Tetsuya Minami changed his goal from obtaining two contracts a week to two contracts a day. As a result, he earned a world record for sales with his record-shattering insurance business. In this episode, Tetsuya talks with Rob Cornilles about how his aim in life insurance is to protect futures. Tetsuya wants to save as many people as possible. He believes it is his love for his people that gave him success. Join in the conversation to learn more about how Tetsuya, a former octopus restaurant owner, achieved record-breaking success.
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Tetsuya Minami | A World Record In Sales – Made In Japan
How A Former Octopus Restaurant Owner Turned His Love For People Into A Record-Shattering Insurance Business
This showis so pleased to take our audienceoverseas to meet our guest, someone who has made a name for himself in the Guinness World Book of Records.It’s my pleasure to introduce to you Tetsuya Minami from Tokyo, Japan. Thank you for being with us. It’s such a pleasure to have you and to know your story,which we could all learn about. Let’s begin with that story.We would love to know the specifics. How does someone end up in the Guinness World Book of Records in Sales?
First of all, I’m happy to be able to be on the Guinness Record for the Gibraltar Financial group. There are three important parts: for what, who and why do I do what I do? For what and for who would I do the things for the people around me? How can I make their life better and by thinking that I think there is success?
[bctt tweet=”By thinking about how you can make life better for those around you, you’re on your way to success. ” via=”no”]
When you set a world record for sales, did you know at that time that it was happening? Was that a goal of yours or did someone bring your attention to it after the fact?
I wasn’t thinking about the world record.I was thinking about doing my best for my clients and then we got it.
What were the actual numbers that qualified you for that distinction? I recognize that you focused on your clients and that was your focus and your charge. In the record book, what does it tell us about the record you set? What numbers are we talking about?
In The GibraltarLife Insurance Company, we have a sayingcalled, “Two a week,” but basically what it is, they said, “If you can get two contracts a week, you’re doing great.” I changed that to two aday,meaning get two contracts a day. I focused on getting that goal for the whole year. We have 365 days and I have two contracts a day, and the record is 732.5 signed contracts.
That is an amazing number.Congratulations,Minami-san.You said you worked very diligently.You worked very hard.That’s obviously unquestioned. There had to be something else inside of you that wanted to work that hard, to have that kind of success, to obtain that many clients. Where does that drive come from?Your success obviously is unquestionable and yet it had to take something more than just hard work because a lot of people work hard. What do you think really drove you to change the company’s expectation from two a week to two a day? Why would you want to do such a thing?
Our job as life insurance sales is we protect people’s futures. I wanted to save as many people as possible and that’s what made this goal.
While you were working at this pace, what did your supervisor or your boss have to say about your work? Were they telling you to slow down? Were they telling you to speed up or were they just leaving you alone?
Before I got into insurance, I owned a Takoyaki shop.We had a lot of customers who are happy. WhenI said I was going to close the shop,we had a lot of people who were sad for us. I had a warm feeling.If I was going to quit this Takoyaki store, I wanted to help more people through insurance. I was telling that vision to my supervisors as well and we were like a group. We said, “Let’s do it, let’s go have more.” They never said to slow down.They were on my team and we worked together for the goal.
You had over 760 accounts in one year,but you also had a half account. Can you explain what that means?
We have something called the joint.When someone asks you to come together, come along, and partner up to sell.If you sell together, then the contract becomes half.That’s how we got a 0.5 in there.
It’s teamwork. In America,if you are number one in a sales department, your colleagues either love you or despise you. They’re jealous.Sometimes they don’t want you to be that successful. Did you find that to be the case in your office or is the Japanese business culture different than in America?
There were some people who were jealous obviously, but the number was outrageous.It was unachievable. A lot of people were like, “I can’t do that but good for you.I’m cheering you on.”
I have lived in Japan. I used to speak Japanese fluently, but I’m not fluent anymore. There’s a word in Japanese, ganbatte, which has a very unique meaning to the Japanese people, the culture, and the language. Could you please explain in your words what ganbatte means especially when you’re working hard to accomplish a goal?
World Record: You need to proactively take leadership and proactively add energy.
The word,ganbatte, obviously you can say that to people. It’s easy to say,but I think it’s also a word that you say to yourself.It’s something that says,“I can do it.” After you say it to yourself, “I can do it,” that’s when you get to say to people, “You can do it as well.” The word ganbatteis something to motivate yourself and people who are motivated and people who are working towards their goals are the ones who can say ganbatte to others as well.
When you were working with colleagues who were not having anywhere near your success and they were perhaps getting depressed or discouraged and they were seeing you having this record–setting pace of success, what could you say to them that would still encourage them to ganbatte, to keep working hard?
It’s important that you start from yourself.At these moments, you need to be proactively taking leadership and adding energy. For example,in Japan, we have a culture of saying,“Ittekimasu,” when we‘re leaving the house, the office or wherever. People would say,“Ittekimasu,”but I would say, “Genkiittekimasu,” which means, I will go with energy. When people hear ittekimasu, they will usually say itterrashai.After I did this for a while, some people started saying,“Genki ni itterrashai,”meaning, go with energy. Some people started to copy me and said,“Genki ni ittekimasu.” Your influence spreads to others, it starts with you. You have to do your own thing and when people are struggling, you say, “Look at me, I’m doing my best. I’m working hard.You can do it.”
As you know in the United States,in North America, I train sales teams. I train them for sports teams and train them within corporations and small businesses. One of the principles that I teach is, to be successful, we must act successful and that means that customers and clients want to be around success. They don’t want to be around people that they perceive to be failing. Do you believe that principle is true? Were some of your clientsbuying from you because they knew that you were successful and that’s all they needed to know about you?
I understand that people like to be around successful people and obviously, success accelerates more success. It generates more success. There are three important parts in succeeding.First, you should believe that you can succeed. Second, when something bad happens, something negative happens, you change that to a plus. Change the negative into a strength or a positive. The third part is to have a set goal in mind and work towards that goal every day, little by little. You do this not for yourself.You do this for people. It’s not for me, but it’s for you. If you can do this for people and work diligently little by little every day, those people are the people who will succeed.
[bctt tweet=”Success accelerates more success. ” via=”no”]
That’s a sales game-changing piece of advice.Thank you very much for that.There’s some great insight there. I have to ask you, there had to be some days when, as we say in English, you weren’t feeling it. It wasn’t happening for you. How did you get out of those doldrums as we say? How did you lift yourself up or was every day for one year was perfect?
Obviously, there were hard days that you’re just not feeling it.The longer you live, the more negatives there’s going to be, but I can change the negatives into positive for myself. I do this every day.That’s why for me, I rarely have an off day.What I do is, first, at night,I ask myself,“What kind of learnings that I learned today? What kind of things did I learn today?” Second is, “How would I apply that to my life in the future?” Third is, “By when would I have applied that and made it something or have a shape for it in some way?”I do this feedback session with myself every day before I sleep. If you feel like you have to do this, it’s very hard. I love to drink sake every night. I connect this with something that I love to do, drinking every night. I connect it with the feedback. I do it together as a set and that’s how I am able to do it every day. I drink, do a feedback session with myself and go to bed every night.
That‘s a fascinating technique and a suggestion we can all learn from. I’m not much of a sake drinker, but I do appreciate the approach that you take. With all the distractions that each of us has in our jobs every day with the internet, our phones, email and things on television, how do you stay focused? Isn’t it more difficult now for professionals to stay focused on the job at hand? If that’s true for you, what kind of discipline did you have to use in order to put aside those things that would distract you and even friends and family that might distract you from your goal? How did you always stay focused?
A lot of people say their distractions are that they go home and watch TV and they just binge–watch, but for me, I don’t watch any TV. When I go home, I have the time to read books, to do feedback sessions. I have a goal. I have a weekly, monthlyand yearly goal. I do the math backward and ifit doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit in my schedule. For example, let’s say you have a goal to lose 10 kilos,which is around 23 pounds in a year.For that to happen, you need to lose 0.833 kilograms a month. If my schedule says that I won’t be able to lose 0.833 kilograms in a month, then that thing that’s going to stop me from doing that is not going to make it into my schedule.
There are patterns to how people act. We have three kinds of patterns. One is the things you want to do. Two is the things you can do and three is the things you have to do. People who can’t achieve goals are people who are not successful, usually prioritize these as things I want to do, things that I can do, and the things I have to do. People who are successful do the other way around. They start with things that I have to do, things I can do and things I want to do.
How they do these things that they want to do is, they create time for the things they want to do and this is the mindset that I have. I start with the things that I have to do.For me to be able to do this, if that’s going to distract me and not going to make me do what I have to do,then it’s not going to make my schedule. I believe I have that mindset and that’s how I was able to maintain and stay away from distractions.
World Record: Have a feedback session with yourself every day before you sleep.
Thank you for that explanation. Let me ask you generally, is there a point in someone’s life or in their career when they’ve set a goal, but they have to recognize at some that it’s not going to be achieved?Maybe they’re in the wrong profession. Maybe they shouldn’t be in sales or maybe they shouldn’t be in school or they ought to be doing something different and they had a dream,but they’re coming to the recognition that maybe they had to set their sights on something else. Is that a fair conclusion that people should come to at times in their life or is anything possible?
Let’s say, as he did with his hands, you start here and then you’re going to Point B and that’s your goal. A lot of people think that it’s a straight line. You go from Point A to Point B with a straight line, but the reality is that we’re human beings, whatever we do is not going to go as planned.It’s not always going to be good. We’ll have bumps.We’ll go up and down.At the down moment, if you think that you won’t be able to do it, the possibility of you achieving your goal will decrease. If someone can just go past a certain point and keep working through it at a certain point, their results will dramatically improve. The key is to be able to believe that even through the hard timesyou can do it. If you keep working hard, if you can keep believing that you can do it and you strongly desire your success, those people would work towards success.
I must ask you, are your mother and your father proud of you?
I believe that they are proud of me.
As I recall, your father started a factory and your mother worked in a barbershop. What did you learn from your parents as you were growing up about developing this type of mindset and this type of work ethic?
I learned a great deal from both of my parents. My father taught me that you only live once,you only have one life, and success is not being rich or it’s not being famous, it’s doing what you want to do until however many years you are. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself and live by asking yourself, “Why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for?” When I was an owner of a Takoyaki restaurant, my mother worked at a barbershop. She taught me that selling Takoyaki is not your job.Your job is to make the customers who come happy.
If you can go to whatever barbershop and everyone pretty much have similar skills, there’ll be some differences, but they can do pretty much similar things. The important thing as a barber is not to be able to cut hair well. It’s to provide that environment where people say,“I come here because I want to see you, or I come here because I want to be in the same environment as you.” That’s what my mom has taught me. I’m absolutely sure that I learned a great deal of these mindsets from my parents.
[bctt tweet=”The key is to be able to believe that even through the hard times, you can do it. ” via=”no”]
Someday,will you introduce me to your parents?
You talked about the Takoyaki shop that you started.For the audience that doesn’t understand what Takoyaki is in Japanese,can you please explain that to us?
Takoyaki is a Japanese soul food, from little kids to grandparents. If they have a small craving for food, you can eat it in one bite.We have a food called Okonomiyaki, which is great as well.Takoyaki, the great part of it is that you can enjoy the whole food, the whole flavor in one bite. It’s not something that you have to sit down and eat. You can walk and eat.As Japan has grown its economy, these foods started to rise where you can casually eat. Takoyaki is a food that can give you some relaxation and the feeling of safety in your heart.
You didn’t tell us what’s in Takoyakibut I know, I‘m not going to tell my readers. I want them to try it next time they go to Japan. You mentioned Okonomiyaki. I learned how to make an Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima. I like to treat my family to Okonomiyaki anytime we can. It’s probably not very good to you but we think it’s delicious when I make it.
You’ve been an owner of a Takoyaki shop.You’re a chef. You make something that the Japanese people love, a food that is a comfort food to them. Also, in your collegiate days, you were in cheer.You spent at least a couple of years, as I recall, being on the cheer team, which is a huge responsibility within the Japanese University. It’s not a position that they take lightly.There’s a lot of responsibility associated with that position.Those two jobs or roles that you’ve had, how do you think that prepared you for being so successful in sales?
I worked part–time for four years after I graduated high school to gather tuition fees for college. I went to university when I was 22 to 26 years old. After I graduated from university, I hitchhiked around Japan. Within five years, I decided I wanted to start my own restaurant. I did work at other restaurants and saved 98.9% of the money I made. I dranksomething called kinako. It’s some powder that you mix with milk. I saved around $100,000. I started a Takoyaki shop in a place called Koenji. I owned and ran it for nine years.
To think of why I wanted to do this, why I started doing this is in high school, I wasn’t able to go to the high school that I wanted to go to. That was the first time where I realized that I couldn’t live the story that I wrote. From that, in college, I decided I’m going to try something that I want to do even if it might be hard. That’s how I decided to go into cheerleading. When I went in, I first thought, “You can’t receive money. You can’t receive any trophies. How can people cheer people on for no motivation?”
We wear this black suit kind of clothing. We cheer people on, but then I realized that we weren’t able to cheer because of us. There were brass bands that were cheering whenever someone hit a base, or there were fans that were cheering on. That’s when I realized that we were able to cheer because other people were helping us cheer on. Through cheerleading, I realize that you have to start it. We initiated the cheerleading, even though we received a lot of help from others. That’s what I learned.
Another thing I learned is that if someone does something good for you, pass it on. If someone tells you something nice, pass it on to another person. If people keep doing that, that might come back to you. That’s where I learned that you should start it. With cheerleading, we start cheering, and everyone follows us. That’s where I learned that we have to initiate by ourselves. That translated into the Takoyaki store. In the Takoyaki store, I realized what I was doing was correct and I was able to translate that into sales.
Even though you and I speak different languages, the meaning of what you’re saying resonates with me. It’s a universal language. The principles that you’re teaching us about being a self-starter, having that can-do spirit, working hard. Anyone who’s reading this, regardless of their position, especially my younger audience members, I hope that they’re getting from you that it doesn’t matter where you start. There are things that you can learn in every position and every role that you play. There is no job that’s insignificant. Every job is a place where you can learn important principles and life lessons that will translate to the next job or the next position that you might explore.Minami-san, what is your favorite baseball team in Japan?
World Record: Success is not about being rich or being famous. It’s doing what you want to do for the rest of your life.
Rather than watching pro baseball, I watch more college baseball, so I don’t have a favorite team inthe pros. Rather than actually watching baseball, I go to see the cheerleading teams. The reason why I go watch them is because I see them shouting with all their hearts, with all they got and then I get a flashback of what I did. I said, “I did that as well.” I then compare myself and say, “Am I working as hard now? Am I doing my best now as well?” It’s a good reminder to keep working hard so that’s why I always go a few times to the baseball games to watch the cheerleading team.
Next time I’m in Japan, we have to go to a college baseball game together. Afterward, you can make me some of your famous Takoyaki and I will make you my famous okonomiyaki. I look forward to visiting with you again. This has been an enjoyable interview. I thank you for all of your experiences that you share with us and all of your wisdom.
I thank you so much for a great time as well. I hope that some of my experiences will translate into people’s courage and help them move forward. My life goal is to become happy.For that, I need to be with people who I love, eat great things and be successful in work. My purpose for my work is to make people happy. I was able to share a lot of experiences and I hope that it can help people become happy.
https://www.gamefaceinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/32GFEPsquare-1.jpg600600Rob Cornilleshttps://www.gamefaceinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Game-Face-Logo-Full-Color-300x86.pngRob Cornilles2021-05-12 15:00:232021-05-14 23:50:48Episode 32 | Tetsuya Minami | A World Record In Sales – Made In Japan
Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United FC has been recognized in the sports industry for building a brand that embodies unity. But when 2020 hit us all in the face, “unity” was probably the last word anyone would use to describe its home, Minneapolis. As the racial hotpot community broiled in unrest with the murder of George Floyd, the team was confronted with the challenge of stepping up as a catalyst for inclusion and unity. Add to that the impact of the pandemic on the sports industry as a whole, and you’ve got a formidable conundrum to face. Despite his rich experience in the industry, Chris Wright found his leadership being put to the test with all these tough nuts to crack. If you can see what the team has done and become throughout the months, however, you would see how uniquely qualified Chris is to lead his team to greatness despite everything. Listen in as he shares with Rob Cornilles how he puts his game face on as he leads the team to its goals.
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Chris Wright | A Unifier Under United
CEO, Minnesota United FC
What’s your legacy play? If you could be defined by one event, movement or accomplishment, what would it be? My guest is Chris Wright, a long-time Senior Executive in the NBA. He was given an opportunity few sports leaders are ever afforded, the chance to take an expansive franchise backed by great owners in the game he loves and turned it into his own legacy play. A man of great influence and persuasion here’s Chris Wright, CEO of one of Major League Soccer’s most admired and exciting new clubs, the Minnesota United.
I have with me our guest on the show, someone who I have admired for a long time in the sports industry. When I was thinking about who would be a real gentlemanly voice that I could bring to the conversation, Chris Wright came to my mind immediately. Chris Wright is the CEO of Minnesota United Football Club based in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and a long-time well-respected sports executive. Chris, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Rob. I admire the backdrop that you’ve created for this call. You’re all branded up. You’ve got a Ronaldo jersey going. It’s so good to see you after such a long time.
Thank you, Chris. I want to get right into something that’s on the minds of everybody, whether they’re into sports or not, the progression or the digression, depending on how you look at it, the sports industry has been historic. You had a multi-decade career in the sports industry. We’ll talk about that here. You have a unique perspective for a number of reasons. As a leader of an MLS club and a leader of one that’s fairly new inside the league, I’d like to get some idea from you on what it was like back in the Spring of 2020 when the virus started to spread around the country. We started to take immediate precautions and your season, which had launched, was pulled out from under you. What were those conversations like with the league, with your fellow franchises, and also with your team, your staff?
To set a context for you, Rob, we opened the 2020 MLS season on the road. We played two games. We played one in your old city, Portland. We had the second game in San Jose, where we played the Quakes there on a Saturday night. We landed on a Thursday. Immediately when we landed, we heard that the San Jose Sharks versus Minnesota Wild game ironically was in jeopardy for Friday night because this thing called COVID-19 found its way to the San Jose San Francisco market. It had become a hotspot. We quickly began to work with not only the Quakes but also the Wild, the Sharks, and the city government in San Jose to begin to understand whether or not that game was even going to be played or not. The mayor had walked to a podium and said they were going to shut down all major gatherings inside of the market.
In the end, the Wild game got played. Our game got played on Saturday night. We got on a plane and came back. We were celebrating starting the season off 2-0. We’d arranged a meeting for our players with all of our owners in a hospitality area of a building in Downtown Saint Paul. We had an incredible night that night celebrating our fourth season and the incredible stop that we had made. Three days later, we were told to shut it down by our league, by our city, county, and state officials. We pulled an all-staff meeting together. Back then, you will not socially distance. You weren’t wearing masks. You had no idea of the protocols that were going to be put in place quickly. We gathered everybody in a room inside of our office and we said, “Starting tomorrow, you’ll be working from home. Here’s the IT department. Whatever you need, please go to them. We’ll begin to work through that process with you.”
As quickly as we were euphoric about our start of the season, three days later, we were shutting everything down, our training facility, our offices, our stadium because we did not know anywhere near the knowledge that we have now about how COVID spreads. One of the first things that we had to do was decide the cadence of meetings that we were then to have with all of our 120 employees and our players. We have to give them all of the information that they needed to be educated about what was going on, not only in the Twin Cities but around our league, relative to the pandemic. The precautions that they needed to make, testing protocols were starting to be developed at that point. It got complicated quickly because we never knew. We didn’t know when we were going to play.
[bctt tweet=”The art of engaging in dialogue and finding a middle ground has been lost to a great degree in our country. We need to address this chasm.” username=””]
Two months later, the MLS established a bubble in Orlando. Even as we went into the bubble to start off our season, we never knew whether or not we would be coming home to try and finish out our season. You can imagine all of the things that an organization has to go through to be able to manage those circumstances. Here we are, getting ready for our fifth season. On April 17th or whenever we played, we still don’t know whether or not there will be fans inside of our stadium cheering our team on.
The Minnesota United had a fantastic opening in 2018, 2019. In fact, ESPN gave you quite an award. Can you share with us that award? You had great momentum going before this. I don’t want to say it derailed your momentum but it certainly didn’t make it easier for you to continue the momentum you’d been building up. What was that award that ESPN gave your franchise?
We worked very hard, to open Allianz Field, our brand new $250 million, 20,000-seat purpose-built soccer stadium. We worked very hard to launch it in what I consider to be the right way. We had a tremendous number of events leading up to the opening of the stadium in 2019. We went into every space and brought all of our clients into every space and create an event for everybody all through the stadium to be able to look at their experience, feel their experience before we even played a game inside the stadium. That’s difficult in Minnesota because we get snow and yet, we created some remarkable events. The baptism of the stadium was wonderful. We worked very hard on our overall game-day experience.
Our supporter section is called Wonderwall. When we win games, 20,000 people inside of our stadium will sing the Oasis song, Wonderwall. That’s a big tradition inside of our stadium. We have multiple traditions that people resonated around that are truly Minnesotan. ESPN does a survey analysis every year and we were fortunate enough to win The Best Stadium Experience in the MLS of 2019 as we opened the stadium. That comes with people working hard but listening to your consumer, listening to your fan base, the stakeholders of every area, delivering on an experience that you know that they want, for the investment that they’re making inside of your club. We were fortunate enough also to have a winning team that year. We went to the playoffs for the first time. That all built towards this incredible crescendo at the end of the season when we played against the LA Galaxy and Ibrahimovic, which ended up being one of his last games inside of our league. Unfortunately, we lost that game but it set the tone for our franchise and the expectation and the vision for where we wanted to take this club longer-term.
We talk a little bit about the pandemic and how that created an instant pivot for you and your sister clubs around the league and in sports in general but something else happened in 2020 specific to your market. As everyone knows, back in the summer of 2020, riots broke out in Minneapolis because of the situation that happened there. We were talking about a market, the Twin Cities, that not only has the pandemic but also became the epicenter for social and civil unrest. You have been a long-time resident of the area. You’ve been in that community for a long time. I want to know from a perspective of a resident and one who makes his living downtown, what was going through your mind and your heart when you saw these events unfold?
As an individual club aside, I was devastated, number one, that there was another loss of life at the hands of the police. Societal racism, systemic racism does exist in our society. I felt awful that this was happening 11 miles away from where I live. It was about 11 miles from our stadium and 11 miles from where I myself have a home where I’ve raised our three kids. As much as I deplore what happened to George Floyd and many others before him and some since him, it was a massive wake-up call for me as an individual. With my family, it opened up an incredible dialogue with my kids, with my circle of friends, certainly inside of our club, certainly inside of our play circles.
Minnesota United FC: What made the MUFC win the best stadium experience distinction was its commitment to listening to its fan base.
In the end, you hope that the tragic loss of life leads to some level of deeper understanding and thinking about what is going on inside of this country. At times, the country is divisive and there are extremes. The middle ground where people, for me, are able to engage in dialogue, be accepting of dialogue, and be accepting of opinion that might be contrary or different to yours. The art of that to a degree, has been lost in certain areas of our country. I’ve endeavored as an individual. I’ve endeavored with my family, my circle of friends, and our club to begin to address it in a meaningful way. I’m not saying that we never addressed it in the past but what is it specifically that we can do as human beings to try to bridge this chasm?
In this particular case, it does speak to the African-Americans and the black people who live inside of our country, our neighbors, our friends, and our players. For me, it also goes deeper, regardless of race, religion, and lifestyle. Are we inclusive? Do we provide an inclusive environment for everyone? How do we open ourselves up to think about it in that way? It was devastating because it was in our backyard. It had incredible ramifications to us as a club and as a team and to our location in the Midwest.
I have to assume that because it originated in your market, that as one who runs a sports franchise within that market, where you are inviting tens of thousands of people to come to enjoy an experience together, both as families and as companies, that it gives you certain challenges and opportunities when you do reopen. Those people are able to come back maybe in part or in whole. Give us some insight as to what your franchise is doing and how you’re leading this effort to prepare for that eventuality in light of everything that’s gone on since then.
I’ll give you the top line for me inside of our club. There were a number of different things. We have nine black players on our roster. They came together as a group. They approached me and said, “Chris, we want regular meetings with you because we want to understand, number one, what is your philosophy and what is the club’s philosophy. Also, what are the action items, and what are the things that we can build out together that can eradicate racism inside of our club, our market, throughout the nation? What is going to be our role?” They helped us identify a number of different things that we weren’t doing that we should have been doing. I give them all of the credit in the world because they worked very hard on educating us about what it was like to be in their shoes. I don’t think any of us who are Caucasians have a real deep understanding of what African-Americans and black people inside of our country go through on a day-to-day basis.
One of the things that we did that was unique but I’m not sure that many of the teams did around the country. Most teams came out with a DEI statement, “This is who we are. This is what we believe in.” We said that we want to be authentic about whatever we do and whatever we say. We want this to be meaningful. We want people to understand why we’re doing it this way. For about a two-month period of time, immediately after the George Floyd murder, what we did was we gave all of our social media channels over to our players.
Whether that’s Twitter, whether that’s Facebook, whether that’s Instagram, whether it’s articles on our own digital space, our website. We said, “We want you to help us with and control the content from a messaging standpoint.” Honestly, they so appreciated that. It came from a point of view of, “I’m not qualified to talk about what you’re going through as a human being, as an individual with your families, with your circle of friends. I can’t talk about your history. I can’t talk about things that have happened to you in your life that would be great examples of systemic racism in that particular situation. You can tell that story.”
We have some young Black players on our roster who were incredibly well-educated, beautifully articulate, that wrote some editorials for people to read that would make you cry. It would make you have tears rolling down your face. We became good listeners to them. Everybody in our market, in the end, said, “This is different.” It’s not just a statement from the team. It’s allowing the members who have been impacted by racism inside of that club. Let them be the voice. Even with Black History Month, that same group of people providing the majority of the content for us to go out and celebrate Black History Month. There are many other examples that I could bring but that is the most meaningful example of the way that we have looked at it, treated it, and try to be authentic around the issues that exist inside of that world.
[bctt tweet=”As a symbol of unity, the stadium offers a big opportunity to celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity.” username=””]
Chris, what you described is something that you’re doing internally as a club to create a culture that is full of openness and transparency. I appreciate that example that you shared with us. As we consider the fan experience, which you’ve been awarded for and you’re noted for throughout the league and throughout sports, there are some very unusual challenges coming your way because of safety concerns related to the pandemic and distancing but also safety concerns perhaps to go into a downtown location. I don’t know if that’s true in your case but can you speak to that a little bit about some of the plans that are being put into place for Allianz Field? I know that you can’t share everything with us. I know it’s constantly changing but any insight you can give us so far?
What I try to do is lean into philosophically where we are as a club on all of the above. I’ll give you a couple of examples relative to racism, the treatment of racism, and how we can utilize our stadium as an opportunity for healing, inclusivity, diversity. When I first got to the club, you know that I’m an avid reader and I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek. I’ll read anything that this guy puts out. I listen to his podcasts. I’ve always been a big believer in his book Start with Why. “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” What I did when I first got to the club, I put about 72 people through a two-day workshop. The Brave New Workshop, John Sweeney, a comedian, helped us with it. It was a fascinating opportunity for us to all get on the same page relative to this one question. What are our clubs? Why? What is our purpose?
We’re a soccer team. We’re going to build a stadium but truly, what is it all about? One of the things that people fail to understand about the Minneapolis marketplace is that there are 251 languages that are spoken here. If there were 251 languages spoken and dialects inside of our market, that means that all of those good people came from somewhere, whether you’re 1st, 2nd, 3rd generation. You arrive from somewhere around the world and you landed in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. You made this place your home. All of those people have a history in our game, in the beautiful game, the great game, the world’s game. We came out of that meeting with a why that was through the world’s game, through the beautiful game. “Let’s inspire and unite, our community of 251 languages. How do we make Allianz Field that? Wherever they come from, whoever they are, they are welcomed, they’re embraced, they’re part of our family, they are fans of our club?”
Our staff reflects those 251 languages. Our part-time staff reflects those 251 languages. Our food and beverage opportunities inside of our stadium reflect those 251 languages. When people come into Allianz Field, it becomes this place where they’re going home, they’re coming together, being inspired, and uniting them around our brand. That has resonated in our community in the biggest of voice. When you walk into our stadium and you see all of the different ethnicities from people all over the world inside of our stadium, it is remarkable. I honestly believe that although the George Floyd situation is a massive setback. We as a club, because of our why, our purpose, and the core values that back all of that up, we’re in a great place to bring those people back and say, “We care about everybody. I don’t care where you’re from, about your religion and your lifestyle. I care about you as a human being and as an individual. We want you to come back and support your team.” That’s one thing.
COVID, on the other hand, is interesting because we have not hosted one supporter for an entire season having sold out Allianz Field 20,000 people in 2019. Imagine our staff who basically won that award with ESPN hosted 22,000 people for nineteen games and hosted a whole season on the back end of that with not one fan inside of the stadium. I think that there will be some resistance in certain states where you have not been able to open your doors and welcome people back. There will be some resistance to fans returning to games. The great thing about us is that we know that it will be a ramp-up. We might be able to host 2,500 people initially when we opened our season all the way, hopefully to a false stadium by the end of 2021. We have 15,500 season ticket holders and we have 5,000 people on a waitlist to become season ticket holders.
Inside of those season ticket holders, there’ll be 2,500 of them who will want to come to games that will live in that world and will be open to masking up, socially distance, and want to be part of an Allianz Field experience. If for whatever reason, there are not, then we will go back to our group sales leads. We will go back single-game buyers. We will go down the channels that you have worked in all of your life to see whether or not we can get to capacity based on whatever the guidelines that the governor gives us are.
My audience, Chris, need to understand that this is someone who’s speaking and you don’t speak off the cuff. You’re a strategic thinker. You plan well. On top of your smarts, you also have a tremendous amount of experience and history in that market. You and I first met many years ago when you were the President of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Lynx Organization, the NBA, WNBA franchises. You were in the NBA for 25-plus years. Many people associated with the NBA thought you’d never leave. Not because anyone was pushing you out or wanted you to leave but because you were becoming an institution. This is for people who are maybe new to the sports industry or aren’t in the sports industry at all, historically, the Minnesota Timberwolves in particular, when they began in the ’80s, began to produce talent out of the front office, out of the business office that was spreading throughout sports and making a tremendous positive impact throughout the industry.
You were right there in the center of it all. You were training. You were mentoring. You were identifying good talent. You and I could talk about names that came out of your system and the system that you helped build. Could you help my audience understand why would you leave such a great environment, such a comfortable situation with the Timberwolves? You have a wonderful relationship with the owner of the Timberwolves and the Lynx, Glen Taylor. Why would you leave that to go start up an expansion franchise across town?
It is a good story because I started off in the beautiful game. I played a little bit in England. I got injured and I coached over there. I came to the United States and work for Edward J. DeBartolo who owned the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Penguins and he bought a soccer team. He needed a general manager. I was the guy that he chose. He gave me a PhD in running a professional sports organization. From there, I moved to Minnesota to work for Joe Robbie, another NFL owner who owned the Miami Dolphins. I worked for him and then closed the Minnesota Strikers down. I did work for Rudy Perpich, the Governor of the State of Minnesota, for a little bit. We built something called the National Sports Center up in Blaine, Minnesota but the NBA expanded to the Twin Cities.
A good friend of mine coming out of soccer, Tim Leiweke got the job as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He said, “Wright, Come on down.” Ironically, I was on a Zoom call with him and we’re telling a lot of the stories from the early days. You’re right. The names that came out of that franchise were incredible. In 1995, the franchise almost moved to New Orleans. A white knight on a big white horse called Glen Taylor rode in from Mankato, Minnesota, and took the franchise away from Bob Arum, the boxing promoter who was trying to buy it and move it down to New Orleans. Twelve years in with Glen, he made me the president of the team. I was the president for the last twelve years that I was there. Along the way, I try to encourage him to look at other investments in different sports teams and try to do what a lot of professional franchises have done, which has grown their stable of different operations.
There are so many synergies that evolve when you’ve got multiple properties. I tried often to encourage Glen to get into European soccer, where I’ve got a background and I know a little bit about what is going on over there. Years ago, a group led by Dr. Bill McGuire wanted to apply for the expansion rights for Minneapolis. They went up against the Wilfs, the family who own the Vikings to see who would get the rights. Glen said, “Go and meet with Bill. Let’s see if you can get me as part of that group. Let me be one of the investors in that group. You’ve always wanted to be in the game. Now, you can look after my investment in the game.” I did. I met with Bill and in the end became part of a group that put together the presentation to Don Garber and the expansion committee inside of the MLS. We won the rights to bring the franchise here. I went back to my day job, which was running the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Lynx.
As we went down a path with Bill, it was obvious that there were only a couple of real opportunities that franchises have to establish themselves in markets and gather a share of voice in a very cluttered market. We’re the fifteenth largest marketplace in the country. We have all of the different professional sports leagues here. We have Minor League Baseball here. We have a Division One university in downtown Minneapolis. We’re a destination for all of the major events that happen around our country. It’s very competitive. The ownership felt that as we started to go down a path of securing the site for Allianz Field, they wanted somebody experienced to run the franchise, build a team, build the business, and then build the stadium.
Glen said, “Chris, this is an opportunity for you to return to your roots, the game that you love, the game that you’re passionate about. What an incredible legacy play this could be for you.” I met with Bill McGuire. I met with the Pohlad family, who were also big investors in Minnesota United. In the end, I decided to accept the role of first CEO of the team. I work day-to-day with the Pohlad family, with Glen Taylor, with Bill McGuire, and this incredible group of owners that have been put together that have vested in the MLS inside of our market.
[bctt tweet=”Never lose sight of exemplary fan experience.” username=””]
Now that you’re in MLS, you’ve been in it for a few years and you’ve got your hands dirty, so to speak, what have you learned in the MLS that has surprised you? Do you think that this is something that maybe your former league, the NBA or the NFL, because you have relationships there as well, that perhaps they could learn from the Major League Soccer experience? Is there anything that comes to mind?
The incredible thing about the MLS is that it just celebrated its anniversary. Think about the longevity of all of the other leagues on where they were at after many years as compared to this incredible beast of a league that is building purpose-built stadiums everywhere. The crafts are trying to figure one out in Boston. New York City Football Club trying to figure one out in New York, as well as all of the expansion teams of Nashville, Austin, St. Louis, the potential of Sacramento, Cincinnati, ourselves, all building purpose-built soccer stadiums. The development of the stadiums, generally speaking, the land around it is providing incredible opportunities for this to go again.
When you think about the World Cup coming back here in 2026, it’s going to be another incredible opportunity for to grow the game dramatically. Sometimes I don’t think in other leads you’ve got these major tent pole events that come in that are out at your control to a degree that are going to elevate the awareness perception following of the game. I’m not sure that those exist. People might say, “Super Bowl do that or the NBA Championships do that.” We also have our championships that are relatable to those big events inside of those other leagues. I would say that also from a participation standpoint, the MLS franchises, everybody that I talked to in our league is vested in growing the game. They’re all vested in young players, male and female. They have the growth of the game at heart.
Not always do you necessarily see that in all leagues. The NBA did. The amount of opportunity resources that you pour into the development of the game itself and the young lives that are looking for a sport to be able to play is remarkable. With the advent of all of these young American players being farmed by your top European teams and playing over there. Watch out when we play Christian Pulisic, Reyna, everybody else’s desks, and all of the young talent that is on Greg Bird holder’s team and squad, watch out if they make some noise in the World Cup. There were some amazing things happening inside of our game that I don’t necessarily believe are happening in a lot of the other professional sports in the United States.
You mentioned that the MLS just celebrated its anniversary. Not to put myself in that same class, but so did my business. The reason I say that is that in our first or second year of business, we were invited by Major League Soccer when it was twelve franchises who work with those initial twelve and building their sales operations. Mark Abbott, one of the founders of the league, as far as writing the original business plan, now the President of Major League Soccer, not the commissioner. He called us the official sales coach of Major League Soccer. We held that role for about three years as an advisor, a consultant trainer to the league. Now it’s at 27 franchises with three on the horizon. It’s a couple of short of all the other major leagues. That growth you spoke of is real and impressive.
When I think back to those original owners, the Anschutz, the Hunt family, I think about their vision for this sport and their commitment that come hell or high water, they were going to make this thing work. It wasn’t going to be the old NASL. It was going to be Major League Soccer. What a testament to their vision, to their commitment, to their resources, and all of the people around them, including as you mentioned, Don Garber, the Commissioner and the fantastic job he’s done. I have to ask you. Let’s come back a little bit to reality after all of those accolades. All of sports are suffering and that we don’t have any attendance going on largely speaking because of the pandemic. Television ratings have been going down pretty dramatically in sports. The Super Bowl, had about a fifteen-year low in viewership. Chris Wright, as seasoned as you are, what is your prescription to draw people’s attention back to sports, not only in buying tickets but also sitting in front of the television watching like they used to?
Minnesota United FC: The biggest challenge for MLS right now is how to come out of its complete reliance on local market revenue.
I don’t know that there’s a silver bullet, Rob, because you’ve got to do an awful lot of different things right. We talked a little bit about purpose, our why. That’s got to be right. That’s going to wonder pin everything that you do. You’ve got to believe in that. When our fans and supporters do come back into our stadium, the fan experience has got to be exemplary. We can never ever lose sight of that. Going forward, it’s also going to be a safe environment. You’ve got to figure out a way to make all of your facilities safe. There is science and different studies that have been done around large outdoor events. Fortunately, we have an outdoor stadium. I was reading a report where it’s almost 1,000 different outdoor events since the pandemic struck us. There’s only one that can be deemed a super spreader event. This particular study was aware of all found.
We’ve got to educate our fans that the environments that we’re going to create for them are going to be safe. You’ve got a chance. You’ve got to make sure that your product on the field of play is exemplary. We don’t have the millions of dollars of some of the other leagues to be able to spend on players. It’s important that you have systems in place that allow you to target identify and procure talent that is additive to the way you want to play. I think that the MLS style is growing. It’s getting much younger. It’s getting more creative. It’s getting more skillful and technical and the product in the end has got to lead. On the social and digital media side, the content that you allow your fans access to, behind the scenes access, the storytelling, the background of players. We have some incredible players from South America. People understood where they came from and how soccer became their way out. It’s compelling content storytelling around our players particularly.
I would say that the biggest challenge for our league is to find the balance between revenues that are generated by the league and local market revenues. We’re completely reliant on local market revenue. In 2020, which was devastating, your reliance on those 20,000 people coming to Allianz Field. If you have a season where zero fans come in, you get zero revenue. We’re in a fortunate place to have 74 corporate partners. We saved around 60% of the resources inside of those deals by coming up with unique activations. Some of it is community-based, social media-based, around our games that were all televised, and some of the assets that we were able to control around all of the television games. We’ve got to grow that support as well with our local partners.
The league is looking at different revenue streams out of television agreements that are up in 2022. It will be interesting to see by then where the rights fees go. We do about $19 million a year on an annual basis into our league, which is then distributed down into the teams. It’ll be interesting to see where that goes, given cord cutters, given the diversification of what people are claiming the content, where they’re going for content. It’ll be interesting to see where that bar that needs to be moved upwards goes in 2023.
My readers appreciate this insight you’re giving us into the mind of a sports executive. Thank you for that. In the few remaining moments that we’ve got, I’d like to ask you about more Chris Wright, just the person. I want to go back to your sports roots. You and I both know you were a keeper in soccer. I don’t know if you’re a great keeper but I got to think you were. I like to have this conversation with students. If you were to pick one position in sports and turn that person into an executive after they retired from the game, with the characteristics inherent with that position, what position is most likely become an effective executive? I want to ask you, is it a keeper or you have a different idea?
If I think of what Tom Brady has done with his career as a quarterback in the team, the only problem that I have with the analogy that you’re trying to have me make is that Tom Brady is only on the field half the time. He’s controlling the entire game. A lot of people would argue that he is. At the same time, the defense is on for half the time but the quarterback sees it all. He’s got to make a lot of tough decisions. He might call a play but he’s got to be nimble. There are things that open up in front of him that he’s got to take advantage of rather than pull his arm back and make the play that was prescribed at that particular moment in the game. He’s also going to be able to work in the pocket.
Outside of the pocket, he’s got to be able to run. He’s got to be able to sprint. He’s got to be mobile. He’s got to be nimble. He’s got to have one heck of an arm that executes all of the different strategies that are put in place for his organization. Of all of the positions that I see in sports that I think would make a great executive when you think of the traits, the skills, the techniques, and the execution of all of those, a quarterback in football is where I would go.
[bctt tweet=”Life is much easier when you’re on the same page with your loved one.” username=””]
You were half a homer, you said football, but we all have to recognize you’re talking about American football.
I get into trouble with that all the time. I did a spot for SPIRE Credit Union in our market. They asked me a question and I had the audacity to say, “Soccer is the real football. Football is not football.” They edit. I can’t tell you how my Twitter account lit up.
Second personal question, you and your lovely wife, Walla have been married for years and yet you are in an industry, Chris, where the pressure is on you to be at the facility, be at the venue, late in the evenings, weekends, holidays, then you got to be back at it the next morning running the business. It takes its toll on a marriage. May I ask for my sake, for my reader’s sake, I am fortunate, blessed to have the woman in my life that I do who I’ve been married to for years. What’s your secret? How do you and Walla maintain a love affair?
There are two things that I would talk to. Number one, you’ve got to find your soulmate. You’ve got to find somebody who believes in you but you also believe in her. I hope that your readers take this in the right way but I am a believer in purpose. I’m a believer in why. What is your personal why? What we talk about all the time is not necessarily the club’s why but what is Walla Wright’s why and what is Chris Wright’s why. I can articulate it the same way that I can articulate my club’s why. My personal why is to live my life every single day through my three Fs, my Faith, my Family, and my Franchise. They’ve got to be in that order. My wife lives her life in exactly the same way. She lives her life through her faith. She lives it through her family. She’s in your business. She works for a company called Wilson Learning owned by the Japanese. They are a training company in sales, service, and executive coaching.
The good news is that I have a wife who I go to bed with every night who there isn’t one problem that Chris Wright has that she can’t have an answer for. Synergistically, when you are on the same page with your loved one the way that we are on the same page with each other, life is easy. It is easy because you’ve got your priorities right. We can celebrate our faith together. We can celebrate our family together. We certainly celebrate on both ends of the spectrum. She’s into MNUFC, and is into the Minnesota Timberwolves. I’m also into Wilson Learning and all of the events that she’s got to go to as well. I’m there with her holding her hand. That’s where I play second fiddle where she plays second fiddle at all of my events but it works.
Chris, I wish we could talk longer. There’s so much more I’d like to inquire and learn from you about. Thank you for your insights. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many people. You’ve been persuasive in my career. I think that this conversation we’ve had will have an impact on others as well. I wish you the best, you and your team. Are there any final thoughts from you?
Minnesota United FC: The quarterback role in football illustrates the traits, skills, techniques, and execution that make an effective executive.
I appreciate the opportunity. It’s wonderful connecting with you again. Thank you for everything that you’ve done for my franchises along the way, all of the experience and the professionalism that you brought to every single session, training session that we’ve participated in. I appreciate you. I appreciate the Game Face. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.
Thank you, sir. Go loons. Chris Wright, thank you very much.
Chris and his club have been recognized in sports for building a brand that reflects its name, Unity. In 2020, that was the last word observers would use to describe the community of Minneapolis, where so much social and civil unrest occurred. Catch the rest of our heartfelt conversation to learn how Chris’s leadership was and is being tested. How will he bring Minnesota together through the beautiful game? If you’d like to learn some marital advice from a man who’s been blissfully wedded to the same wife for years, stick around for the end of my conversation with Chris Wright, a Unifier under United.
Chris Wright joins Minnesota United as the organization’s first CEO after 26 years with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx, including the last 13 years as President.
Growing up in England, though his first love was soccer, and it was only after a — by his account — brief career as a player and then a coach and manager that he came stateside to work in the Major Indoor Soccer League. He eventually made his way to Minnesota to serve as the general manager of the Minnesota Strikers.
https://www.gamefaceinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/30GFEPsquare.jpg600600Rob Cornilleshttps://www.gamefaceinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Game-Face-Logo-Full-Color-300x86.pngRob Cornilles2021-04-15 03:00:192021-04-10 01:26:23Episode 30 | Chris Wright | A Unifier Under United
Are you ready for some football? Teams of the National Football League, the “granddaddy of all sports,” opened training camps this week in preparation for Opening Night on Thursday, September 10. And the Houston Texans, led by President Jamey Rootes, are up first as they kick off the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the middle of all this hustle, Jamey takes a timeout to chat with Rob Cornilles about the unprecedented challenges facing the NFL, the impact one player (J.J. Watt) has had on a sport and a city, and the leadership lessons learned from working for two of the most iconic families in sports history. They say everything is bigger in Texas and Jamey and his team prove that they can handle Texas-sized success pretty darn well.
Watch the episode here:
Jamey Rootes | Texas-Sized Success
They say everything is bigger in Texas. It’s true for barbecue, live music, and football. If you’re Jamey Rootes, the President of the Houston Texans of the National Football League, the job of leading a team that hasn’t yet won a Super Bowl in a demanding market with many social, safety, and sales issues staring you in the face, you better come ready to play. That’s why Jamey Rootes is this episode’s of the show.
We’re with Jamey Rootes, President of the NFL’s Houston Texans. I can’t say this about a lot of people, but a long time friend of mine in the industry, which means Jamey is as old as I am. Jamey, I appreciate you joining us on the show. This is a busy, hectic time for people in the NFL, especially you in your position, but thanks a lot for spending a little bit of time with us and talking about what it means to be a game face executive.
Over the past years, I haven’t told you, “No,” and I wasn’t going to start now.
That’s true. Thanks, Jamey. I want to point some things out. I’m wearing the brand of the Houston Texans. We have known each other for a long time, but I got this shirt from you several years ago because you’re a good guy. We’ve worked together over the years and we’re going to talk about that, but I want to take the readers back to the beginning of your career. Before we go there, we’re in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in every market in the country and I got a big question mark on the economy. We’re going through a pandemic. Hopefully, we’re starting to see not the end of that but at least the tail end of it.
We are talking at a particular time when there has been a lot of protests, even some civil unrest. I know these are issues that are important to you personally and also to the McNair family for whom you work and the Texans organization as a whole. I’m wondering if you could allow us to open the door a little bit to the boardroom of the Texans and talk to us a little bit about the conversations that you’re having during this unusual and prickly time. How does an organization with as much prominence in a community as the Texans has, and even in the state, not to mention the league as a whole? Give us some insight into the principles that guide those conversations and those decisions you’re making now.
I’ll try to give you a clear response on that. Broadly, someone told me one time that challenge is the crucible of leadership. It’s a stick. If you pick up a stick, you can’t just get one in. You can’t be a leader and not address challenges. This is natural. Life is hard. Once you accept that it’s hard, that doesn’t matter anymore. What are those challenges that we’re dealing with and what do we need to do about it? As an organization, we’ve had to deal with a number of crisis situations. A lot of it has been around hurricanes because we’re here on the Gulf Coast. This is like a hurricane, but a hurricane is like a sprint. This is more like a marathon. While it’s similar to what we’ve done before, we’ve had to do it for a much more prolonged time. The most important thing is the attitude that people bring to the table. One of the principles that we established as we were approaching the NFL lockout, which was about six months of complete uncertainty is positively focused. You have to discipline yourself to balance the negativity that you’re seeing and embrace that it’s not all negative. There are positives.
You have to look hard for them, but you’ve got to balance out. Also, you have to focus squarely on the things that you can control. The easy part is focused on what I control. What can I do to make a difference? The hard part is having the discipline to reject things that you can’t control because the things that you can’t control are a complete distraction. You have to put up a stop sign and set it aside. Occasionally, in an environment like this, you’re going to have a little bit of self-indulgence and a little bit of complaining like, “Why is it hard? We worked so hard to put this together and we have to take it down again?” Get yourself back to what can we do about it. If you do that consistently and get everybody within the organization thinking about what are the priorities? What can we do about it? It’s amazing what a group of individuals coming together can accomplish.
The things that you were talking about are all the details, the decisions, and all of that falls into place if you have this positively focused mindset. You also have to pull your time horizon. In great times, we can dream about the beautiful future. In challenging times, you can only look about 1 or 2 weeks in advance. Those are the only certain things. It’s amazing that once you do one thing, it opens up the next thing, but if you look five steps down the chain, it completely falls apart. It’s all part of controlling what you can control, but your time horizon needs to be pulled in, make the next logical move, and keep going forward.
[bctt tweet=”Challenge is the crucible of leadership. ” username=””]
Jamey, first and foremost, you work for an entertainment company as well, but your primary property is the NFL football team. In today’s world, can you remain a football team or do you have to become something bigger and larger? Are the expectations greater now than they were many years ago for a sports team to be more than a Sunday product?
That’s a good point. The expectations of our sports teams have increased exponentially since I’ve been in the industry. Fortunately, during the time that I was in Columbus, which was a long time ago, but the last several years with the Texans, our philosophy has always been that we were bigger than an athletic organization. We talk about the Texans and this has been the same from the beginning. We have what I term the three imperatives win championships. At the core, we are a competitive organization that is trying to win a championship annually for our community and for our fans. Second is we create memorable experiences. People are investing in coming to our games to be part of something bigger than themselves, to engage with their family and their friends in a way that they can’t Monday to Saturday.
On Sunday, we come together as one. We are Texans, the most diverse city in America, and nothing brings us together like the game of football. Number three is to do great things for Houston. Certainly, that we contribute $35 million that we’ve given to important organizations across this community. We’re the number one per capita contributor to the United Way in the City of Houston and always have been since we’ve been here. The way that we conduct ourselves does great things for Houston. When you see the Houston Texans on Sunday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers, that’s being across the planet. People may not know anything about Houston, Texas, other than what they see with those fans coming in their battle red shirts to tell the Packers, “You’re not playing 53 now. You’re playing 71,000, all of us together.”
All of the other events that we’ve brought to Houston, in 2002, when we had played our first season, Houston was not even on the radar as a soccer market. We brought the first international game here in the USA and Mexico in 2003. Now, Houston is one of the leading soccer markets in America, a viable competitor to host the World Cup when it comes to America. We’ve hosted the greatest brands whether it’s Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona Real Madrid, and all of these great teams, we resurrected the college football bowl game in Houston. In the last several years, we have taken it from obscurity to one of the leading bowl games in America, 1 of the 5 best-attended bowl games in America. Those are the things, not just dollars, but how we conduct ourselves and the breadth of entertainment offerings. We don’t have to do that. Football teams wouldn’t normally do that, but we step out of our comfort zone in order to be something bigger for the city.
You’re the most diverse community in America. I wasn’t aware of that, but it makes sense to me. The times that I’ve been in Houston and we’ve worked together, a lot of people don’t realize that Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. You got New York, LA, Chicago, and then Houston, unless that’s changed.
That’s right. We’re fourth and we’re right on the tail of Chicago. There are over 100 language languages spoken in this community and we embrace diversity. We see diversity as our greatest strength going forward as a community. We look like America will look many years from now.
There’s one player on your team when you talk about being more than just a player. We all know J.J. Watt. He’s a transformational player, not just on the field, but what he does in the community. Can you talk a little bit about that? I don’t know if what came first, J.J.’s attitude towards the community and giving back or the Texans culture, or if they were a perfect blend. Tell us a little bit about that player that we read about, and we see on SportsCenter, but he’s more than a player. He’s an active participant in the community. You can tell he cares. He’s not just lip service. Share with us some insights about working with such a transformational player.
It is one of the greatest blessings of my career to have the opportunity to work with JJ Watt. You asked the question, “Was it him? Was it our environment? Was it both?” It started with him, that I think him coming into our environment, which embraces completely community service, you feel it in the walls of the organization that we’re about the city. We want to do great things for Houston. It started with him and we helped him to elevate even higher. When he first started with us, we had drafted him. It was a controversial draft pick. Our coaches thought he had a great motor and had huge potential.
I will tell you a funny story that one of our coaches said about it, but it was during the NFL lockout. One of the rules of the lockout is teams could not communicate with their players until it was resolved. It didn’t get resolved until July. I got a call that there was a horrible accident, a family here in Bel-Air that was coming back from Colorado. They were in a tragic car accident that the parents’ perished. The daughter wound up being okay, but the boys were paralyzed. A friend called and said, “Can you send some players over to comfort these kids?” I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t call the players because of the lockout.” That night, I turned my TV on, who was over at the hospital with those kids? JJ Watt.
Houston Texans: It is a great blessing to have the opportunity to work with J.J. Watt. He is a triple-threat athlete.
I knew from that point we had something special. I talk about JJ as being the triple threat. He’s the only triple-threat athlete that I’ve seen. He has tremendous God-given talent. He’s a great athlete, but not only that, he adds to it that magic of work ethic. He has a tremendous work ethic. I have a saying that is posted on the back of my computer that, “Success isn’t owned. It’s leased and rent is due every day.” That was from JJ Watt. We have it in one of our conference rooms as well. The third is understanding that as an athlete, you have a shelf life to be able to make a difference. You’re in a privileged position, the same way that we feel about the Texans.
We’re in a privileged position. For better or worse, people look to us for leadership. How should I act? J.J. understands that. When he says something, people will listen. When he does something, it will make a difference for people. He has maximized every bit of the opportunity that a professional athlete has by taking his God-given talent, working his tail off, and recognizing that he can be bigger than the sport. The interesting story is Wade Phillips, who was our defensive coordinator at the time and was integral in our selection of JJ. He was asked right before training camp, “What do you think about JJ?” He said, “I think he’s got a great sense of humor. JJ is going to be a bust in Canton.”
He was quite prophetic. Wasn’t he?
He saw the talent, the work ethic, the character, the integrity, the love for the game of football that JJ had and all those things came together. We’re fortunate that he’s in our community.
You probably can’t see it, but right there at the top is Dom Capers’ signature. Explain who Dom Capers was.
I remember Dom Capers. He was the first head coach of the Houston Texans.
That’s right. I was in your office the day that you announced this logo. I know you don’t remember that, but I’ve spent many days in your office. On that particular day, I got one of these autographed helmets from the coach. It’s a beautiful logo. I know you guys wrestled over which logo to use back in those days. What year was that?
We announced the logo in 2001.
[bctt tweet=”Success isn’t owned. It’s leased and rent is due every day.” username=””]
You joined the Texans in 2000. I was curious because you left Major League Soccer.
Before we go there, I’ve got a comment on the logo. We were in the process of the design and you’re right. It is a beautiful classy identity for the team and screams Texans. We wanted the name Texans, but we couldn’t find an identity to go with it. Nobody liked anything in the focus groups that we’re doing. We showed them all kinds of artwork and colors and nothing resonated. I told Bob McNair, “Bob, I think we’re going to have to scratch the logo launch.” He said, “Why?” I said, “We haven’t found anything that anybody likes.” He said, “Where are you testing this?” I said, “We do it at focus groups.” He said, “Why don’t you invite me to your next focus group?” I said, “Okay, I’ll bring in so you can see the challenges we’re dealing with.” That was the first focus group. It wasn’t exactly the logo that you see, but it was generally a bull and the star. We showed it to the fans and they were pounding on the table. “That is perfect. That’s exactly what you need.” I looked at Bobby, he looks at me and he said, “This marketing stuff’s not that hard.”
Timing is everything. I want to talk about Bob McNair. For those who don’t know, he passed away a few years ago as the owner of the Texans. He was the one that brought the club into Houston. He is an institution within the state. He was a successful businessman, a wonderful philanthropist. His family has continued his legacy. I want to ask how the whole love affair began between you and Bob. Tell us a little bit about what you learned from the man.
Let me start with the love affair because I’ve been blessed to only work for two ownership families in sports, Bob McNair and the Hunt family, Lamar Hunt. Both of them are sports royalty and amazing people. Leaving Lamar and his family was difficult, but the first time I sat down in Bob’s office when I visited Houston, they speak differently, but there’s so much similarity between these two families and these two people. Bob had me at hello. That’s how that went, but in terms of what I learned from Bob, I’ve got an MBA from Indiana, but I feel like I got a second MBA working from Bob.
There were a lot of holes in my skillset and my experiences that Bob was able to fill through the conversations that we had regularly over almost twenty years. Of all the business experiences I had with them and the insights that I gained, what’s more important is how he developed me as a person. I had married. When we got to Houston, we had our first child. He helped me to understand how to be a good husband, a good father, and a good community citizen. It wouldn’t like lectures or advice. It was the more the way he was. He modeled the behavior. He walked the talk. He modeled the way for me. His integrity, his character is focused on honesty and on fairness in all things.
Even if you occasionally get taken advantage of, you always have to have a spirit of fairness and the importance of relationships. He did a wonderful job building and trusting relationships with people. That’s why he was successful. He was positive and optimistic. He was interviewed by one of our media personalities and they asked him, “Bob, you’re always positive and optimistic. Why is that?” He said, “I’ve never seen a successful person who wasn’t.” He was a spectacular man, a great role model for me like a father figure and treated me as part of his family. He has inspired me to be my best and for our organization to be our best.
When he recruited you away from the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, which you had led for five years at that time, how was he successful doing that? You worked for Lamar Hunt and the Hunt family who is an institution, not only they were pioneers in soccer, but they were pioneers in the NFL. Ironically, you left the pioneering family that started and helped to start Major League Soccer. You went to the league that they helped start, which is the NFL. How was Bob McNair successful in getting you away from that? Was it simply the lure of the NFL of working for the King of sports?
Having a comfort level with Bob and his family was important. This would be a winning organization. I felt that from the first time I visited with him. I felt like over five years in Columbus that I had done what I had come there to do. I had established a professional sports franchise that was successful. I had a great season ticket base. I had a great business that was on an awesome trajectory. We had built the first soccer-specific stadium in America, built the first training facility specifically for an MLS franchise. I was like, “I could probably stay here in my mid-30s until I retire, but I don’t feel like I’m done.” As I reflected on that, I was like, “What do I think is missing?” This has been a great success in a sport. That is the primary sport that I grew up playing and coached like, “I can do it in that environment.”
Columbus is one of the smallest professional sports markets in America. I wanted to prove to myself that it wasn’t about the comfort level with soccer. It wasn’t because it was a small market why I go to the NFL, which is the elite of sports properties. In a market that supports the fourth largest market in America, I wanted to prove to myself that I could be successful there as well and it worked out. Buffy Filippell of TeamWork Consulting is the one who was doing the recruiting. She called me when I was at my house in Columbus.
Houston Texans: Leadership starts with the desire to lead. You can have some of the traits, but if you don’t want it, it’s not going to happen.
We’d built something special there. She asked me if I’d be interested in working in the NFL. I said, “What? This is a great call. I’ve been having those thoughts.” She said, “What about in Houston?” I said, “That would be great, but Houston doesn’t have an NFL team.” She said, “They’re going to have. This guy, Bob McNair is about to pay more than anybody’s ever paid to relaunch the NFL in Houston.” She gave me the opportunity to come down and visit with McNair and it went from there.
When you were at Major League Soccer, you were Executive of the Year, the first year of the league existed. You were recognized immediately as not only a talent but as a mover and a shaker. Someone who could have a great influence on the sport. You mentioned the opening of Columbus Crew Stadium in 1999. I don’t expect you to remember this, Jamey, but Game Face, our company was working with Major League Soccer quite extensively in those first few years. We were traveling to each of the clubs. Mark Abbott, who is the President of the League now is one of the people who wrote the original business plan for Major League Soccer, didn’t he?
He transitioned from the World Cup in ‘94.
Mark has been with Major League Soccer longer than anybody since its inception. He called us and invited us to participate. We were the official sales coach for Major League Soccer for the first 3 or 4 years. One of my highlights in that relationship was being invited by you and by Mark to come to Columbus Crew Stadium opening night. What an event that was. It was a milestone for soccer in America because it was the opening of the first soccer-specific stadium. They’ve since renovated the stadium. Do you remember what happened at the end of that wonderful evening with traffic and parking?
Yes, I do. It’s amazing that you bring that up because I was sitting after the game in our post-game party area and I could see the traffic. I had a report that the traffic was ridiculous. I was sitting with the mayor, Greg Lashutka who has been a dear friend and remains a great friend. Greg said, “It looks like you got some traffic out there.” I said, “I don’t know what’s going on.” He said, “I think you need to hire the city of Columbus Police to provide your traffic direction because we are using the state troopers because we were on their property.” They had directed the traffic from a downtown festival right in front of the stadium and nobody could get out. The next game we adjusted our call for police and had much better traffic flow.
These are little details, things that you don’t anticipate. That was a very momentous evening. You mentioned your background is in soccer. You started as a college soccer player at Clemson University. You won two NCAA titles with them. You were also the student body president at the time if I’m not mistaken.
You have leadership skills from day one. Were you the captain of the team as well?
I wasn’t. The captain was selected by the coach. My dear friend, Paul Rutenis was the captain in my senior year when we won the championship. My dear friend, Charlie Morgan was the captain in my freshman year.
[bctt tweet=”You can’t be working on the business if you’re working in the business.” username=””]
You should be the captain if you’re also the student body president.
I didn’t have time for it.
Straight out, you’ve got leadership skills and talent. Where does that come from?
I’ve always had a desire to lead. I’ve always wanted to organize and be the one to help everyone else be successful. I do think it starts there because you can have some of the traits, but if you don’t want it, it’s not going to happen. You’re not going to spend the time. You’re not going to have the JJ Watt work ethic addict. I’ve always treated leadership as a craft. When I was in college, was I a good leader? I am not, but I had an interest. I built and built and had new opportunities to lead. When I came to Columbus the entry-level president, I had to learn on the fly. I made lots of mistakes, but I would always break those down. I’m a pretty self-aware person and reflective of what I’m doing. Is it getting me the results that I want? If not, what do I need to do differently? I’m fortunate that I’m okay with failure, that I’m willing to take risks and have a creative mind.
Most people would hate to be in a startup environment. You have a blank sheet of paper, for me, it’s a dream. The Columbus part was easy, starting with nothing, putting it together and building it. In Houston, I was doing the same. My transition was around 2006 or 2007 when I was still treating the organization like a startup. It was proven to me that I am being a micromanager. In that startup environment, you’ve got to be. You’ve got to have your hands on to ensure that all the plants are growing the way that they should in perfect parallel. Everybody understands who we are, how we operate, what matters most, but eventually an ongoing business. You can’t be working on the business if you’re working in the business. That was a transition for me, going from this micromanager meddling person to a leader of leaders. I was leading followers. I had to elevate the leading leaders. I liked it much better where I am now. I manage people by remote control. I get great people. I give them a clear direction. We have a solid understanding of how we operate.
We have tremendous trust in each other. They trust that I have their back and I trust that they have my back. I don’t have to watch over them to set clear expectations and then hold them accountable for those results. I can spend my time on the things that matter most, the who, how, and why, the people, the talent, and the organizational environment that we provide them to give their best every day. The how, the culture, the habits that we want from our people and ensuring that culture remains strong and create ways to reinforce culture. The why and what’s the purpose? We are keeping everybody sites, not on now. We were talking about crisis situations, we’ve got to deal with the crisis, but when championships create memorable experiences, do great things for Houston. All of us want that. That makes the hard work worthwhile reminding that there’s a reason.
Like in sports, there’s a reason why you’re doing sprints at the end of practice. It was Tom Landry who said, “Leadership is getting people to do what they don’t want to do in order to get what they do want to get.” You can’t be doing those things if you’re meddling and having your eyes over people’s shoulders. You’ve got to trust that they’re professionals. They have a great desire to win. Sit with them and help them understand what winning looks like. Let them go out and do it. When they have problems, they can come to you. When they need resources, they can come to you, but otherwise go get your job done.
Jamey, in all of those years of leading teams, when I say teams, I should go back even longer than that because you lead teams in university. In those years, there’s got to be times when you have chosen the wrong people or you’ve inherited the wrong people. How does a leader deal with that? What do you do about that?
What you have to avoid is what I term in the sports business when a GM selects a player in the draft, you want them to succeed. Sometimes you’ll work hard that you keep the wrong people around for too long. In general, we’re way too quick to hire and we’re way too slow to fire. What I’ve had to do within our organization because it’s not me, I’ve got my leadership team and I’ll deal with them. Down the line, I’m going to make sure that on a regular basis, we’re getting the people that don’t fit. It’s not around performance. It’s around cultural fit. We talk about the attitudes that we’re looking for from our people.
Houston Texans: Keeping the wrong people on the bus is unfair to all the right people. As a leader, you have to nip those problems in the bud.
The talents that we want are a great work ethic and a winning attitude, a positive, optimistic, team-oriented and a demonstrated commitment to operate consistent with our values, which are being innovative, memorable, passionate, accountable, courageous, and working as a team. Those are where people get off track that they don’t fit. Several times a year, we go through every employee and the manager reports out who are the tails. Think about a bell curve in any population. Usually, almost everybody’s right in the middle. There are some people that are stars and there are some people that are problems. I asked them anybody in the middle, don’t worry about it. Let’s talk about your stars and your problems. As a team, they get 360 feedback on everybody, within their department.
When we have problems, once they’re out there, sunlight is the greatest disinfectant. Once it’s known that we have a problem, then it’s on them. They know the clock is ticking. You got to work with them. You got to do a performance plan. If it doesn’t work out, it’s time to part ways. It’s better for the employee and it’s better for us. Our chair coordinator at one time said to me when she came in, “I’ve got this one cheerleader that I need to kick off the team.” I knew her, her family, and her story. I said, “Shouldn’t we reconsider? She got a great background.” She said, “Jamey, let me stop you there. Keeping the wrong people on the bus is unfair to all the right people. We think there’s not a cost to keeping somebody around as not a fit. There is a cost. It does frustrate people. As a leader, you have to nip those problems in the bud. It’s like a garden. Gardeners will tell you if you’re to go out and weed is better to weed too much than to weed too little. If the weeds remain, they’re going to take over the good stuff. You got to be a great gardener in order to maintain a talented base.”
Do you mind if I ask, how does your boss measure you and your performance?
Fortunately, at the head of the organization, he’s got a lot of great metrics to look at. There’s the subjective component and it’s always been a conversation coming over to the house. I will say that it’s incumbent upon me to tell my story. Regularly, I am summarizing the victories that we have. At the end of the year, it’s not difficult to evaluate me, and all those things that I have communicated, in addition to the financial results are there. We sit down and have a conversation about it, and then move forward. I do my own personal evaluation and that’s my test. That test is then graded by our ownership and they reward me how they see fit.
In all those years both at The Crew and at The Texans, has there been one decision that you can go back to? I’m not going to ask you a decision you regret. I, personally, don’t like looking backward. I tried to learn from it, but I don’t try to dwell on it. Can you identify a decision that perhaps was the most difficult that you had to make? I know there have been many in the positions that you’ve held and the prominent positions that you’ve held. Has there been one that you can share with us that was particularly difficult and you wrestled with?
The most difficult decisions are people-related decisions. I always agonize those because you’re dealing with people’s lives, their livelihoods, and their careers. There’s a book called The Dichotomy of Leadership. It’s by two Navy SEALs and they talk about all the dichotomies that it consists. For a military leader, the most difficult dichotomy, and I will talk about an investment sense, is having to love your people and know that for the good of the unit, you may have to put them in harm’s way. It’s the same way in business too. To be able to manage that dichotomy, they say, “Genius is being able to keep to opposing thoughts in your mind at the same time and not going crazy. To be able to know that you have to operate on both of those planes as a leader is something you have to accept.”
Challenge is the crucible of leadership, but the one decision that I will mention to you is several years ago, we had built this amazing tailgate experience for our fans. They loved it from day one. It was like the barbecue cook-off ten times a year in our parking lots. There are 30,000 people are having a meal before the game. There are bands out there, big-screen TVs, and inflatables. It’s not hot dogs and hamburgers. It was gourmet food. Across the freeway, there was an empty lot from the Astroworld coming down. They had leased that lot to a ticket broker in town. He went on the TV before our season started and said, “Tailgating is amazing at NRG Stadium, but you don’t have to have a ticket. Come here and you can walk across and you can go and tailgate.” We didn’t think much of it to begin with. In the first few games, we had a few 1,000 people that did it. We then had a game, we played the Cowboys. I think we had 20,000 people without tickets in our parking lots squatting on the parking spaces. There weren’t parking spaces for the people who had bought them. They rolled their coolers in there and there were fights before and after the game.
The decision that we had to make was, “Do we go take what was turned into the draconian measure and try to make NRG park a ticket in the environment?” Nobody had ever ticketed the parking lots before, but that’s the decision we took. There was tremendous media backlash of how awful the experience was going to be. On the game day, we set a post-game, press availability to be able to answer the media’s questions because they are all out of the parking lots. None of them showed up. It went back to normal. It was a wonderful, magical family-friendly experience. They don’t always work out that way, but the important part was the time that we spent evaluating and had to ask ourselves at the end of the day. As Bob McNair likes to say, “You can never go wrong by doing what’s right.” We had to tell ourselves, “This is the hard thing. This is full of risk. We could completely blow up what was important with our experience, but we knew it was the right thing to do and we went ahead.” Sam Houston had a saying, “Courage is doing what’s right. Accept the consequences and once you figure out what’s right, it doesn’t matter what the consequences are.”
[bctt tweet=”‘For every ten players that can handle adversity, there’s only one that can handle success.’ – Dom Capers” username=””]
You talk about the unusual position of an NFL franchise especially in a football-crazy state like Texas has. As far as the attention and the scrutiny that you get, not only from a rabid fan base, which every team hopes for, you want a fan base that’s invested, not apathetic. You also have a media that is constantly looking over your shoulder, second-guessing every move you make. Every CEO, every president of a large organization, a multimillion-dollar organization like you run has that scrutiny. Could you share with us a little bit about the peculiarities of running a franchise or any organization like you do? You have networks devoted 24/7 to doing nothing but talking about you, your failures, or your missteps. You have sections of newspapers that are dedicated to nothing but your industry. It’s an unusual place in sports that you have. What’s that like? How do you finally get used to that or do you ever?
You accepted as a fact of life about the stick. You pick up the stick, you get both ends. You want to be at the pinnacle, you’re going to have tremendous attention. I guess I come at it with a perspective that helps because of where I came from to be spent five years in a fledgling soccer league and franchise desperate for attention. It’s a great blessing. The exposure is a tremendous blessing. We serve the media. We want the media to be engaged in what we’re doing because we know how important a conduit they are to our fans. I believe that the way you treat the media is how the fans think you treat them.
We’ve won the Rozelle Award a number of times as the number one media service organization in the National Football League because we do know how important they are. It comes with the territory. Everything’s a mixed bag. When I was in Columbus, I wanted the attention here. In Columbus, you could do all crazy stuff and it didn’t work. Not all that many people saw it anyway. You tried something else. When you come to the NFL, there’s much more. It’s got to be much more deliberate and intentional because whatever we do, everybody’s going to see it. The expectation is we win at everything that we choose to do.
I want to ask you two more questions and they both relate to the future. Let’s talk about the future of the NFL. How do you see it from your vantage point? From where you sit, what does the future of the NFL look like?
I’ll preface this with a phrase from Yogi Bear. I never make predictions especially about the future. The NFL is at the top and importantly, there’s this mentality in a locker room. I call it the get better mentality and in our sport, it’s simple, but it’s powerful. Every game gets broken down completely and the coaches and the players think about how do we do this better? The military after-action review and the league approach it that way from game-to-game. From season-to-season, what’s better? How do we get better? As a team, we’re the same way. The future is incredibly bright for the National Football League.
I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be, but as long as we do not get complacent and we handle success, you mentioned Dom Capers earlier. Dom has a great line. He says, “For every ten players that can handle adversity, there’s only one that can handle success.” We have to be that one that can handle success. If we ever start drinking our own Kool-Aid, that’s when you start going over the crest. We have to constantly be reinventing ourselves. That’s what where we’re committed to doing.
You reminded me of another question. I’m writing a book about sales game-changers. It’s about methodology. It’s also about the people who are game-changers. When it comes to that industry, you’ve been a game-changer. You went into Major League Soccer as a young professional. You were given the title of a general manager. I think you are worthy of it. Some people may have thought, “Who’s this guy coming out of the collegiate ranks, who has got a fancy MBA and he’s running an expansion franchise?” You are a game-changer in Columbus. You helped to innovate for that league. You’re doing the same thing with the NFL. What role do sales play in your success, the ability to persuade and influence other people?
I was fortunate that my first experience was with IBM. I spent nine months to a year in sales training. It was a sales MBA from one of the great sales companies of all time. When I went to Procter & Gamble, it’s a different level, but it was still sales it was brand management. You’re trying to influence consumer behavior remotely, whereas sales are that one-on-one. I had the advertising and promotion component and I had the direct sales and sales management experience. I still rely upon those principles because at the end of the day, as you go up in an organization, it’s less and less about the things, and it’s more and more about the people. All-day long, you are looking to influence people to get the outcomes that you’re trying to get.
It’s not fairness. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not like you’re trying to coerce people because people do things of their free will. What you do have to do is get into the shoes of somebody else. I want to get here. How do I motivate them to help me to get where I want to go? How can we do this together? What’s going to be a win-win? A lot of my job is around negotiation. All sales principles trying to get to yes and figuring out a place that everybody feels good about it. I would say sales and sales principles have a role in my life every day, my work life every day, and always have. I’m blessed that I started with such a solid foundation.
Houston Texans: The way you treat the media is how the fans think you treat them.
IBM revolutionizes the way companies sell and you were part of that training. Let’s talk about your future. I’ve known you for many years. It’s been a pleasure to be a friend of yours and to be able to work with you and your franchises over those years. Where does Jamey Rootes want to be or see himself being from 10, 20 years from now? What do you still need to do in your career for you to be fulfilled and say that, “I’ve made the difference and the impact I wanted to have?”
As my career has progressed, my family has become a much bigger component. They would laugh and they’d say, “Dad, we know how much you work.” My family is important to me. I am ensuring that my kids get off to a great start in their life. My daughter is a rising junior in high school. My son is a rising freshman in college. He’ll be headed to TCU. My wife, Melissa, is finding some great things that fulfill her and things that we do together. That’s all good, but professionally, I am focused on trying to be great, where my feet are. I love what I’m doing, but I do see on the horizon you’re writing a book, I would like to put it down on paper these principles that have helped to guide these two successful franchises. The things that I’ve learned and some of the stories along the way, not that anybody would want to read it, but it would be good to get it down.
Maybe at least my children could have a much better idea of what their father was doing while they were growing up and going to school. That would be something on the horizon. I want to win a championship. I want to be part of a Super Bowl-winning franchise. I felt for the last few years that I got to get that done. Before, I look beyond the organization that I’m a part of. I’m blessed to be part of McNair’s organization. They give me such latitude and such an opportunity to do that for our team, to do amazing things for us to live out our best life right here in Houston. I can’t complain about anything, but a book would be as far as I’m looking. Hopefully, someday that will be a reality. As you open your question, it’s been a great blessing to be a friend of yours and have huge respect and look forward to reading your book.
You are a true professional. That’s one reason why I wanted you to join me on the show because a lot of us can continue to learn from you, watching you, and interfacing with you. I congratulate you on all that you have done and all that you are doing, sincerely.
Thanks for your friendship.
Thanks, Jamey. We know you’re busy. Let you get back to running one of the best franchises in the NFL.
Jamey Rootes serves as President of the Houston Texans and is responsible for all business functions of the club. Since joining the Texans, Rootes has overseen the team’s efforts to secure stadium naming rights and sponsorship, coordinated radio and TV broadcasting relationships, engineered the club’s successful ticket and suite sales campaigns, led the creation and launch of the team’s identity and developed the team’s highly-acclaimed customer service strategy.
Rootes also serves as President of Lone Star Sports & Entertainment (LSSE), a sports management agency associated with the Texans. LSSE has been a catalyst for some of Houston’s most significant sporting events.
Rootes maintains an active role in the community by serving on a number of boards, including the Greater Houston Partnership and the United Way.
We have dedicated nearly 30 years to training tens of thousands of sales professionals, first in the sports and entertainment industry and then software, energy, manufacturing, professional services, construction, and many more . Our methods can help any business open new markets, obtain and retain customers, and develop professionals that represent a brand best.