Part I. An Overview of What a Business Manager Does and the Duties He or She Performs
Key Topic: Discussion on the Daily Tasks and Facilitating Opportunities for Clients
A business manager, oftentimes, works with a sports agent hand-in-hand with his or her clients. He or she works on all business dealings tied to professional athletes, including but not limited to: working on all budgets, financial projections, reconciliations, audits, and any day-to-day dealings. Some business managers work exclusively with an agent or agency; others do not. Business managers work on all facets of an individual athlete’s career tied to business dealings. Business mangers share some of the same job duties as a sports agent, but their job is tied to all business and financial matters, not the athlete’s playing contract.
On the other hand, a sports agent’s job does not end at the player’s contracts and endorsement deals; he or she often works with the business manager on various business and financial dealings tied to his or her client(s). An agent needs to be able to facilitate a client’s entire life and be able to help the client’s path to success. The agent serves as the number one supporter and advocate for the player. Oftentimes, the agent is working with the player’s family, business team, coaches, and team personnel pertaining to various aspects of the player’s career. Whether this means learning the playbook or balancing a checkbook, the agent is always working for the player. The agent is involved in every aspect of the player’s life. For example, this may mean talking to a lawyer to orchestrate a prenuptial agreement or arranging for the athlete’s car to be transported across country. In both cases, the agent is the facilitator in terms of communication and getting the player what he or she needs.
At times, the agent may need to wear the hat of a business manager, advising the client on business opportunities he or she should take. Agents, oftentimes, are the gatekeepers and the facilitators to all opportunities that a player may or may not take on. For example, agents may quarterback with a lawyer, an accountant, and a financial advisor on various matters pertaining to the athlete’s career. Additionally, within those opportunities, compliance standards and protocols need to be put in place to ensure that the client is protected. Various opportunities will allow for a sports agent to perform various stages of due diligence that will allow him or her to research, discuss, perform, audit, and question all aspects of the opportunity. However, any exceptional agent will need to rely on experts, like a business manager, to fully provide the best possible service to his or her client(s).
Part II. Working on the Skill-Set, Making Sure Goals Are Set, and Setting Client Expectations
Key Topic: Appropriate Skills Needed to Be Successful, When Clients Are Not Happy, Managing Client Expectations
A business manager, like a sports agent, needs to be well organized and have set schedules for how he or she handles clients. He or she must be very organized and detail-oriented, as well as be able to effectively communicate on a daily basis. This is of the utmost importance to becoming successful within the sports industry. An agent and business manager must have the ability to relate and communicate with the client at all times. This is necessary so that the client is on the same page when it comes to the next contract, the next opportunity, or the next business venture.
An agent, along with the business manager, has to focus on what goals to set and achieve for each client and communicate that with each client. An agent typically has to build the roadmap and a foundation, otherwise known as a blueprint, while he or she is developing the player’s career both on and off the playing field. The agent and business manager must continue their education and keep learning in order to stay up to date. The agent has to work with the business manager to fully develop a comprehensive business plan and roadmap to ensure success for the client(s).
Managing expectations and not overselling will allow for an agent to set expectations for his or her client. When agents “oversell” to their clients, they often set themselves up for failure because they are not able to deliver on their promises. Being realistic and upfront to their clients will enable agents to land a new client or even a big opportunity.
Example: Everyone remembers the famous memo that was written in the movie Jerry Maguire. The main premise of the memo was about building and maintaining personal relationships. In any form of business, personal relationships are very important to develop with the people you work with or for. In the sports agent industry, it is the number one important piece to managing your clients. Professional athletes look to their “team” for guidance, and need to be able to trust them. They are putting their careers, lives, and their families in the agents’ hands; that is something not to take lightly.
Part III. Who Are the Leading Business Managers and What Type of Clients Do They Have?
Key Topic: Who Are the Major Players Within Business Management?
The top business managers are able to handle as many clients as possible and service them at a very high level. Most successful business managers have a critical back office that can take on as many clients as possible. Whether compiling complex tax returns or facilitating discussions with a team of lawyers, most successful business managers have a built-in infrastructure that is capable of handling an influx of clients and the demands associated with those clients.
Business managers surround themselves with a team of professionals to handle all of their clients’ needs. Any athlete can use a business manager because he or she needs smart advice on how to best invest his or her money, even if it is a minimum-salary player. The business managers simplify the life of a professional athlete. They continually work with the client’s agent and also allow for a much-needed collaborative environment so that each person on the player’s team keeps an honest perspective in terms of fiduciary responsibility and collaboration.
Example: Part of a sports agent being responsible for his or her clients’ careers and lives is managing the other people around them; and in this case, who to work with, such as a business manager. Just like an agent and his or her clients have to be on the same page, a business manager and the agent have to be on the same page. The agent almost has to be the person to prescreen anyone that wants to be part of his or her clients’ business lives. If the wrong person is trusted with a piece of a client’s life, then that could turn into a financial disaster. An agent’s job doesn’t stop at contract negotiation and marketing; he or she has to be dedicated to protecting the player in all aspects of life.
According to Sports Illustrated, 78% of NFL players become broke two years after they retire from the NFL. Starting when the client signs with his or her respective agent and/or business manager, client education begins. All parties need to effectively work together with one another and begin to trust each other when working on client opportunities.
Ed Butkowski, a financial advisor for professional athletes, said on ESPN’s 30 for 30 Broke, “I have clients of mine who literally have six homes, for their parents, their friends. And they bought them all, and they are making those mortgage payments. When their career ends, what are they going to do, call them up and tell them it’s time to move out?” An experienced business manager knows how to deal with these situations and be able to guide an agent’s clients to the right direction. If an agent and business manager turn a blind-eye, then that is when a player can be negatively affected the most.
In summary, business managers need to earn the respect and trust from players in order to effectively tell them on how to manage their money, especially when times are tough. A business manager and agent need to be able to communicate to their client(s) and deliver good news and bad news, even if their clients do not want to hear it.
Part IV. Getting a Job as a Business Manager and Potential Career Opportunities
Key Topic: Landing That Big Opportunity
A business manager needs to act as a financial stop gap, an entrepreneur, but also a sounding board on dealing with every aspect of a player’s career. It is the same deal for a sports agent. Both the business manager and agent need to collectively and collaboratively go out and create opportunities for their clients. A business manager and agent constantly have to change and adapt to various circumstances, and oftentimes, deal with the various highs and lows of the player’s profession.
Business managers and agents have to develop various skills (communication, finance, etc.) that they can only develop over time (outside of educational requirements). Getting plenty of practical experience will only make you more prepared for anything and to better serve your clients’ needs. Business managers, along with agents, have to continually educate their clients because developing clients will allow them to not only further their clients’ career development but also allow them to showcase their ability to work with other high-profile clients.