Building a Team
Part two of a five-part series that examines the drivers of long-term financial success for professional athletes. Featuring the ideas and insights of veteran players and industry thought leaders.
At a Glance...
- A professional athlete is the CEO of the brand that bears his or her name. That’s why sports stars should turn to the strategies employed by the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and executives as a playbook for long-term success. In short, they need to think like a CEO.
- Building a high-performing team is the number-one priority for growth-oriented businesses, and it’s no different for the Athlete/CEO. Drawing from the proven team-building models of the corporate world and the entertainment industry, we’ve developed the MGO Model, tailored to the unique needs of Athlete/CEOs.
- The Business Manager is the Financial Quarterback of an Athlete/CEO’s team. He or she is responsible for the daily oversight of a client’s financial affairs. That includes tax planning and compliance, establishing budgets, paying the bills, managing cash flow, and advising on major financial decisions. The Athlete/CEO should carefully vet the qualifications of anyone serving in this critical role.
In the first installment of this series, we noted that the financial profile of a professional athlete more closely resembles a mid-sized, private company than a typical household. While the economics can be exceptional, an alarming number of players lack the support structure necessary to navigate the depth and complexity of their financial requirements.
A professional athlete is the CEO of the brand that bears his or her name. To ensure the long-term value of that brand, the Athlete/CEO needs to embrace that role and reimagine their future beyond the playing field. In this series, we examine the mindsets and practices of some of the world’s most effective business leaders as a model for navigating the unique challenges and opportunities facing professional athletes.
Building a Team
John Wooden said, “The main ingredient to stardom is the rest of the team.” This is just as true in the business world as it is in the world of professional sports. That’s why the world’s top CEOs make team-building their first priority. The way they approach that process serves as a valuable roadmap for Athlete/CEOs.
The Corporate Model
Most businesses share a common structural framework. While details may vary across different industries and global regions, the core elements of the Corporate Model (below) remain consistent. This framework identifies the primary business functions and areas of expertise critical to an organization’s success.
The Corporate Model has been successfully adapted to a wide variety of business categories, evolving as necessary to the unique needs of each organization’s operating environment. When working with athletes, perhaps the most relevant example is the entertainment industry.
The Hollywood Model
The Film & Television industry shares many of the traits of people working in professional sports. The quality of the product is determined largely by the quality of the talent in the spotlight – driving significant demand and high salaries for the best actors, directors, writers, etc. Over the years, Hollywood leaders recognized that many of the same principles of growth and financial governance in the corporate world apply to the financial lives of talent in Film & Television. This led to the evolution of what we call the Hollywood Model (shown below).
This model identifies the importance of each individual role in the Corporate Model, albeit by different names. For example, the Business Manager takes on the role of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), serving as the quarterback of the client’s financial affairs.
The Sports Model
Over the past several decades, the financial lives of professional athletes have grown increasingly complex. Salaries have grown significantly, as have endorsements, appearances, other sources of income, and the demands on each player’s time and attention. However, the average player’s support system has failed to evolve at the same pace. The model below shows how the support team of a typical athlete compares to Corporate Model.
While professional athletes understand the importance of experience, expertise, and teamwork, they often lack a clearly defined model for building their own teams off-the-field. The majority of highly publicized financial failures in professional sports stem from athletes who were either (a) missing key role players on their teams, or (b) trusting important roles to inexperienced or sometimes even unscrupulous acquaintances.
The MGO Model
At MGO, we’ve been fortunate to work with some of the most successful executives and entrepreneurs in the world – as well as many of the biggest names in Sports & Entertainment. As a result, we’ve come to know the traits and practices that drive success across industries.
The MGO Sports Model was developed to be a blueprint for Athlete/CEOs as they build their own teams. It identifies and defines the roles that are critical to success, while aligning the work of leading advisors under a common vision. While each role is important, we encourage clients to begin with the person who will serve as the quarterback of their daily financial lives; the CFO Business Manager.
The Financial Quarterback
In a recent article, Variety described the role of Business Managers in the Sports & Entertainment industry, stating, “Business Managers are the personal CFOs for celebrities, executives and athletes… They put their fortunes and their day-to-day lives in the hands of these trusted advisors.”
While each member of the Athlete/CEO’s team plays a vital role, the CFO/Business Manager is the person with the most tangible daily impact on a client’s financial life. He or she is the quarterback of the financial operation – responsible for hands-on, real-time execution of the financial plan. This includes establishing budgets paying the bills and monitoring the expenditures of anyone with access to the client’s accounts or credit cards.
Additionally, Business Managers serve as on-call financial advisors, working closely with clients on many of their most important financial decisions including family estates and trusts, tax planning, major purchases, potential investments, and charitable contributions.
High profile athletes are sometimes targets of investment scams and unwarranted requests for financial support. When these propositions come from friends, family and former acquaintances, a Business Manager can provide an important gatekeeper function. By establishing a recognized first point-of-contact for all financial requests, the majority of questionable requests can be filtered out before reaching the athlete.
Finally, the CFO/Business Manager works closely with the entire roundtable of advisors, ensuring that everyone is aligned and working together to implement a common strategy.
Selecting a CFO/Business Manager
Despite the critical role played by Business Managers in the financial lives of their clients, most states require no credentials to use the title Business Manager. As a result, there are people with little or no accounting experience using that title today.
Many of the highly publicized financial challenges in Sports & Entertainment have stemmed from unqualified and/or unethical advisors serving in the role of Business Manager for high profile clients. That’s why we suggest doing your own due diligence before hiring the quarterback of your financial team.