Paddy got straight to the point, “Last week when we were talking about talent not being enough, you agreed that you had over a hundred celebrity clients throughout your career.”
I took a sip of coffee and answered, “About a hundred and twenty-five or so.”
“Mostly hockey players, I assume,” Paddy said.
“About half were hockey players,” I replied. “There were a dozen or so entertainers, a lot of broadcasters and journalists, three NFL players, two major league baseball players, a couple of actors, some celebrity CEOs, and a few entrepreneurs.”
Paddy paused for a couple of drinks of coffee and then observed, “I make that out to be five categories: athletes; entertainers, which would include the actors; broadcasters; journalists; and, executives and entrepreneurs.”
“You’re right that there were five categories,” I agreed, “but they weren’t exactly as you categorized them. I would list the categories as: athletes; entertainers; broadcasters and journalists; CEOs; and, entrepreneurs.”
“Aren’t entrepreneurs and CEOs the same,” Paddy protested, “don’t successful entrepreneurs often become celebrity CEOs?”
“Definitely not,” I said. “It always seemed to me that the creative juices of outstanding entrepreneurs somehow prevented them from being able to successfully operate a business. My biggest problem with entrepreneurs was convincing them that, regardless of how great a business they conceived and developed, they had to hire other people to run it for them.”
“What about the Blackberry guys?” Paddy countered, “They became celebrity CEOs.”
“Yes,” I said, “and I suggest to you that they prove my point. They developed a fantastic business but then nearly ran it into the ground.”
“What about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell?” Paddy snarled.
“Their celebrity is a result of their entrepreneurship,” I said, “and to the best of my knowledge they gathered bright people around them to run the business side of things.”
“Perhaps,” Paddy grunted and then moved on. “Were there any differences in dealing with athletes and entertainers, or were they pretty much the same?”
“Quite different,” I said. “First of all, athletes’ careers are very short, so they’re faced with that particular challenge. And athletes are relatively young, inexperienced and very impressionable when they start to make big money, so it’s often hard to get them to take the long view.”
“Like what?” Paddy prodded.
“I always hated Mondays during the hockey season because I knew I’d be spending most of the day convincing hockey players that they shouldn’t invest in whatever harebrained scheme was presented to them over the weekend, usually in a bar after a game. It was the same during the summer after they played in a celebrity golf tournament. Another problem was that many of them were making more money than they ever imagined and had a hard time recognizing that their lifestyles would be vastly different after their playing days were over, that they needed to make sound, long-term investments.
“Athletes are really hybrids,” I went on, “their main activity, playing, is an employment situation in that they are employees of a team. But outside activities, like promoting products or services, which were always considerable with my clients, bring business related considerations to bear. It can be pretty overwhelming for young men and women.”
“Isn’t it the same for entertainers?” Paddy asked.
“Oh, no, not at all,” I replied. “Successful entertainers tend to be older when they start to make big money and will likely have much longer careers. They are rarely in an employer/employee relationship. Their activities are really business activities. Athletes sign a contract every few years, whereas entertainers are constantly dealing with contracts. Entertainers usually have to hire and maintain employees, but athletes rarely do. Athletes know exactly what their income and expenses are going to be over the terms of their contracts. Entertainers, on the other hand, have to mange income and expenses on an ongoing basis very much like running any other business.”
“What about broadcasters and journalists, were they more like athletes or entertainers? I would think they’d be more like entertainers to deal with,” Paddy postulated.
“And you’d be wrong,” I said. “Broadcasters and journalists were more like the athletes in that they usually worked as employees under fixed term contracts. If they did have people working for them, those people would be employees of the same organization that the broadcaster or journalist worked for. Of course, freelancers are exceptions, they’re more like entertainers.”
“What about big egos?” Paddy asked.
“The really big egos tend to be in the entertainment business,” I said. “But I was really lucky in that the entertainment people I worked with were anything but egomaniacs. For example, I never saw Anne Murray, Rita MacNeil, George Fox, Michael Burgess, Frank Mills, or the rock group Crowbar ever display egotistical tendencies. I think people often mistake pride for ego.”
“With which group did you have the best relationship?” Paddy asked.
“CEOs,” I answered without hesitation.
“Well,” observed Paddy, “that’s probably because you were basically a business person yourself, so you and CEOs could relate more easily to each other.”
“That would be part of it,” I agreed, “they tended to deal with me as an ally rather than a necessary evil, which is how financial and business managers are often viewed by athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs. But I also found CEOs enjoyable to deal with because they were completely comfortable in their own skins and looked upon dealing with problems as just a part of everyday life. Another thing is that they tended to know exactly what they’d do if they lost their jobs tomorrow, so I seldom had to deal with personal paranoia among my CEO clients.”
“Whose companionship did you enjoy the most?” was Paddy’s next question.
“Broadcasters and journalists,” I said. “Their interests were very broad, and most of them had a great, and quick, wit. The vast majority of them were, like the CEOs I dealt with, very comfortable with themselves and absolutely loved their jobs. Also, broadcasters and journalists tend not to worry about what’s going to happen but concentrate instead on what is happening. I thoroughly enjoy being around optimistic people who love what they do, and I found nearly every broadcaster and writer I dealt with fell into that category.”
“Was there any one attribute that you could ascribe to all of your celebrity clients?” Paddy asked.
“There was,” I responded, “and I think I used a variation of it as one of my ‘thoughts for the day.’ It’s this: those people succeeded, not because they didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit,’ but rather because they did know the meaning of it.”
“Well, I’ve got to quit this and go home,” Paddy said as he got up to leave.
“Me, too,” I said and joined him.