Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to become an athletics director - Part 11 - Your network

     Who you know can be just as important as what you know.  Great ideas spread through social interaction. Reputations spread in a similar manner - built and torn down one interaction at a time. Representing yourself in an authentic but positive way - being your own brand - is important.  People who can guide your decision making when pursuing an AD position or can help provide entry to a search is important.  Who are those people?   

1)  Directors of Athletics - This is a crucial network and an exclusive club.  If you want to be a Division I AD, you are seeking one of approximately 350 jobs nationally.  It’s a very selective profession.  There is a huge supply of candidates with an exceedingly small number of openings each year.  AD's can provide tremendous guidance about the challenges of the position and are dialed into a high level of dialogue about the business of college athletics.  Make sure the relationship mutually beneficial.  Learn about them and try to make their world better.  Their time is valuable, but most will invest in those individuals where they see promise, and in those who make the relationship beneficial for both.

2)    Coaches – They move, A LOT!  Assistant coaches in particular are very mobile.  It’s not all about football and basketball, although it may seem that way.  Many search committees will have coaches from various sports and they can provide valuable entry to a search if they are on a committee.  Further, make sure coaches view you as a great resource at your current institution.  Be helpful.  Provide great service and counsel.  Doing a great job now, for all coaches, both head and assistant, benefits everyone and perhaps helps you down the road. 

3)    Your president – Presidents are very intelligent, hardworking and their time is extremely valuable.  If you are an asset to them, they’ll appreciate it.  When you reach the stage of pursuing an AD job, presidents like talking to other presidents when seeking references.  They have tough jobs and tremendous pressure.  Hiring an AD is not something they can afford to miss on because a mismanaged athletic program can derail a presidency very quickly.  A reference from a presidential peer goes a long way. 

4)    Conference personnel – Conference commissioners and their associates are very well connected nationally by the nature of their jobs and you want to make sure you are someone that brings value to them, is responsive, and contributes to the greater good of the conference.  We are in a competitive business.  Being likable is important, but being respected is even more so.  This can be particularly true at the conference level.  

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bulletproof Branding

The October 2013 edition of Athletics Administration which is published by NACDA contains an article I wrote about the branding process Bradley Athletics just concluded.  The article entitled "Bulletproof Branding" provides a list of topics encountered as we went through the process and provides ideas for your organization to consider in a branding or re-branding effort.  The process at Bradley resulted in a complete redesign of our licensed marks and overall department presentation.  I hope this article is beneficial to your branding efforts.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How to become an Athletics Director - Part 10 - Test your theories on stage

As a Director of Athletics you are in a highly public position where your comments are interpreted and scrutinized.  Preparing for this increased level of public attention isn't easy, but there are some steps you can take to be as well prepared as possible.  The easiest way is to test your theories and opinions "on stage."

You should identify opportunities for people outside your department – at your institution, in your conference, at the national level – to see your work and the value you bring to the table.  While doing this you are also going to be in situations where you have to present your views in a more public way than you encounter in your regular day-to-day position.  Going public with your views allows you to establish your own personal brand and this brand helps differentiate you from many other worthy candidates.  

My personal recommendation about a great way to do this is to write - for trade publications, for a blog - yours or guest write on someone else’s, or tweet (a 160 character limit challenges you to be interesting.  If you choose to do it, do it about things that matter to your profession, not about your cat or vacation).   There is nothing wrong with being provocative.  But aiming for sensationalism with each posting isn't a target to pursue.  

When you do these things, you open yourself up to criticism and dialogue and discussion.  So take the risk of putting yourself out there, risk the possibility of failure or criticism that comes with public statements.  This is a low risk but meaningful way to prepare you for the 24/7 public aspect of being an AD.   

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to become an athletics director - Part 9 - Investing in yourself


There are many types of investments you can make - real estate, as well as stocks and bonds are common. But how about investing in something more sustainable and completely under your control – yourself? Not all personal profit is financial. Using some of your hard earned cash for something that yields dividends throughout your life is important, even if it requires meaningful financial sacrifices.

One of the leading excuses why people don’t go to conferences and meetings or advance their education is that their institution won’t pay for it. This approach can be revealing. You can and should invest in yourself.  If you aren't willing to, why not? And if you aren't willing to, what does this say to others about your commitment and belief in yourself? Compound interest is an amazing concept and it works not only in financial terms but in terms of investment in your skills, knowledge, and professional connections. If you aren't willing to invest financially and with your time outside of your job to advance your career, how hungry are you? Have you made any financial sacrifices recently?

Take this needed step to advance your education. Enroll in the Sports Management Institute. Register for a webinar. See a motivational speaker. Subscribe to the Sports Business Journal. Purchase a new book (preferably something outside of the sports biography genre) or borrow one from the library. Obviously it’s ideal if someone will pay for all of your costs or at least assist with your costs. But if they won’t, are you investing your own capital and building your brand, your base and your future?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to become an athletics director - Part 8 - Your current AD as a mentor

Most people who are successful can look back on their careers and identify key people who served as mentors to them as they made their way in this profession.  Who you work for is just as important, if not more so, as where you work.  

Working for someone who has a track record of growing his/her staff from within and developing staff is a very attractive opportunity.  Do you consider your current boss a mentor and role model?  If not, then identifying someone who can serve in this capacity for you is important.  AD's who take promotion and staff development seriously and provide consistent and productive feedback are incredibly valuable.  Someone who is a demanding, principled and experienced can provide a lifetime worth of lessons and opportunity through their guidance and trust in your skills.  

A mentor of mine often used to say that "you take a job for the next job."  Said differently, you aren't likely to be in the job you currently have for life.  Knowing how your current position or a new opportunity you are considering positions you for the opportunity beyond this job is important and thoughtful planning in your career path.  Looking at those who have walked the path before you can provide clues about how a position you are considering might position you for the future.  Have any senior associate AD's gone on to bigger and better opportunities?  Do people within the department show progressive upward movement?  If you see some of these patterns, you could be entering a good situation.  Just as there are coaching trees, there are AD trees as well.  Working for a leader who has staff who move on to greater opportunities could be just the launching pad you need to contribute to your professional growth.  

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to become an athletic director - Part 7 - Geography and family


Becoming a director of athletics requires more than a resume, cover letter and references, the standard documents that were covered in Part 6 of the series.  It is important to sit down with your spouse or partner and have some candid conversations about their commitment to your profession.  Your spouse must be fully on board with you becoming an AD.  The position is much more than job, it is a lifestyle choice and this lifestyle can be enhanced or undermined by geography and family considerations.    

You and your spouse must be on board with the location of the school - the state and region are important, as is the setting - urban, suburban or rural.  Hate the cold and snow?  Upstate New York, Maine or Minnesota might not be good options.  If you are from a coast and you've never been to the mid-west, you’ll have to be prepared to explain to a search committee or President why you want to live there and how your family will adapt.  Every part of the country has its particular “feel”, norms and culture.  

If you are going to move away from a close knit family or grandparents, you have to know how their personal situations such as health, willingness to travel and a desire to have an in-person presence in your life and the lives of your children might impact your satisfaction in a particular area.  These are important conversations to have well before you submit your information for a position, not after you are under serious consideration. 

Many athletic director searches include significant interaction with your spouse, and what is learned during those interactions can be every bit as important as what you personally say during the formal interview.  Make sure s/he is on board and can handle the personal questions that will come during these interactions.  If your partner is not in favor of where you are interviewing, that information usually shines through and may impact your hire-ability. 

Finally, there will be many stretches where you are simply not available for your family.  If you have children, this can significantly impact your spouse who will bear the brunt of your absence.  For example, how will your wife feel being the only mom at cub scouts?  How will your son feel?  Are you comfortable missing your daughter's soccer game?  What type of support system do you have – or can you create – where you are considering moving?  Your children’s ages should be taken into consideration.  When children are small, it can be much easier to re-locate than when you have a daughter who is a junior in high school.  If your kids are old enough, you may want to involve them in the conversation and make it a family discussion.  Ultimately you may still have to move children who don’t want to be moved, but at least they will feel like they had a chance to weigh in and were heard. 

To be successful, your spouse or partner and family MUST be fully on board with the demands of you being an AD, and with it all that relocation brings.  

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How to become an athletic director - Part 6 - Resume, cover letter and references


If you are going to become an athletic director, presenting yourself well on paper is crucial.  Having a well prepared resume and cover letter is crucial.  Having a list of meaningful references is also important.

Your resume should be updated and ready to submit at all times.  If it will take you longer than a few days to provide your resume to a prospective employer it isn't nearly close enough to fully prepared to be seriously considered.  Your resume should be proof-read multiple times by you and someone you trust who has strong editing skills.  It must be meticulously accurate.  Google and fact checking will be done before, during and after the hiring process.  You want to avoid any questions regarding the accuracy of the materials you create.  

Cover letters should be rewritten every time and proof read three times.  A common mistake is to send materials that have the name of the wrong school or refer to a position other than the one the person is seeking.  I've seen it happen many times in coaching and staff searches.  If you do this for an AD position you are dead in the water.

Your cover letter should not be a review of your resume.  The reader already knows this information, its on your resume!  Share your values, philosophy, and the vision that you have been developing  – anything but what is already stated in your resume.

If you are lucky, your materials will be read for 1-2 minutes and after that time likely go into one of three piles – yes, maybe and no.  You want to be in the yes pile, or the maybe pile at a minimum.  No one ever moves out of the no pile.  Your materials have to look great and contain impeccable grammar, spelling and punctuation.  Miss on these details and you can find yourself quickly in the “no” pile.

You need to have a significant list of at least ten references.  Your references should be aware of your search.  And you should know or have a very good idea what they will say about you if they are called.  Will they keep your search confidential?  It is also helpful to explain why someone is listed on your resume.  The people reading your resume don’t necessarily know why you chose someone unless you tell them.  “Celebrity” references can be helpful if you know them well, but if they really don’t know you, be careful.  They could hurt more than help.  Again, you need to have a clear picture what the person will say when called.

So if your materials aren't ready, its time to put them together.  It's your first chance to separate yourself from the competition.  

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.