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  • Brett Zalaski

What I Did Wrong...Salesperson Edition

One of the things I've been asked over, and over, and over, and over again (whether on this site or elsewhere) is what I would have done differently as a salesperson and/or manager. While almost the entirety of this site is focused on the technical sales things I messed up and the solutions I found, these will be a little more personal in nature. It's almost impossible to be a completely healthy employee without being a healthy human first. No matter how good you are, the weight of outside factors will always keep you from being at your absolute best.

I'm dividing my post-college career in half for this exercise. Even though I had some management responsibilities from 2003-2011, whether I was bartending, interning, selling outside of sports, selling inside of sports, or front-line managing, I was selling and tactical the entire time. From 2011-present I've had to be more of a traditional manager. To that, here are three things I wish I did better while I was a salesperson:

  1. Managed Money Better: Hard to believe, but I made more money in 2006 than I did in 2011. Sports has a way of humbling you monetarily. That said, up, down, left, right, I did not manage money well as a salesperson. My best friend Jarrett Solomon wrote a terrific article for this site on how to live on $40,000 a year. Man I wish I read that early in my career. A lack of savings or great credit have kept me from doing some things I've wanted to do in life, and I could have done a better job early in my career of having a goal for what I wanted to make, understanding what I was actually making, and budgeting appropriately to allow me to save. I've fought over the last 8 years to rectify the mistakes of my early years, and I've dug out well, but it's taken a rigidity and focus that was unnecessary had I been smarter, earlier.

  2. Set Goals Every Day: In my earlier years I was VERY erratic in setting goals. Financial goals, health goals, personal goals, work goals, any sort of goals. When I was almost 200 pounds, I lost 40. When I was almost fired at CEB, I dug in and made myself remarkably successful. When I wanted to get team side while at the NBA, and no team would hire me, I put myself on the map by crushing my opportunities with the NLL and WPS. When my back has been against the wall, I've dug in, set goals, and conquered. My resiliency is one of my true strengths. That said...why the hell didn't I set more professional goals? Why didn't I set more personal goals? Or health goals? Or, well, you get it. While I still am not perfect at this, I'm WAY better. It shows in the results, too...both personally and professionally...and even financially. Wake up, write down goals, then go get them. You will be remarkably more intentional, more efficient, and more successful.

  3. Work Hard, Play Less Hard: I would like to think that most people who know me think of me as a hard worker. I turned a 5'7" unathletic body into a collegiate athlete. I've worked hard to create a career that my 9-year old self would think is pretty awesome. And I've worked to successfully create two companies in a very competitive landscape. I've also been open about my struggles to do all this while suffering from anxiety. Part of that anxiety has been to try to be someone everyone liked, and part of that has been, at times, to try to turn the lights off at the bar with all my friends. 'Work hard, play hard' is a fun philosophy...but it can also be a dangerous one. Ever since I started to define my boundaries in that environment, I'm happier, more stable with my mental health, and a better business owner and employee. You should play hard. You should find releases and fun. But you should also do it in a way that makes YOU happy. It should not be done in a way that creates the version of you that is doing it to make OTHERS THINK you're happy. Stand up for who you are and what you want to stand FOR. The noises telling you otherwise are people trying to steal your thunder to combat their own insecurities.

Today, I'm more financially stable...and I'm more comfortable for it. Today, I journaled my goals for the day and set out to attack them...and I'm happier and more motivated for it. Today I've defined who I am and who I want to be for my family, friends, and colleagues in #sportsbiz...and I'm happier for it. I hope these are helpful, because they are all things that I wish people sat me down and told me at 23 or 24.

It's hard fucking work getting a job in the #sportsbiz industry. It's also hard work to stomach the pay, work the hours, etc. etc. etc. But if you're going to do it, be great at it. And if you're going to do it, be smart about it. And put yourself in good positions to truly be able to enjoy it. I've finally done that...and it's made all the difference for me.

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