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Volume 22 No. 19
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Kevin Warren in his own words

LEARNING “THE COMMON TOUCH” FROM DICK VERMEIL:

“He had dinners at his house for the players. That’s where I really saw the common touch he had. He would invite five players and their families to his home. I would attend each one, and it struck me that he would serve the same meal at each one — prime rib, mixed green salad, green beans, some potatoes and a lot of wine.

“After about six weeks I said, ‘Coach, why do you serve the same meal?’ He goes, ‘Because I don’t want anyone to talk in the locker room about what we served and make someone feel that they got less of a meal. I want them to say that they ate the same thing.’ Be consistent. Be consistent. That’s what I learned from him. But we shared a laugh because I said, ‘Coach, if you’re going to do that, you’ve got to start cooking your meat, because everybody doesn’t eat their meat rare.’

“I learned a common touch from him. That’s why some of my most important meetings now are at our home. We can meet at a restaurant for dinner, and I don’t care how nice the restaurant is, but if I invite you to my home and you sit at my dining room table with the dogs, my kids and my wife, that tells you that you’re special. It elevates a relationship.

“I can’t bring you any closer than have you in my house.”

WHAT HE LEARNED FROM MIKE SLIVE:

“The importance of details, details, details and a work ethic I had never seen before. He was amazing.”

ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE GETTING INTO SPORTS:

“The process and the journey is always longer than you think. You may want to have the corner office and park in the premium spot, but it may take you 20 or 25 years. And don’t think that’s a negative. Just make sure you’re gathering as much knowledge and relationships as you possibly can along the way. 

“Spend the first 10 years of your career becoming excellent at your craft, then all of the other accoutrements will come. You have to work. Become excellent. If you become excellent at your craft, and you’re a good, decent person, who is physically, mentally and emotionally tough, you will have a brilliant career.” 

WHAT HE LOOKS FOR IN A HIRE:

“Work ethic. Are they physically and mentally tough? I could care less about someone’s grade point average, class rank or test scores. That means nothing to me. I look at people. Can they set goals? Do they have vision? Can they think really big, but then are they willing to just embrace the suck? You got to have an absolute grit. Grit is a word I love. You can spot grit, and that’s why in my interview process, people are going to be taxed. If someone comes in for an interview, it may last all day. I may, on purpose, not have breaks in there for food. I want to see if that person will say, ‘I got to get something to eat, can we take a break?’ These jobs are demanding. The journey is not going to be easy.”

ON HIS NEGOTIATING STYLE:

“Sports is truly a relationship business. So many people think that they can bully their way into success. You may get to a certain point, but in the long term, people do better deals with people they like. I don’t like doing business with people. I like doing relationships with people. If you focus on relationships and you care about that person, you’ll put yourself in that person’s shoes and say, ‘This person has a set of items and issues that they must take care of. So do I.’ From there, you can find the best way to create a win-win-win opportunity.”

DAILY OUTLOOK:

“What I learned from my accident is that saying you hear Navy Seals talk about — ‘Embrace the suck.’ Life is a journey. If you’re in an industry that we’re in, and if you’re really trying to deal with tough issues and create a legacy, the majority of your life is going to be mundane, tough and demanding. You’ve got to embrace it. You really have to.”