Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SO YOU WANT TO BE AN AGENT?

PART TWO:

Thank you for coming back. I hope Part 1 went into some detail about what it takes, and will take to start your career to becoming an agent. If you truly want to break into the business, here's my advice.

1)      Be realistic, in not only your goals, but your expectations. This includes the money you will spend, (a lot), and the money you will make (a little). The level of players you will sign, and the chance they have to make it to the NFL.

2)      Stay persistent. You will fail A LOT. You will get told NO, A LOT. And you will not get in touch with players, A LOT. But if you keep at it, eventually you may get a break.

3)      If you have a shot to get an internship take it. If you have a shot to actually work with an agent, that's even better. But keep trying; the main thing is to stand out. Bring something to the table that no other person will. Saying you are driven, is fine, but how many resumes have that statement on them?

4)      Be prepared for a lot of heartache and stress, stress, and more stress. Stress while recruiting. And even if you sign a guy, stress in keeping the guy. Not only happy with you, but out of the clutches of other agents. Stress with spending a ton of money, only to not have anything in return. The last one is especially big, especially if you are married. Ask any agent about their married life, and I guarantee they can tell you a lot of times they slept on the couch.

With that out of the way, I will move on.  Today I will answer some questions I received from some of my readers. (Thank you by the way)And also I will give you a couple of firsthand accounts from some agents that were nice enough to share their story with me.  Remember these are just answers/advice that I think will benefit you. And just like with my clients, I will keep it 100% real, so without further adieu, here goes part 2…

Greg , you speak a lot about unrealistic expectations. I hopefully will take my test this year. I plan on signing a couple of guys who may get drafted next year. With these guys, I don't plan on spending much money, am I being unrealistic?

To be honest with you. Yes. First off, refer to part one of the post. Remember, just to become certified as an agent you will come out of pocket at least $3000.00. That's the application test fee, NFLPA mandatory insurance, and hotel room for D.C. Add in the cost of travel to and from D.C., plus the state registration fee, depending on where you live, and you are actually looking closer to $4,000.00. If the guy is a borderline prospect like you said, then he may have expectations of going somewhere for training and the agent is expected to flip the bill. Almost all players get some form of pre draft training. So that could be another $5,000 to $12,000 per player. So in your plan and why you are recruiting these players, keep that in the back of mind. With the amount of money you spend in the first year on a prospect, versus the amount of money you stand to make, it's not really a wise business venture.

What advice would you give to those in their early twenties who want to break into this industry?

Being young is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It's an advantage because you are young, hungry, and have something to prove. Also, hopefully you are recruiting at a school where you graduated from and still know some players on the team that you may be close to. It's a disadvantage because you will have no experience, no contacts, and no way to show the guys that you will be able to handle the things they need. Also if you are in your early twenties, chances that you have $15,000 lying around are slim. I don't know your situation, yet the financial obligation is a major factor in getting started. Knowing which players to recruit is also a disadvantage. As I said before, you could use internet stories and sites, but when it comes down to it, knowing actual team scouts is an advantage.

What is the hardest part of recruiting?

This question can piggy back on the previous one. There is no one hard part of recruiting. The whole process is a constant headache and one that is not for the thin skinned.

1)      As stated before, you have to KNOW which players have a shot to play at the next level. The most experienced scouts and coaches don't get these right all the time, so imagine how hard it is for an agent outside the top 100.Yet almost every prospect thinks they are a high draft pick. It's up to the agent to give them their realistic chances.

2)      Other agents. This may be the hardest part of recruiting if I had to choose. Most agents; especially knew agents really have no idea just how many agents there actually are. You think you may have a bead on an under the radar guy, but if no other agents are on the player, then he is not an NFL prospect. If he is, you have to expect to be competing against at least 20 agents in an attempt to sign that player. And out of that group there's someone that has more notoriety, more clients, more experience, and more money. You are also recruiting against the player's friends, coaches, and parents who may already have an agent in mind.

3)      The player. Recruiting the player is an adventure within itself. You never know what he is thinking. And you believe really half of what he says. Last year I had 2 guys tell me on Monday they were signing with me. I tried to sign one that night, he asked me to wait until the morning. When I called in the morning, he informed me his mom advised him to go another direction. So I jumped in my car to start the 6 hour drive only to receive a text saying that he had also changed his mind. You can spend the whole year recruiting a guy and think you may have the best relationship, only to have him change his mind at the last minute.

4)      Travel. Deciding which players to target, then how much to speak with them without bugging them, yet enough to show you are interested. Then you have to plan on which games you need to attend, and how to mix meetings with their families into the mix. If you are only recruiting one or two guys, this isn't an issue, but you can see how if you were talking with a few, this could get time consuming.

5)      Finally, getting in touch with the player. How do you find their contact info, then contacting them without breaking any compliance rules the school, state, or NFLPA may have. Getting them to take your phone calls or emails, or agree to a face to face is another obstacle. Remember they are being called daily by agents, financial advisors, runners, marketing reps etc.

Greg, I understand how difficult it is to break into the business. And that most agents have most of the guys. I will take the test this summer hopefully, and my plan is to only recruited undrafted guys and guys who could get drafted. I think this Is this a solid plan because of less competition?

Yes, the reason is being a new agent these guys may be willing to speak with you and give you a meeting with them. However, you are a fool to think that you will have less competition. In some cases, you will have more competition. Only a handful of agents recruit first rounders because they have had the most success and a lot of agents don't have the name, resources, or confidence to compete. However, many agents think the same way that you do. They feel they have a chance with these guys as well. And there are more agents that don't have client and are trying to get one, and will be going after these guys just as hard as guys going after the first rounders.

Greg, you've mentioned on your tweets that not all guys are NFL guys. As an agent how do you decide who to target?

I have found the best resources are scouts from NFL teams. They have the knowledge of a guys strengths and weaknesses, and can give you a firsthand account of what their team thinks of a player. Being new, this may not be an option. Most scouts are over worked, under paid, and get a lot of calls and emails daily. They usually just disregard some agents attempts to speak to them. You meet these guys, by having a player they want. Then they seek you out, again with no players, this may be kind of difficult. You can also read up on mock drafts, and some of the numerous draft sites on the web. But if you take a look at these, you can see outside the top 100 or so, they differ greatly. My advice is talk to them, research them, and find one you trust. The most reliable resource though are your own two eyes. But even those can deceive you if you don't know what to look for. Again not all good college players, are NFL caliber.

Greg, I am marketing major, and would love to work with a sports agency. I don't see agents advertise much. Why and wouldn't this be a great idea?

Believe it or not, agents market themselves all the time. You may not see it. They are not going to take an ad out in the phone book, but its ever present. You don't see traditional marketing for one, because it may be a compliance violation. And two, if you advertise, and a player calls you, chances are that player is not an NFL prospect. All prospects get contacted by numerous agents. Rarely do the players contact the agent. Keep that in mind.  

If you had to tell one thing to a guy looking to become a sports agent, what would it be?

 I would say read both these posts and you will have your answer. But graduating college and becoming a sports agent just isn't a feasible path. The main thing is the money. If you are relying on income from your first year to sustain you, you may want to rethink your career choice because odds say you are being very unrealistic and na├»ve. So I guess I would say, get a job, save money, then have a great plan of action.

Greg, I know you say experience and an internship, and the basics are important. But you say they are hard to get. What is your advice for someone to gain these?

As I stated before just stay persistent. No one has ever achieved anything by giving up. So keep pushing, and hit up every agent you can. It may be beneficial to approach smaller agents that also have another career, like being a lawyer. They tend to offer the most internship opportunities because their practices take up a lot of their time. Yet there is a program out there that offers a class on sports management. The course is offered by Sports Management Worldwide, SMWW. It is an 8 week course that offers you the basics of contracts, and the fundamentals of a sports agent. The director is Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, and he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the course. Marcus Williams is the director of Football, and a NFLPA certified agent. During the course, they are available almost anytime, to offer advice, or just to answer questions. They also offer plenty of internships throughout the year.

So that does it for the question part of the blog post. If you have any other questions, please be free to email me at gllinton@gmail.com or tweet me @agentlinton… next up is a testimony from a few agent friends of mine on their start.

AGENT #1

I thought it would be about relationships. Year 1 we wanted to get our feet wet in our backyard and just talk to Gators we knew. I've only been at it one year but I sat down with or had at least 9 different Florida Gators on the phone who were shopping agents. 4 of them went with an agent who told them they would get drafted or get a team to sign them. EPIC FAIL on their parts. I still have never heard of the agents they chose but have their names. None remain in NFL and none were smart enough to prepare for UFL or CFL, all jobless. 4 of them went with agents like Segal, Rosenhaus, Bus Cook. Those kids are all off teams except for Marcus Gilbert. None remain in NFL and none were smart enough to prepare for UFL or CFL. The ninth told me he would sign with me but stuck with Bus Cook. He got signed by Saints but failed his physical and remains jobless, Carl Johnson. I have spent over $10k and and 3 and a half years preparation, 60 page business plan outlining every step and move we've ever made, countless hours budgeting. I have ZERO revenue to show for it (I dont charge my guys for arena because it's chump change). I do however have 5 extremely satisfied clients I have fought to find jobs and all 5 earned spots on arena teams that I set up workouts for and all 5 are in yr 2 and are lined up to get looks from bigger leagues if they continue to play at the same level as last year. I thought it would be easy since I know my CBA stuff better than most and have negotiated contracts.
I would recommend no law grad ever become an agent without going out into real world first unless they have negotiated millions in business transactions/deals. There is no glamour in the job.
All this being said I still expect yr 2, 2012, to be the first year I get my first NFL client.

AGENT #2

I have been an agent for 2 years without a guy on an NFL roster. In my third year I was able to sign two players. On these 2 players alone I spent over $12,000.00. One guy I was for sure would be drafted, the other I had hope he would be. The draft came and went, and neither guy heard their name called. After the lockout they did sign as UDFA. However neither made the final roster, or the practice squad. I am looking into other leagues, but I will not get the money back I spent this year. And I am now starting to recruit for next year. Hopefully, I have a little more experience this year this year in knowing what guys will actually be drafted, and I met some scouts so I should be able to get some good information from them as well.

AGENT #3

I've been an agent for some years, and I think each year that next year will be my year. I have had some success in the past, but I have yet to make a legitimate profit. I have had some low round draft picks and to some that would signal success. I had 2 players come up on their second contracts, but they both fired me before hand because another agent promised them he could get them more money. So not only did I lose them as clients, I also lost the money I would have received from their contracts. Which was what I was really counting on to further my business.

I do not want you to take these accounts as a deterrent, rather a real life account of some of the things you will encounter while you make the transition into the world of athlete management.

Thank you… until next time… Stay Classy America…

Monday, October 17, 2011

So you wanna be a Sports Agent…

PART 1…

So you want to be a sports agent? You saw Jerry McGuire, just like I did, and got inspired, just like I did, and thought to yourself, I WOULD LOVE to do that; just like I did. And just like a majority of aspiring sports agents out there, reality hits you in the face like a young Mike Tyson not only fighting to defend his title, but after you called him a very bad name right before the fight; Just like it did me.

Yesterday on twitter, a young man by the name of Edward Piontek asked NFL Business Analyst Andrew Brandt, "What advice would you give someone looking to become a sports agent?" Mr. Brandt's response was short, honest, and to the point. "Have thick skin and a thicker wallet". A Simple answer,  yet a very true one.

I apologize in advance for the length of this article. But a lot of the emails say that they have read articles, but not really understood the issues involved with becoming an agent. So I will try to break it down for you as thorough as I can.

 There are around 900 registered agents with the NFLPA. Less than half of these agents actually have a client on an NFL roster, and vast majorities (70% - 75%) of NFL Players are represented by less than 100 of those agents. Strictly based on these numbers, it doesn't take a statistical genius to realize that the business is very competitive, probably the most competitive in the U.S. And any agent would also tell you it is the most grimy, shady, arena to ever step foot in. A way to visualize what it's like to be an agent is simple. Think of a WWE Royal Rumble for the Championship Belt. You have 20 guys in the ring, all fighting each other for the ultimate prize. Some use their size to an advantage, others use their brains to outsmart their opponents, and others are just scrappy and will themselves to victory. Now all the wrestlers are different sizes, just like agents. But in reality, it would be hard for a small guy like Evan Bourne to throw Mark Henry over the top ropes. And that's just to speak with a guy.

The allure of being a sports agent is very appealing. But very few outside of the profession have any idea of what it's actually like to break in, stay in and be successful. Yet it doesn't stop over 200 agents adding to the ranks each year with caviar dreams. And just as many that bow out. I get hit up a lot through email, twitter, and even phone calls from "future" sports agents to offer advice on how to get their career started. So I asked some to email me their plan. I received over 27 emails, and the plans were identical in almost every aspect. After I explain the problem with some of their plans, I will answer some questions I received in part 2 of this blog.

The plans basically all said this to some degree. Graduate undergrad, go to law school or get secondary degree, get an internship, learn the business, network. Or after graduation become certified and start recruiting because they know really good players. To both of these, I say "Go for it", and don't stop until you achieve your goal. But you ask me for my experience, so I'll give it you. After graduation, I sent out over 40 resumes to different agents. I received 0 internship offers or interest back. As a matter of fact only maybe 5 even spoke with me. Looking back, I realized how this idea was in itself, to put it simply, not a good one. As I stated before, the profession of athlete management is a fiercely competitive one. Bringing on an intern, in itself, is basically creating more competition. You are teaching someone the way you do business, so they can eventually use what you taught them against you. I've heard people say sign a "no compete" agreement. I can see how this would work with current clients, but agents recruit all over the U.S., how can you not compete eventually? Secondly, an agent spends a lot of time and money traveling the country. To basically double your expense to basically train a guy how to do your job is not good business. Is this my personal feeling? No it is not, rather some feelings I received from other agents. In almost all the emails I received, the aspiring agents all seemed to say they are confident in their abilities, driven, and personable. These are great qualities to have if you would like to become a sports agent, however, if these attributes describe you to a T, how long do you plan to stay an intern. I've never heard of a sprinter who just wants to finish the race. You want the gold, so why would you do all the grunt work, just to see someone else constantly get the glory? And agents see this the same way as I stated before. Hard to train a guy in the way you do business, only to have that younger, more ambitious guy to do your business. Remember, the most important part of this whole thing is trust. And there is very little of it that goes around. Again, most agents don't have 100 clients, and the margin for error, the margin to maybe sign or not sign, and keep a player from other agents is so small, that agents prefer to handle every aspect of their careers themselves. Putting even the smallest amount in the hands of someone else could be a big mistake. I probably went a little over board on this, but it seems to be important because a lot of people think it's simple to get an internship in sports management. If your school doesn't have an intern program, be prepared for a real fight.

Probably the most famous line in the history of the biz is "Show Me The Moneyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy". And if you are planning to become an agent, you have to show a lot of people the money before you even get started. Before you even get a chance to negotiate a contract for a player, you have to get the player. To become a certified NFL contract advisor, you must first pass a test. The application fee and cost to take the test is $1,650.00. The test takes place in Washington D.C., in a two day event, so factor in cost to get to D.C. and hotel room, and let's just say that's an additional $600. Now, if you pass the test, you have to acquire NFLPA insurance so you shell out another $1200. Now you are ready to recruit players, and it only cost you around $3,450.00! Most agents stay local when they first start off to reduce cost of travel, a very smart idea. Let's say you live in Kentucky, and you want to recruit say KY and OH. To register with each state as an agent, you will look at an additional $700. Going to games, including traveling, tickets to games, food, and recruiting materials, it would not be out of the question to spend an additional $500 to $2000, depending on where you are recruiting. And this is just too have a chance to recruit a player. If you are able to sign a player, you are then responsible for training. For this example you work hard and you get a very good player to sign with you, and he is a projected draft pick, he would expect to be sent to one of many different training facilities. Just for arguments sake you get a great deal and only expend an additional $11,000 to cover training, travel, and any other request your client may need. And this is for a late round guy. Some say why would you spend this much on that player anyway? Simple; "If you don't, someone else will". And as far as getting the money for training back after they sign, they have to first get drafted and make a team, which isn't easy. And also most agents do not require repayment, so keep that in mind as your competition. So just assume that you will take a loss in the first few years that you are an agent. What if you get a first rounder you may ask? Well off top, the average for a first rounder is not 3% as many of you are led to believe, it's actually closer to 2%. Also, most first rounders are use to getting advances and marketing guarantees. So if you are lucky enough to get one of these guys you are looking to shell out well over 6 figures. I went into a little bit of detail in this section as well, because most aspiring agents do not have an idea of the financial obligations it takes to actually sign a player. And remember again, players want what other players are getting or have gotten. Maybe you can talk a player into training on campus, or not taking a per diem, but if their friend is getting it, they will expect it as well. And if they are a good enough player and have a legit shot, other agents will pounce on the player like a wounded gazelle in the middle of a lion pride. So you just spent all this money on college and grad school, to pursue a career where you will basically live in poverty? As an economics major, that's not that smart. So future agent, make sure you think about the financial part when doing your career path plan.

It's not just the financial part; another part is the actual scouting. You have to learn what to look for and trust your opinion. There are a lot of great college players who are not playing in the NFL. This is another downfall of new agents, knowing who to recruit. Most use various internet draft sites to go after players. And some of these are fairly accurate, but after the first 3 rounds, they differ tremendously. Just because a guy has 150 tackles, or 1000 yards receiving doesn't mean a team will draft him. The source if you really want to know, are the actual scouts and personnel of different teams. These guys for the most part do not like to be bothered, and are very selective who they talk to. Can you imagine if they answered the phone from every agent trying to sell a player? That's one of the reasons they rarely answer the phone now. You have to know that your guy is good enough, and even if you believe with all your being that he is, and he may be, does not mean it's a lock for him to be playing on Sundays.

Most plans are simple. I'll recruit a guy, and they will see how hard I am as a worker, and will sign with me. The problem is, they can't really see how hard you work, because to be honest you have never worked. When I first started I had two friends, one I would say was my best friend, that were seniors and we talked about the whole season how great of a job I would do if I were to represent them. I took it for granted and assumed I had them. Well after the season, let's just say, things didn't go the way I envisioned them. It was evident that even though I am their friends, and they trusted me, it's hard to say if they really believed in me. And their parents pretty much just told me to beat it. That was another lesson I quickly learned. You are dealing with their future, and even though you may know what to do, there are other guys who have been doing it for a while, and are talking to these guys as well. You have to find something to bring to the table that the other 900 agents don't bring. I can't tell you what that is, and I am not trying to discourage you, just giving you an idea of what you are up against. When you are starting out, you are dealing with the issue of raising capital, knowing how to recruit, knowing how to contact sell yourself and what you can do, and the most important part that seems to never be thought about, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO BEAT OUT THE OTHER GUY.

I hope this gives you a little bit of a background. But don't worry, THERE'S MORE! Come back for part 2 where I answer questions, and give examples of "My first year" from a few of my agent friends…

Greg "Tripp" Linton - @agentlinton