SBJ/June 26-July 2, 2017/Opinion

Advice for class of 2017 from the executive suite

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As we feature commencement advice from sports executives invited to campus, I asked a number of longtime sports executives I admire to place themselves on the dais on a sunny Sunday afternoon on a campus situated in anywhere, United States, and offer their words of wisdom to the Class of 2017.

“Let your path forward be powered by your passion. Don’t be distracted by money and power because they are only temporary. It is far more rewarding to have a positive impact on people’s lives — as that is everlasting.”
Jacqueline Parkes, executive vice president of marketing and creative,
VH1, MTV and Logo

“Do not try to map out your future in detail for the next 30 years, but focus on gaining valuable life experiences, building skills, and expanding relationships. If you do those things well, it will significantly increase the likelihood that great things will happen and new opportunities will naturally present themselves.”
Neil Glat, president, New York Jets

“Try and take as broad a view as possible on the entire ecosystem. There are so many opportunities beyond traditional choices like leagues, teams, networks, agencies, etc. So many companies exist and even start annually to service and disrupt the ecosystem and drive change within it — young people who do their homework and are aggressive are likely to find something that will fit their talents and help them grow their skills. This is the time to take chances. Everyone, especially young people, should have a really open view of how they can take their talents and what they love to do and apply those to a broad spectrum of companies. The world has changed so much in such a short time — there are verticals and industries that didn’t even exist 10 years ago, let alone a year ago. And, also, really importantly, your career does not have to follow a linear path — that what may seem like a sidestep at any given time could actually turn out to be something very powerful and gratifying. It just may not be obvious at the time.
Danielle Maged, executive vice president of global solutions, Fox Networks Group

“Understand that every first interaction you have with someone is a potential job interview. That job might be open now or it might be open in 10 years. Bring positivity, energy and passion to those interactions. It amazes me the number of people I meet who treat our first interaction like a therapy session. Continue to express positivity, energy and passion throughout every aspect of the interview process. The entry-level job market is as tight as I’ve ever seen it in my career, and if you come into interviews without high energy, then you’re telling me that you aren’t truly dedicated to pursuing your passion. We all get discouraged at times but it is so important to act as passionate and come with the same energy on your first job interview as you do on your 20th interview. No one wants to hire an Eeyore.”
Mike Boykin, CEO, Bespoke Sports & Entertainment

“Since childhood, it’s been mostly external factors that have defined you. Now you have grown and you’re ready to be your own person. People will still be telling you what to do, but it’s time to be the author of your own life. Making it in sports means hard work and long hours, often for low pay. Following your passion might be good long-term advice, but for now, focus on learning the day-to-day skills of success. Everyone has to earn their stripes, so stay humble, work long hours and realize that the learning curve in sports is never-ending. Most importantly, hone your communication skills — writing, speaking and in person. Be grammatically correct in emails and presentations and master the basics of good eye contact, a great handshake and a smile. As you begin to make your mark, details and first impressions matter more than you might know.”
Estee R. Portnoy, senior vice president, marketing, Jump.DC 

“My advice involves three words: Listen — not in the ‘I can repeat parts of what you just said verbatim so that I can discredit it’ sense, but rather in the ‘I am going to stop thinking about what I want to say next and actually listen to what it is that you are saying so that I can understand your point of view better’ sense. Hyperbole — if you don’t know exactly what it means, look it up. Understand it fully. And then DO NOT USE IT! Competition — in sports, it can be fantastically satisfying, even (maybe even especially) when you do it just for the sake of doing it. In life, on the other hand, make sure that you never lose sight of why you’re competing. Don’t compete just to compete when other people’s lives will be impacted.”
Bob Foose, executive director, MLS Players Union

“Pay more attention to people than your devices. You have grown up with a device in your hand and the keyboard has become your main source of communication with the outside world, but the ability to verbally communicate with people is an important differentiator when it comes to separating yourself from your peers. Walking around with your phone in front of your face obscures your view of the world. It hinders your ability to have conversations. It impedes the chance to learn about others and build relationships. The physical world is an amazing place and augmenting that reality with your phone isn’t improving reality, it’s literally blocking your view of it. Understand that an actual smile has more of an impact on another person than a smiley emoji. Laughing out loud is more important than HAHAing. Feeling emotions through shared experiences is more memorable than commenting “having all the feels” on someone’s Instagram feed. Calling “bullshit” on someone who deserves it will do far more to curb that behavior than texting cartoons of a bull and a pile of crap. Long-lasting, successful relationships are built in person through shared experiences, not through a device.”
Michele Kiernan, CEO, Coaches Tribune

“Today’s world is complicated. Everywhere you look there’s multiple screens, voices and messages coming at you in rapid succession — and it’s not slowing down. Don’t focus on the complexity, focus on the opportunity. I encourage you to figure out how technology can empower you, find the voices that inspire you and create a message of your own. Today’s world is full of possibilities, so be open-minded in your endeavors and present in your conversations. Above all, make sure you’re looking up so you can see what’s next.”
Rick Dudley, chairman and CEO, Octagon

“There are two main pieces of advice for young people who are starting out in their careers. First, if you say you’re going to do something, you must own it. There is nothing more important in business than your word, and when you volunteer to take something on — no matter how small it may seem at the time — you must follow through. Those who back up their words with action are the ones who will get ahead. Second, be willing to take on the toughest projects available to you as those are the times you can add the most value and get noticed for your work. Believe in yourself, don’t be afraid of risk, and remember that the biggest challenges are the opportunities for the greatest rewards.”
Andy Pierce, president and CEO, Lagardère Sports Americas

“Our lives are defined by the quality of our relationships. I have found that building and maintaining positive relationships can impact the level of success and satisfaction we achieve. In life and business, in order to get what we want, we should help others get what they want — by doing so, we lay the foundation of relationships. Parties who achieve mutually beneficial results in their interactions are more likely to appreciate each other and develop a meaningful relationship. From that relationship grows trust. And trust, grounded in a relationship, encourages new opportunities and can help overcome seemingly intractable obstacles when they arise. Relationships, in their own right, are a source of joy. In the words of the Turkish proverb: ‘No road is long with good company.’ So, get on that relationship road and travel a life of personal satisfaction and business success.”
Ron Shapiro, founder, Shapiro Negotiations Institute 

“Relax. It seems like every young person I talk to these days asks me the same question, which is some variation of; ‘How do I become a team president?’ Honestly, you are 21-22 years old; that is the wrong question! We have a whole generation of young people that are exceptionally bright, technologically savvy and well-meaning; but they have no experience in the real world yet. Slow down, worry about getting your foot in the door somewhere and embarking on a rewarding career (which almost by definition takes years to build); and enjoy the journey!”
Eric Woolworth, president of business operations, Miami Heat

“Always remember that ‘it is a small world and a long life.’ This mantra is a helpful reminder to treat people well, build relationships, develop your reputation and take a longer-term view about your decisions and actions. The deeper you go into your career, the more you appreciate that it isn’t just your recent history that matters but the full body of your life’s work that will determine your opportunity set and your ability to most effectively pursue those opportunities. Build a broad network of strong, trusted relationships and be known as someone that people eagerly want to collaborate with. Along the way, avoid the temptation of short-term wins that may hinder your long-term goals and trust your internal compass to keep you on your path to your true north.”
Mark Ein, investor, entrepreneur and chairman/co-owner, World TeamTennis

“Remember that the vast amount of knowledge you’ve accumulated during your studies, internships, and volunteer work is just the tip of an iceberg. When you start your career, it’s time not simply to apply your prodigious knowledge, but to use it as foundation for a learning process that will accelerate beyond your wildest imagination. Keep your eyes wide open, your ears to the ground, and jump in with both feet. Get your hands dirty, learn the ropes, and remember that nothing is beneath you. Use your voice more often to ask good questions than to showcase your training. And, if you find you’re not still learning, you’re probably not paying enough attention. Most of all, demonstrate insatiable drive, unflagging enthusiasm, genuine team spirit, and unquenchable intellectual curiosity so you can be the person your organization thinks of to do any job that doesn’t fit anyone else’s job description.”
Frank Supovitz, CEO, Fast Traffic Events and Entertainment 

“Always remember that this moment is not the end of your education. It is only the completion of a foundation for future growth. Achieving success in life requires a relentless work ethic and a passion to pursue excellence. But most important is a willingness to evolve. By evolving we gradually mature into our best self. If you resist change and stubbornly push away new ideas, you will eventually stop growing and everyone else will pass you by. By seeking to evolve, you will organically become better and more efficient at life. The world is changing and evolving each and every day. It’s important that you strive to do the same.”
Luc Robitaille, president, Los Angeles Kings

“When the Boy Scouts was founded in 1907 their apposite motto was — and still is — ‘Be prepared.’ These two words, simple as they are, is the best advice a graduate can receive in going forward to fashion a career. Be prepared for job interviews. Be prepared for career disappointments or difficulties at work. Be prepared to think big ideas. Be prepared to defend them. Be prepared for challenging assignments or tough colleagues. One is rarely the smartest person in the room but one can always be the most prepared.”
Seth Abraham, chairman, Starship SA

“Twenty years ago, analytics in sports wasn’t a thing. In fact, ‘Moneyball’ was published the year after I graduated from business school. So, as you look to the future, recognize that what you think you want to do today will likely change. Figuring out what you want to do isn’t linear, but curiosity is something you can control. So, be curious. Ask questions. Meet with people in person. Find people who are just a few years ahead of you and understand how they found their path … and, your friends are an incredible source of information.”
Jessica Gelman, CEO, Kraft Analytics Group

“Find your passion and pursue it as if you only have one life to live ... because the reality is you do only have one go around. Don’t worry about how much money you will make — your income will grow with your passion. When you are challenged with difficult decisions, especially those that may compromise your values, you will know the right decision in your heart of hearts. Trust your judgment and make the right decision. Build your relationships, both personally and professionally, because when you leave the workforce you take with you only your relationships, your experiences, and your integrity. Work hard every day to find a work/life balance. It’s easy to get consumed with both, but you will need to find balance to be truly happy.”
Matt Kauffman, vice president of consulting, The Montag Group

A lesson for every day of the month: 1) Choose job based upon your passion; 2) Give homeless people money; 3) Be elite; 4) Buy clothes that fit; 5) Call your parents every day; 6) Tell your significant other and kids you love them every day; 7) Be transparent; 8) Donate blood; 9) Exercise daily and eat healthy; 10) Fill your gas tank before it hits ¼ tank; 11) Get proper rest; 12) Ignore nay-sayers; 13) Keep a journal; 14) Keep your car clean; 15) Live on 20 percent of your gross income; 16) Never lend money; 17) Never drink and drive; 18) Never use recreational drugs; 19) Purchase comfortable shoes; 20) Pray every day; 21) Read newspapers daily; 22) Never co-sign on a loan; 23) Save at least 25 percent of gross income; 24) Stay away from tricky people; 25) Take vacations; 26) Take care of teeth; 27) Write thank-you notes; 28) Volunteer; 29) Tithe; 30) Work hard; 31) Read SBJ.
Kevin Warren, COO, Minnesota Vikings

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.


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