Frank and Ian compare their fantasy football league to the world of business. Fortunately for Frank, he is much better at execution with his business than he is with his fantasy roster.
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Can You Run Your Career Like Your Fantasy Football Team? (Repost)
It is fantasy football time, boys and girls. No time of the year gets Frank and me more excited. Our competitive juices go. Even though Frank has never beat me in our league in over ten years, that’s neither here nor there. He does give it the old college try but this is a repost of an episode. This is one of the first episodes we ever recorded. It’s one of our OGs. It’s one of our favorites.
There are so many lessons in fantasy football that we apply to run a business from narrowing down your funnel of candidates to being slow to hire and fast to fire and being careful about referrals. We dive into what it’s like to manage a roster and how close attention you have to pay to a business on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis as a manager. We have a lot of fun talking about our zany league with a unique cast of characters. We hope you enjoy this. Let’s go, Detroit Lions.
Frank and I are in a fantasy football league with only four people. It is a different league than most. It’s largely for 40-something-year-old dudes that want an excuse to go on a trip a couple of times a year. What’s funny is the four of us only talk four months out of the year. For the other eight months, we go radio silent. No one hears from anyone for eight months. We talked during our league but Frank and I got to talking about how similar fantasy football is to managing a business and the areas where it is completely dissimilar.
We could take both sides of the episode but we thought it would be a fun episode to go through and think about what a business would look like if every manager led their team the same way they run their fantasy football team. That is what the topic of this episode is going to be. Frank is going to have the last word on every topic because he is leading our fantasy football league. He is the victor so far.
Let’s have a little fun with this. Let’s give a little bit of context first. It’s a high-dollar league. It’s not a bunch of dudes with $100. Instead of it being 12, 14, or 16 players as there are mostly leagues, there are four of us. This is our fifth season doing this. There’s usually a boondoggle or two. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. I have a two-year-old and a pregnant wife. This goes into sales, planning, organizing, and never leaving a bro behind. Who doesn’t want to go there? We went to Detroit, Michigan.
It’s the second Detroit trip.
We need to see Big Gretch. We had to go see for ourselves what was happening in Detroit. One of our buddies is Neil. He went to Ian’s high school. They’re grade school friends. He’s one of Ian’s fraternity brothers and me. I’m the outsider. I’ve been in the group for the least amount of time. We went fishing in the Detroit River. Who doesn’t want to fish in the Detroit River? In addition to that, I flew in. I was emailing Ian from the plane. He goes, “Frankie, are you in Detroit?”
I go, “Yeah.” He starts laughing. He goes, “What are you doing in Detroit? We don’t arrive until tomorrow.” I’m like, “What are you talking about? You’re screwing me.” He goes, “I can’t even be cold-hearted here. I can’t even play a joke on you. That’s even past me. There’s no way I would have you fly there a day early.” Do you want to talk a little bit about how you reacted to that?
There’s a pause in the text thread. Frank calls me. He scrolled down the text thread to see if he got it wrong or if I screwed something up. It was 100% on Frank but he’s like, “I’m in Detroit.” We didn’t get in until the next day. Frank got to spend a dreary overcast day hanging out in the City of Detroit.
What has happened in Ian and my friendship is this. If one of us screws something up, we’re like, “That should probably be an episode.” It’s the biggest FU that the other one could give, “Frankie, we will probably need to talk about your lack of organization in the show.”
Maybe some of our readers would have some tips for you.
Who can relate to this? We discussed the fact that I’m there a day early. It dawns on me that I’m a dumbass. I screwed up. I got all these other things happening later in the week. I realized I can’t get home until a day later than I thought but the biggest moment of regret is, “I’ve got to tell my wife that I screwed up something that I could do on the internet and not leave my house. I’ve flown to Detroit and screwed up so bad. I’ll be back a day later.”
“I’m spending one more day in Michigan that we have already fought about because I have a baby on the way and a two-year-old at home that’s creating havoc. I’m spending twice the amount of time in Michigan for a draft that I could have done 30 minutes on my cell phone.” That’s good persuasion. I can only imagine the chips you had to throw into the pile on that negotiation and what you had to give up to make that work. Never leave a bro behind.
Let’s talk about the fantasy football business.
The first thing we’re going to talk about is the absurd amount of research that goes into choosing someone to be on your team. This goes in the pros bucket. If business was run like fantasy football, how would it look different? The interviewing, recruiting, and hiring process would look different if it were comparable to fantasy football. There are four of us. One guy pretty much buys a magazine on the way out to the draft and does little research. That’s Packson. Packson is never even close to being in the running. He jokes as this is an annual friendship tax that he has to pay us because he has never won a dollar in this.
His team usually looks like the team you should have drafted years earlier. He has all the players. If you had them years ago, you would’ve kicked everyone’s ass.
He’s dated on his information but the rest of us put some time in. Anyone who has ever been a fantasy manager does mock drafts, buys magazines, and reads every preseason report you can get your hands on.
I print off reams of paper from ESPN, ESPN+, and CBS. You’re highlighting stuff and doing all kinds of crazy things for the draft.
You create custom spreadsheets where you’re moving eyes up and down based on your preferences. You’re studying the last few years of stats production. You’re looking up how the second-year receivers make jumps. Typically, you’re trying to project out. How many hours do you say you put into the stupid draft that you go into it?
On a bad year, it’s 3 or 4 but on a big year, it’s upwards of 10.
Maybe it’s more than that because you start looking a month out.
There are probably a lot of soft costs that were not factored in here.
It can be upwards of twenty hours to prepare for a fantasy draft that you’re going into. Most people are in more than one. I’m in more than one fantasy league. My son’s in one now. I’m preparing for all of them. I know an absurd amount of information about the third-string wide receiver for the New York Jets. I know a lot of information about the backup running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars that I should not know. I certainly did not know when I was a ten-year-old that was a fan of the Detroit Lions. You spend a lot of time. You take it seriously.
Our draft has 26 rounds. We are taking that pick seriously. We know a lot about the guy we are grabbing in the 26th round, which is the 100th person picked in our round. Some leagues have 12 to 14 teams. Those rounds when you get into the 16 to 17, you still know about the guy that did obscure running back or the kicker that you are picking. The average person that’s in a fantasy league, whether it’s for fun or a big money league like we are, spends a lot more time evaluating the people they put on their team than the average manager who makes a hire into an organization.Someone needs to be doing the research into your new hires because you can get hurt otherwise as a business owner. Click To Tweet
I want to talk about that a little bit. We can get into your experience coming from NVR and GE before there were HR departments in a second. I’ve been in business for years. In my business, I finally have gotten to a place where I have a headhunting department, staff, and an assistant. I was getting a coffee before we started this. The headhunter is back there. He’s like, “That show is great.” I’m like, “That was just us shooting the shit.” He could hear the whole thing.
This is what’s cool. If you get to a place in business, you’re going to have tests, resumes, and all kinds of other things. That stuff shows up in my calendar. When I walk into an interview, it’s printed. I will spend minutes in prep. That’s for a career. What Ian is talking about is hours. It’s different because I take someone who’s being hired seriously. There’s a rigorous process to get there but if I were to spend 2, 3, or 4 hours researching that person, looking them up on Facebook, and doing all types of other stuff, I would know more about them.
I have gotten to a point in my business where someone’s doing that. Someone is checking your LinkedIn channel to make sure you don’t post crazy stuff. These are the little things that we’re trying to draw parallels to. We know absurd amounts of things. If you’re not physically doing it for employees, someone needs to be doing that level of research because you can get hurt otherwise as a business owner.
What Frank is not talking about is whether he puts the time in or not, someone in his organization takes a funnel because the world is a population of opportunities of people you can hire. There are 7 billion people in the world that I could hire at any given time. I need to be able to shrink that down to a funnel. By the time it’s got to Frank, that funnel has shrunk down to one resume in front of him but what he’s not talking about is a recruiter that did a phone interview, googled that person, went to their LinkedIn page, and showed them how to go to the online application to fill out a full application.
He didn’t talk about the test that he made that person go through so that he had test data to compare against other people that have successfully or unsuccessfully performed at Cava Companies. He didn’t talk about all the hours that went into that resume dropping on Frank’s desk. Not anyone is going to land on Frank’s desk. He has coached the people before him, “What does a candidate need to have on their background? What person am I looking to hire?”
He has coached those people. Frank has spent hours coaching people that work for him, “This resume shouldn’t be on my desk unless it meets these criteria. Get to know the person I would hire and don’t put them on my desk unless that’s the case.” There is an entire organization that is whittling that down to the point where it’s pretty simple.
In fantasy football, there are rankings and lots of different ideas and things that go in. If you don’t want to put a lot of time in, someone else has. You can do okay in a draft if all you do is pick the next available person in a ranking from a big organization. That’s what Frank has built. By the time it gets to him, there’s a good chance it’s going to be someone that Frank would hire. It doesn’t mean he will but a lot of that work has been put in.
We’re joking here because if you’re interviewing with my company, I take my employees’ careers way more seriously than I take our bullshit draft. I will continue to dominate our fantasy league if I can staff it as well as I’ve been able to staff my company. I won’t draft idiots in the fourteenth round because we put a system in place. That’s the reason we get incredible candidates but not only that. If you go to ESPN, CBS, or any of these other places that are fantasy hotbeds where you can get info, they go through a metric and all these different things. They have rankings. You can find anything ranked from beginning to end. What would you guess how many tests a salesperson takes?
Is it to get into your company?
It’s to get an interview.
We have them take five separate tests. We do it through a process. We don’t make you take all five right up front. We put two hurdles in front of you immediately. It’s in our ad. If you’re in sales, we have a test specifically built for this. If you’re not that type of person, sales are not the right job for you. It doesn’t mean we’re hiring a different role but we know early that you have to hit these two things. If you get through those two tasks, we put you through a third test.
What do you mean by tests though? I don’t understand that. Are they actual tests?
The first thing we do is what’s called The Predictive Index. The Predictive Index is 1 of 16 different types of personalities that you have. I’m a captain. My guess is you’re probably a captain or something along that. I’m a strategist. You’re a captain or a strategist. That’s the first one. In sales, we want mavericks, captains, strategists, and connectors. Those are some of the people.
If you’re an altruist, you’re not a salesman. You’re not someone who’s going to sell. We’re not going to follow back up. You get an automatic rejection because you’re not the right type of person. In fantasy football, if I’m drafting a quarterback, I don’t want to draft a wide receiver. It’s simple. There’s a parallel there. We do what’s called a cognitive assessment, which is based upon what is your ability to learn. If you get through those two tests, we interview you. It’s a soft interview over the phone. We will then send you a sales assessment that measures 150 different things about sales.
I’ve been in business for years. I have had to find these tools. We will then send you a fourth test, which is a corporate test that Ian and I both use at NVR. We have taken that and made it more specific to our type of hires because I’m a smaller business. We have gotten granular with tests because of the human element. This is a huge parallel between fantasy football.
Packson always loses because he’s emotional. He hires people on his fantasy team that was great years ago because he doesn’t have relevant data. He’s drafting Calvin Johnson who has been retired for years but Ian and I aren’t drafting him because we have better data. If you’re a hiring manager, it’s important that you have the right data and you’re putting the right people on your team because we’re going to talk about later consequences.
The consequences of fantasy football are insignificant. The consequences to a business of having the wrong people or the consequences of having to fire someone are meaningful. It’s so important to make sure that you’re doing the right things and that you’re joining a company with integrity. That’s making sure you’re the right hire. It has a whole system built.
We differ a little on that. I would never give someone five tests. I do agree with testing. I’m a fan of behavioral testing. I’m in favor of looking for personality traits and looking against them. I never called it a test but I would call my application a test. Before I would even bother to test you, the application is a test. Questions that I’m big on looking at are like, “Why did you leave each job?” I’m looking to see the way you write. I’m looking to see the way you talk about former organizations.
Are you pointing fingers at that organization? Are you complaining about a boss in every one of your situations or why you left? I’m looking to see what income you’ve made. To a lot of people, that’s a controversial thing but the truth is if you’ve been used to making $250,000, and mine caps at $100,000, even if you want the job, you won’t stay. You will take it, make a few dollars, and still be always looking to get back to where you were. There are tests in the application that won’t get you to the next level with me before I even have you take some tests.
In some positions, we would do a second test outside of personality that is more technical. If you said you were an underwriter that knew VA loans, we would give you a little test that is specific to that vocation. For more generalists, I was more a fan of getting data. The application, the resume, and the personality indicators tell me a lot but after that, I was more afraid of slowing the process down to analysis by paralysis. That person wouldn’t join me because they would get tired of going through the process.
I want to talk about that specifically. We’re talking about the interview arc. At NVR and GE, everybody who’s interviewing a candidate has been professionally trained with follow-up training. In addition to follow-up training, they have had years of interview experience. There’s an HR person who’s got years of experience who’s going to be your first sift before it even makes it to you.In sales, you want mavericks, captains, strategists, or connectors. If you're an altruist, you're not a salesman. Click To Tweet
In my business, I don’t have people who are professionally trained. I have 2 people out of a staff of 30 that have been professionally trained on how to interview. We found some things that would help us not make common mistakes. That’s why there’s more testing. From the standpoint of being a business owner or a manager, you need to understand the system around you.
This is a real story. I had thirteen job offers coming out of college. I met NVR and wanted to work there. I had offers from everybody else I met at the same time. NVR hadn’t even set up an interview with me yet. I called the HR person I met and said, “I like it here. I am going to contemplate starting my career there. You haven’t even got me interviewed. I’ve got job offers.” Ian knew that at NVR, the last thing you want to do is put more hurdles up but as a small business, I need to put those hurdles because we’re not as good.
As a small business owner, everyone that I hire, whether they’re an employee, a freelance, or a contractor, has such a big impact on my business. It is so painful if I get it wrong. For me, it’s less about testing when I go through a lot of that. It’s checking real references and looking to see real work, “Do you know people that I know that I can call and have a long conversation with?”
The smaller you are, the more peculiar you are in digging into that person’s background and checking to see if they have social proof with people that I care about because my name is tied to whatever that person’s going to do. When you have 1, 2, 3, or 4 people working for you, they have an outsized impact on your business than if you’re running a Fortune 500 company where there’s one person. Do they impact the brand? Zero. Not even an executive impacts the brand of a big company.
I want to pivot to something else that’s on this topic. In fantasy football, we’re going to talk later about cutting people. In fantasy football, several years ago, Ian drafted Jimmy Graham in the top ten. He was having a crap season. Ian cut his ass out. In fantasy football, you will do that. In real business, you don’t. Everything during the business process of interviewing is critical. This is where they differ. In the fantasy, you will get cut. In the business world, you’re not going to get cut. You’re never going to get a chance to get into the room if you don’t take the process seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever told you that story.
That’s hilarious. We’re talking about testing a little bit but a big difference in fantasy football is you have reams of data. Football is a measurable sport. It’s the same as fantasy baseball. There are stats that are relatively predictive of what someone will do the next year even to the point where you know certain ages and players. Running backs over 28 are probably in a decline. Receivers are more than 30. Quarterbacks can go into their mid-30s before they decline. It is much harder to find good data on a person that you are going to hire. You’re often relying on what they put on their resume and what they say. It’s hard to get a company to substantiate anything they have said.
The more specific someone is on their accomplishments, measurables, and metrics, that tells me something about them. If someone writes, “At this company, I was one of the better salespeople,” or they write pretty much the job description, “In this role, I was responsible for customer service and growing sales,” that tells me they’re not a person that is that proud of anything they have accomplished, or they’re hiding something.
If someone says, “In this role, I was responsible for customer service rating. I led my branch four straight quarters in a row with a 98.7% rating. I was also responsible for growing sales. Here’s how I did it. I was up 22%, 41%, and 30% in my three years working for that company, which put me in the top five in the company. I received a trip to Bermuda for it,” that’s hard to lie about. When someone does that and gets into that level of detail, maybe they’re lying but often they’re not.
Someone that can get into that level of detail takes their numbers seriously. They’re an accountable person. They’re competitive. They want to tell you where they ranked, what they did, and how they accomplished it. The more specific details they give me, the more they tell me about the person they are and the details that they pay attention to. I’ve got to get a lot of that on the resume, the application, and the metrics of how they did but the more specific they are, the prouder they are.
There’s a lot of stuff in there to unpack. I love a lot of what you said. Let’s get into the difference between fantasy football and reality. Fantasy football is if Antonio Brown caught a ball or not, that can be reported. It’s cut and dry. It’s black and white. If you call a company, they’re not going to answer your questions honestly because they’re going to check the box. They don’t want to get into a lawsuit or say something disparaging about an employee. There’s almost no way for someone to substantiate it. In the NFL, it’s easier. That’s number one.
Number two, there are two different things here. If you write down details and all kinds of specific things, Ian and I are good enough interviewers. We’re going to hear you and ask questions about it. As long as you’re not full of shit and making it up, we’re going to be impressed with that because you are telling us detailed things that we can get our arms around but there’s the second part of it. There are people who are as good and as accomplished but they can’t communicate it.
What you need to realize in an interview is you must communicate it. Did Ben Roethlisberger throw a pass and wasn’t caught? That’s the metric in fantasy football. Did you go to Bermuda? Why didn’t you tell me that? What did you have to do to go to Bermuda? Did you have to work extra hours? Did you have to convince someone who’s a no and turn them into a yes? Those are the compelling stories that you need to convey to a manager in an interview, or you’re not going to get hired.
Give me some context. Did you go to Bermuda because your branch won an award and you were 1 of 30 people and you’re the lowest person on the team but you went anyway? Were only 7 people awarded with this out of 142 people? They were awarded for this reason. Give me some context on what Bermuda even means so that I can understand what kind of person are you. A lot of people assume that’s their lens. They were in that company. They know what those accomplishments meant. I don’t know what any of that means if I’m an interviewer because I never worked in your company. I don’t know how difficult it was to achieve what you’re telling me you achieved.
Metrics and sports are the box score. That’s why there’s a box score. There is no box score at work. It’s your responsibility to build your box score. Here’s a story from 2002. I was two contracts short to make my quota. It was the last day of the month of July. I had tickets to see Dave Matthews that night with all my friends. In 2002, I was 27 or 28. It was expensive. I didn’t want to miss it.
I needed to get two sales to get my quota. That morning, I had a cancellation, so I need to get three. I sat down, strategized, and went back to other people that were in my funnel. I called my boss and said, “I’m not going to make my quota. I’ve got these two people that I could close but I’m going to need your help to do this.” I systematically went from being a negative one to making my quota in one day.
I told that story over and over in interviews because it was a great story with an incredible ending. I got to see Dave Matthews. It was an awesome story. Who didn’t want to see Dave Matthews in 2002? I also took care of business. That’s a quantifiable story that your interviewer will get behind and listen to you. You can tell things and leave Easter eggs so they can uncover and ask you about them. That’s what a good interviewee does. A great interviewer will pull more of that stuff out of you.
The difference there is in fantasy football, all you care about is if they scored a touchdown. I don’t see how they did 90% of the points that I get from my team. I don’t give points for creativity. It doesn’t matter to me whether Barry Sanders broke ten tackles to get to the end zone or a two-yard plunge. They scored a touchdown and got me six points. I’m looking objectively, whereas as an interviewer, I care much about how they got there because they might have been on a crappy team.
Even the fact that they finished 80% of the quota in a year where everyone finished 40% of the quota is impressive. You shine. You were still number one. You did something within the context. You could have been held back. You could have been a running back like Barry Sanders with a bad offensive line that’s still rushed for a lot of yards. You might not have been number one but what you did is pretty incredible given what was up against you.
In fantasy football, nobody cares about the story. In business, people care about the story. It’s up to you to bring that story up and make sure your interviewer knows it.
As an interviewer, find those stories and don’t get so focused on the metrics. In fantasy football, it’s all about the metrics. As an interviewer looking to hire people, dig those stories out and ask about them. If they give you some numbers, say, “Tell me about that. How did you do versus other people? How were you able to accomplish that?” Try to find a story like Frank shared where you came from way behind and did something incredible. Tell those stories because whether you’re on either side of the table, they stick.
As an interviewer, that’s the person you want to hire. That tells more about their character than any number that they could get. It goes a little bit in line with the amount of research you do before you hire someone. In fantasy football, you never stop thinking about upgrading your team where in any given week, you could lose by one point. You lost to Neil O by one point or 2-15 to 2-14 for a $100 weekly winner but that point mattered. It’s how you put different people there.
You’re objective and cutthroat. If someone is one spot ahead of another, you will drop that person and bring someone else in. If every company was run like a fantasy owner runs their team, pretty much every company would be Netflix. Reed Hastings is famous for cutting anyone. He pays at the top end. He is ruthless about finding the absolute best talent but because he pays them so much, he is also quick to replace them. Because he’s paying at the top of the market, he expects to get top-of-the-market performance. He is impatient about someone not performing.Metrics in sports are the box score. There is no box score in work. So it's your responsibility to build your own box score. Click To Tweet
He has a management test he always does with people, “If this position was open, would I still hire this person who’s doing this job? Would I find someone else to do it?” Unlike most companies that say stuff like that, Netflix will replace them. He has replaced the guys that have been with them for twenty years like vice presidents, senior vice presidents, and officers in the company. He replaced them, gave them a nice package, and said, “I need someone with a different skill set now.” It has left some bad feelings but he’s the extreme version of a fantasy owner.
Even though I’ve had Julio Jones five years in a row in this league, I always run out and get him. The second Julio stopped scoring touchdowns, I’m dropping him and finding the next thing that is out there. There are pros and cons to this. You have to have some of this mentality as a manager. I started at GE. Jack Welch is famous for his differentiation approach. The differentiation approach is every year, 10% have to go. I saw it at the tail end of Jack doing this.
When Jack Welch came into GE, it was 1980 around that time. It’s a big and bloated organization. It’s almost like the government. It’s a big and slow-moving tanker. If you put something in place in 1980 at GE when there are 400,000 employees and you say, “The bottom 10% has to go,” then you can replace them but at first, he wasn’t even replacing them. He was getting rid of them.
It’s similar to what we have talked about before. The first layoff is always easy. I imagine that the first ten years of Jack doing this in the ’80s were pretty simple and profitable. You had people that have been hiding for years. No one was saying anything because the revenue gravy train was good. It was probably easy for managers to find 10% every year to replace or never hire again but as it got into the ’90s, it got excruciating.
When I started with General Electric in 1999, by the time I had to do it, it was painful because we had been doing it every year. You would have a team of eight people. They were all getting their job done. You’ve got someone in HR saying, “One has got to go.” You’re like, “That’s dumb. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” This approach is always healthy at first but when you put in rules that say, “You have to do it every year,” to me, it loses its impact.
If this isn’t your culture, you could always find 10%. If you’ve not been doing it, it’s easy if you’re forced into it. In a layoff or what we went through with COVID, a lot of people figured that out, “I could find 20 or 30.” I’m embarrassed about saying it but if you do it year after year, it gets harder to find and replace those people. You can lose your team a little bit also because they feel like there’s no loyalty.
There are a few things in here I want to unpack. The first one you said is HR is coming to you and saying, “One has to go.” That is an incredible culture that I’ve never lived through. As someone who’s looking for a job, one of the things you should think about is, “Is that the place I want to work.” That is real pressure. That is incredibly different than where I worked and where Ian and I met where the HR department would be like, “Can we keep them? Do we have to let them go?”
Think about that as you’re entering a company. What is the culture? What are you going to be able to get away with while you’re learning? Are you going to be able to grow? Coming in there with a flamethrower in the fantasy is easy because, at the end of the day, nobody cares. It was $100, $1,000, or whatever it was. Years from now, you’re never going to know. If in your career, you pick the wrong place where the manager and HR are like, “Somebody has got to go,” there are real consequences. You need to be mindful of that. Is there anything else you want to add to that?
The pros are when you first start that approach, you will upgrade your team and find better people. It’s the best way to get better performance out of a team. There’s no arguing this. You find better people and upgrade the marginal. That works on sports teams. That’s how most sports teams turn around. They go through the draft. They bring the younger, faster, and better talent. They replace people that aren’t getting the job done. By far, the quickest way to do it is you change the team a little bit, and then coaching takes place.
The problem you start to get into when you are all objective about the performance and you give no credit to the cultural aspect and the halo effect that a good, nice, and hardworking person who cares but isn’t the greatest, you ruthlessly are always cutting them out. You get left with a bunch of hired assassins. You get left with a bunch of people that don’t care about the mission. They get results and only care about pay. That’s a difficult place to run. The other thing I would add is you have to think about it as a manager.
If I cut Nick Chubb because he’s limping around on a bad knee, the rest of my fantasy football team does not know I cut Nick Chubb. It’s make-believe and fake. If I cut someone who has been with me for years and has always been a good performer but they’re having a terrible 2020, they’ve got problems at home, they’ve got three kids that are doing virtual schooling, their wife is stressed out all the time, they’re feeling that pressure at home, they can’t focus at work, and I cut a longtime employee, you have to think about the impact that will have on the rest of your team.
Your team now is going to look at you a little differently. If you fire someone who doesn’t have a good attitude, they’re not a good person, they’re a bad apple to the team, or they have not performed ever, your team is like, “Great job. We’re better now.” I had to fire some people that were GE to the core. They were cheerleaders of the company. They only bought GE light bulbs and appliances. They were longtime employees that couldn’t perform the way they used to it. That sheen and that loyalty of the rest of the team goes away.
I was that way. I quickly became like, “I’m one of the favorite sons at GE because I’m young. I work my butt off. I’m getting results. People like me here. They promote me a lot.” I was two bad quarters away from a performance plan always at GE. It didn’t matter how many times they promoted me, how much they paid me, or what my internal brand was. I was two bad quarters away from a PIP. I knew that. That impacted my loyalty. Once I realized that about GE, I wasn’t loyal at all. I was like, “As long as they keep paying me and I keep getting opportunities, I’ll stay here. The second I can roll, I’ll roll.” There was nothing else keeping me there.
There are a few things to talk about with this. There’s discretion as an employee, “Where will I work? Where will I not work?” You and I talked about this before. Richard Seymour got cut or traded. The Patriots are ruthless when it comes to people. It’s the reason why Tom Brady finished his career somewhere else. Is it the right move? I don’t know. They make decisions better than me in that area but that’s the culture. It’s ruthless.
In my business, we have over 30 employees. I’m years into it. At COVID, we had 23. We fired seven. We came all the way down and have grown back up. The people that we have talent-wise are way better than the talent we had years ago. If you worked for me many years ago, you probably weren’t qualified to work for me now. Why? We pay more and offer benefits. We have 401(k). We had none of that stuff years ago.
You’ve been around long enough. There’s perceived stability. It’s not just Frank working out of a small office. You have a better office to show people. You can attract better talent.
Our technology is better and all of those things but there’s also an incredible team here. We had this awesome interview. We interviewed everybody in the company because we’re building a recruiting video for the company. Our service manager is incredible. He said, “At Cava, it’s like in the military. When I was in the military, people used to tell me, ‘I’ve got your 6:00,’ which means your back.” He goes, “I’ve never felt that anywhere else except the military. At Cava, I feel like people have my 6:00.”
That means something to me. I can take a good performer, put them in a great team, and make them better. To Ian’s point, you can’t cut everybody blindly. You need to do it but if you have cancer, you need to get rid of it. That’s Jack Welch in the ’80s. There’s a balance in a 21st-century company that you’ve got to do a little bit of both or you’re never going to be able to grow a team.
I’m going to add one more thing before we move on to the next piece of this. Frank has metrics. He measures people on certain things. That money comes right out of Frank’s pockets. When he pays your salary, your bonus, and your fringes, he expects a return. He doesn’t do that out of goodness. He’s not running a charity. If someone’s metrics suffer, Frank also has the emotional intelligence to know, “That person also lifts all the other boats in this office. They’re a good teammate.”
You talk about, “Do they have my 6:00? That person exudes the culture that I want around here. Her sales numbers haven’t been the same as they have been in previous years. We’ve got to work on that. We’re talking to her about it but during the day, I see her help fifteen other people, run around, and take on extra things. She’s a fantastic teammate.”
It’s the intangibles that aren’t seen on an HR sheet or aren’t seen by an accountant in a big company that’s saying, “Cut.” When you’re trying to grow a culture in a company and you cut someone like that whose numbers are suffering, I don’t care if it’s 1 year or 2 years. They’re suffering. They’re not the same as they used to but all the intangibles make everyone around them better. It has a depleting effect on the rest of the team. I’ll give an example of this.
The Lions did this years ago. Golden Tate was the most popular guy in our locker room. We had one game over 500 before the trade deadline. He’s expensive. He’s coming up on free agency. Right in the middle of the year, they trade him to the Giants for a six-round pick. He’s the most popular guy in the locker room. He’s still a good receiver. The Lions fell apart after that because we made a decision on the Patriot way based on statistics, dollars per statistic, and all that crap. The whole locker room quit on the coaching team. They were like, “You quit on us. We quit on you.”In fantasy football, nobody cares about the story. In business, people absolutely care about the story. Click To Tweet
Everyone saw that Golden Tate’s receptions and his average yards per carry were down. That was all fair. No one stopped to think about the impact that guy had on the other 50 people in the locker room, the way he dove for balls, the way he fought, the way he picked up other teammates, and the little coaching he did in practice. It destroyed the team because everyone put decisions based on metrics and numbers, not on a holistic view of the impact they made on the organization.
There are a bunch of sports examples of taking a great player who’s an asshole and getting rid of them. The team gets better. That’s the same thing in a small business like mine. We had somebody that wasn’t pulling their weight. Everybody knew it but they weren’t in a position where we couldn’t get rid of them at the time, so we didn’t have someone else in place. When we finally got rid of them, everyone said, “Thank God you did that. That was long overdue.” I would justify and say, “We couldn’t do it.” They were like, “We understand why it lasted.” Those things are hard to quantify but there is real meaning and value in the people who work in your company.
We can move on to the next piece, which I love. It’s advice that’s often given to people. We can talk about when it makes sense and when it doesn’t. Fantasy football does not pay that well. Frank says it’s a big money league but I’m not missing a mortgage payment over there. I’m not making a mortgage payment over this. It’s much more about pride. There’s money on the line but it’s about pride.
The number of hours we put in for something that pays this little is quite ridiculous and silly. At 5:00 in the morning, I’m checking to see what everyone picked up on waivers. I’m putting in extra waivers myself and trying to set my line. I’m up stressing out about whether Frank picked up this defense that I wanted to get and checking it because it’s fun. Whether we had the money in it or not, we would all do it.
Aspirationally, I’m certainly in this place, and I know you are. I don’t do anything business-wise that isn’t fun. I spent several years doing what I had to do. I didn’t consider selling variable speed controls on motors and paper mills to be terribly exciting. I sure would not have done it if it would have not paid me. It’s the same with mortgages. I never found the mortgage business interesting or exciting. I didn’t find home building terribly exciting.
I enjoyed my time with both teams and both companies but I made money. I had to do what I had to do to make money to then be able to do whatever I wanted to do. Now I do whatever I want to do. I find that I’m much harder working when I go down paths that seemed like fun to me than to go down paths that seem profitable to me. In the long term, you can have both.
If you’re excited about something, if you’re passionate about it, and if you’re having fun, you will perform better and get paid better. I’ve found that the more fun I’ve had in my career, the more money I’ve made. In fantasy, I don’t know if fun translates to money but I certainly have no problem putting in a lot of time because it’s a blast. Life is short. Why not spend your time on things that are fun?
I’m going to talk about three things here. First, there are waivers in our league. I’m like, “Should I pick up a book? Should I go get the newspaper? What should I do?” My wife sits next to me. She reads an entire section of the paper, not an insignificant amount of time, while I scroll through fantasy. It’s like, “It’s time to go to bed.” I walk upstairs. She has read the paper. I screwed around in fantasy but I felt fabulous the entire time I did it.
Second, Ian has reached a place in his life that many people never get. I’m not there. I can’t do exactly what I want. I picked a different path. I probably could if I nuke this thing now but I don’t want to do that. It’s getting to where you are in your business and your life. You get to make those decisions. I watched him for two decades. When he had kids, he was getting up at 3:00 in the morning. He was making incredible sacrifices. He knew exactly what he was doing.
He was getting up early so he could read, work out, and start his workday at 5:00 or 5:30. No one does that. Starbucks wasn’t even open. He was driving into the office because he wanted to get ahead. He knew he was in a capitalistic part of his life. He wanted to get that work done before he had to coach baseball or could coach baseball. He didn’t want to miss it. Is there anything you want to weigh in on that? That’s remarkable.
That’s accurate. There’s nothing worse than being in the office without Starbucks and then having to leave the office at 6:00 to get your Starbucks. I will add that.
Many of you know this about me. I’m a paid consultant for businesses like mine. Most of them are smaller but people always ask me, “When do I scale? When do I grow? When do I hire?” I use something that Ian said. When it’s work and it’s not fun, it’s time to hire. If you’re a small business owner and you have a couple of employees, think about those first couple of hires. For me, it was accounting. There are two reasons I hired an accountant first. It’s critical. I suck at it. It was miserable. I always did it last. It was the last thing I did because I wasn’t good at it. It was awful but it’s critical in the business.
Start thinking about those things. If you build the business, think about areas where you have a good time. You’re good at it usually if you have a good time. Ian is an incredible writer. He didn’t know he was going to be an incredible writer but he has fun doing it. Those two things go hand in hand. My accountant is so different than me. We get into joking arguments all the time about how I do things versus how she does things. I hate accounting. She loves it. She’s incredible at it
Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean someone else won’t find that to be their dream job. Understand those things. If you don’t have fun with it, find someone who will have fun with it and give it to them because you will feel better, do a better job, and your company will be better because that person is in their area of genius. They’re doing a great job.
The last thing that we talked about Frank is the difference between a good company and a bad company. A good company has a mission, knows what it wants to do, and is trying to solve a problem for a subset of customers. They are relentless about listening to those customers and iterating their processes and products. They’re focused on serving that area. A bad company is overly focused on what its competitors are doing. All they do is think about is agonize, chase, and follow.
It’s the reason why Coca-Cola switched their product to New Coke in the ’80s because Pepsi took a little bit of market share with their little taste test. They freaked out and chased them. Many more companies do that stuff than you would think. In fantasy, I spend way too much time focusing on Frank’s team when I’m playing Frank that week, watching Frank’s players, and trying to see what moves he’s making.
In the real world, a manager would never do that. You don’t give a damn about what your competition is doing. In fantasy, there’s a scarcity mindset. There are only so many players you can pick. There are only so many games you can play. In business, your competitors can all be kicking ass and so can you. It doesn’t matter, and just because one is doing well doesn’t mean that they’re taking it from you.
When we think about competitors in my business, it almost comes off as arrogant because people are like, “Who are your competitors?” We don’t have any. Maybe we have some but they’re all small. It doesn’t matter to me who my competitors are. Are we doing better? Are we doing what we need to do? Are we capitalizing? What are our metrics based on our spending? How are all those things unfolding? We spend so much more time myopically looking at ourselves than we do anybody else.
Use examples of that. Bill Gates is a great example. He’s the richest man in the world or the history of the world for years. All he did in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s was Microsoft. That was it. Now, he does something completely altruistic but he was not that way. He was fierce. He would have sliced you up for a percentage of the market during that period but now that he’s so rich and he has taken his eye off the ball, he has thought of something different. That’s what’s different about this.
I do give a shit about what defense Ian has. I don’t care one bit about what my competitors are doing unless it’s revolutionary or they’re doing something we haven’t thought of that’s changing the market. That’s why I’m in a mastermind group because I’ll hear big trends but locally, I don’t pay attention to it because I’ve got to focus on us and getting better metrics.
Taking it back to fantasy again, I’ll pick someone up on waivers knowing Frank needs them and I might not even use them. I’m trying to block him and keep him from getting a little bit better. I don’t think most good companies do things like that. Take NVR. We rarely went and did a deal because we didn’t want someone else to do a deal. We either did the deal because it made financial sense or we didn’t do the deal. It wasn’t like, “Let’s do this because if we don’t, Toll Brothers will do it.” There was never that conversation going on at NVR. It was either, “What’s best for NVR?” It was not, “What can hurt a competitor?”
This mindset about doing something because you’re blocking someone else happens on two extreme ends of the spectrum. If you’re small and you can’t see the forest for the trees, you think this way because you’re not big enough yet. I see that in my business this way. I often say that people in our business lack the class gene. We have a low barrier of entry to the business. All they have done is take a class or watch stuff on YouTube. They enter the business but they don’t have any money.The more fun you have in your career, the more money you'll make. Click To Tweet
They make bad decisions because they’re chasing the dollar. In a lot of instances, it seems like there are bad ethics but that’s on the lower end of the scale. If you look at what Amazon does, Amazon does things because they want to block others but they have a goal to take over the world. On the small side and the big side, it happens but with most normal businesses, if you swing for the lower-tier stuff, you’re going to be in the dirt or the mud where you don’t want to be.
If you take a big swing on the other side, Amazon has more money than all of us combined. If you take a big swing up, you could go broke. You have to understand. What Ian said is there’s a strategic move. He will get that fourth receiver because next week, I need him. We can do that in a fantasy. There’s no consequence. The worst case is you will lose a couple of dollars but in business, you can’t do that because you could hurt yourself.
When a company gets as big as Amazon or Google where they’re spending money on blocking other people, are they an exciting company to work for anymore? You’ve gotten so big where that’s how you’re spending your time. They were way more exciting companies when they didn’t give a damn what Toys “R” Us or Barnes & Noble were doing. Amazon was putting all its money and focus into growing.
That was the time to own Amazon. Maybe it’s still a good time to own it now but not like it was years ago when they were putting all their time into themselves, their customers, and their focus. Now that they have grown to a size where they’re blocking people like Facebook and all of them, they’re not as exciting as they were when they were in their early phases. All they did was focus on customers and serve a niche.
It’s like what we talked about earlier with Neutron Jack. There’s going to come a place and time where Amazon becomes bloated. They’re closer to bloated than they are closer to exponential growth. With a $3,000 stock value, there’s no way you’re going up fifteen times in a short period as you could from $200 to $1,000. That’s it. You have to understand. The goal here was to talk about business but to do it in a way that was fun for us and for you to read hopefully.
We’re talking about fantasy sports. You’re not going to be in those spots. You’ve got to pick the right thing. Where do you invest? Where do you put your time? Where do you put your career? Would I rather work a couple of extra hours or coach Tee-ball? That’s the stuff we’re trying to talk about here. Where do you focus? What do you pick?
Neil O can pick up to keep you from having him as a keeper. I would never hire someone’s sales rep and put them on a bench for a year. It’s not having anything for them to do to hurt a company. That kind of thinking doesn’t work.
You and I both read the book, Titan. It’s about Rockefeller. Rockefeller did shit like that but it was years ago. It was a different world.
When was he doing it? He was doing it once he was big or once he was a titan. He didn’t do it to become a titan. When he was becoming a titan, he was opportunistic, grabbing things, and being creative. Once he was a titan, then he went and bought the railroads. He did things to block people.
It also was a different time. There is a certain strategy if you do get to a certain point but I probably will never get there, and I have a pretty successful thing. You’ve got to understand where that stuff comes down to.
If you get to a place where you have to worry about monopoly law, you’ve done a good job. I salute you. I invite you to the show because we would like to have you.
We will get the third box. You are welcome to join us.
The odds of someone worrying about monopoly law being on our show are not high. For all the aspiring Rockefellers though, you have an open invitation to come on and talk.
For Neil O who out of solidarity is going to read this, we love you.
We do in that pesky monopoly law. Frankie, good luck. Who do you play in fantasy?
The tide is changing. I’ve got some stuff for you now. You shared way too much about your strategy on this episode.
It’s funny. I learned some things about you as well.
I’ll see you, homie.