So What Does a NBA Business Manager Do?

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The recent incident at an NBA game involving Rockets veteran Jason Terry and the Business Manager for DeMarcus Cousins raised some questions about the role and what purpose does it actually serve.

With player salaries increasing – and with the philosophy that each individual athlete is a small business – this role is becoming more and more common with today’s professional Athlete.

As someone who has served in the role of manager – both at the NBA Team level and individually – since 2000, I wanted to share some insight into this space:

Professional Athlete LLC:

Today’s professional Athletes are similar to many small businesses. The demands of the profession, the high amount of income, and numerous “off the court” factors have some professional Athletes choosing to hire a personal Business Manager. Often this is a close personal friend, family member, or representative from the Agents office.

Over the past few years, I have had many conversations with professional Athletes and individuals on what type of framework should be put in place when bringing someone into this position.

This meeting is typically with a person who is brand new to this role and we share what we call our “Business Manager BootCamp”:

Define your role:

Start by making a list of exactly what the Player needs help with. From that list, you can essentially write up a working form of your role and responsibilities. When I first started, my business card read Personal Assistant. When someone would ask, “so what do you do?” I explained that I coordinated schedules, paid the bills, covered the home needs, facilitated family requests, and picked up the dry cleaning.  As simple as this sounded – it set the course for always knowing my role, it’s value, and importance.

In many cases, this role is a big part of the Players overall picture and if  both parties adhere to structure and do it right – the journey ahead will be beneficial to the player and also an incredible experience for you as the Business Manager.

Take this seriously!

Good support around a Player can be a key element to a successful and long career. Treat your role like you are the Vice President of Operations for a small business. With that mentality, you will be able to have a professional identity and legitimize what you are actually doing.

Stay in your lane:

You should try to define your role that best matches your actual skills set. This notion is usually applied to the Agent, the CPA, the Financial Advisor, the Lawyer, and anyone else who has a defined role with the Player.

As an example (in most cases), you are not the Agent, so allow all basketball issues to be handled by the Agent. Be careful of what you say in regards to any basketball matters, as you can easily become that “source” in the media that can affect an Agents ability to do their job.

There is only one Maverick Carter.

Maverick Carter is by far the most notable Business Manager in pro sports and rightfully so. He leads the top brand in terms of NBA Players and guides a full-fledged business operation that is the management team behind LeBron James.

But this is a unique situation and not every pro athlete needs – or can afford – to have several full time employees. In most cases you are a “one-person Army” wearing many hats, doing many tasks, and yes – picking up the dry cleaning.

But use Maverick’s leadership and how seriously he takes his role and profession as the standard.

Being able to communicate professionally:

Your typical business day can include conference calls, in-person meetings, and communication with the Agent’s office, League, Union, and Team. Your ability to show that you are a professional is important for others taking you seriously.

You also quickly become the eyes, ears, filter, and gatekeeper for the Player. You are the primary conduit of information but also communication with and for the Player. Maintaining a high standard of professionalism will only make your job easier.

You can then feel more like an advocate working to keep the Player at ease and assure them that you are representing them in the best way possible. Festus Ezili will tell you straight up – “when you are talking to Jody Yeager (with BDA) – you are speaking to me“.  This should be a communication goal!

Other Business Manager’s speak your language:

Orin Mayers (longtime Business Manger for Ray Allen) and I can literally can finish each other’s sentences. We often communicate during a typical day that normally includes visits to the bank, FedEx/Kinkos, and of course the dry cleaners.

In most cases, you will not have a lot of “co-workers” so being connected to other professionals in similar roles will be beneficial when you need some advice, suggestions, insight, or more commonly vent too!

Do not be afraid to reach out to a colleague as you will be surprised that we all have a lot in common.

Know, understand, and use your resources:

Orin and I are unique in our background having worked on “both sides of the fence” on the Team side and then in the private sector.  This experience has proved to be so valuable as we have direct knowledge of numerous supports already in place.

Many of the conversations we have with other Business Managers is explaining the dynamics and inter-workings of how teams and leagues operate.  You should be aware of the various departments within the front office of your Player’s team and support them in any way you can.  This also goes for the League office and Union.

Understanding this will be very helpful in your role. There are an abundance of resources through these various entities that are all dedicated to supporting your Player. If you research and ask enough questions, you should not have to reinvent the wheel or tackle issues that may not be your specialty.

A few other quick hits:

  • Create an organization chart (aka the Athlete Matrix) that defines everyone’s role as it relates to player support “off the court”.  Stick to it!
  • Be organized.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Take online courses which will help you in your role. (Check out Coursera.)

And of course – remember to pick up the dry cleaning…

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