Last Friday, the annual meeting of the NFL player agents took place. The meeting room was probably one of the bigger ones, as there are nearly 700 certified player agents in the league. What a huge figure! And these days, the agents play a rather important in the collective bargaining agreement with the league.
There are player agents anywhere, from golf to tennis, from cricket to baseball, from football to basketball – even in horse racing. Especially in soccer, their importance rose a lot since the Bosman verdict in Europe (which ended most imposed limits on player trading) and governing organizations like UEFA, FIFA or the local soccer associations are still trying to figure out the best viable ways to deal with player agents.
While technically they act as an intermediary between clubs/ franchises and the players, they actually take over all kinds of player consulting, like career planning, investment and financial management, public relations and even filing taxes. Nearly all pro players have an agent.
I don’t. Okay, there are differences. The biggest one: I am no pro sports player. But looking at the range of services offered by the player agents, I could also well use a lot of them. While the player market in sports is considered to be short, the market for managers is not. But let’s check this in a bit more detail: While the amount of top player available on the market is very limited in all sports, the bigger chunk of deals is not involving the Tom Brady’s or Christiano Ronaldo’s of the world, but players that are far from being a superstar. And hey, this market is far from being short. Just look at the number of players undrafted from college in the US every year or the free agents that don’t get a new contract. Just look at the never stopping flow of talented players European soccer clubs bring in from their youth academies of South America every year.
Meanwhile in the business world, more and more studies show what more and more companies start experiencing: The success of an organization is dependent on their people and it gets tougher to bring good people in. I’ve talked about it a couple of times in this blog, and there are many others who did alike elsewhere: The market for talented people is actually getting short.
Yet, there are no “player agents” for managers. All there is are headhunters, trying to find people that fit with the profile of a particular job opening. Their approach starts from their customer companies, not from the candidates.
As anybody, I have experiences with headhunter calls, and in every case they were trying to scan if I would fit into the frame one or two openings they tried to fill gave them. Nothing more, nothing forward looking. If you’re lucky they store your CV in a more or less obscure own data base “for the future” – unupdated and unremembered.
How is this business model of just matching a candidate profile with a job description file expected to carry in the future when companies have access to this kind of data and automatic matching technology at marginal cost? Here’s the idea for a new business model, the “player agent” for those that compete in the office, not on a court or field:
With stays in companies becoming shorter due to new form of work, with project based assignments rather than single company careers, this agent could support a candidate for years, market him and offer his abilities to companies as she got to know these candidate’s strengths and weaknesses far better than any technical matching algorithm. Negotiating terms, checking contracts, finding the right coaches and mentors, etc. is not the core business of most candidates. Often, they are no lawyer, they are no HR specialist, they are no marketer or sales person, they are no investment banker. And never are they all of the above. If the big sports agencies take over all non-core work for their clients, why can’t this model be transferred to other areas?
It’s a win-win-win: The candidate gets support in areas where he is weak, and job opportunities that better fit with his capabilities at more attractive conditions. Companies get candidates that are capable to perfectly do the job they are expected to and the rate of bad hires will be significantly reduced. The agents get a sound business model with two potential directions revenue can come from and lock-in effects with their clients, which stabilize their business.
Anyone interested to go for it?