excited about the work as you are. That passion will sustain them during the low points.
I’m certainly no expert on the subject, but this is what I’ve seen in my decade-plus trying to climb the football ladder. File this away someplace as you build your own team.