If you are a service provider such as a financial advisor, insurance specialist, financial planner, attorney or CPA, you know that it can be sometimes difficult to do business with an NFL player or any pro athlete for that matter. Based on my 27 years as an agent and 10 as a financial advisor, here is how I breakdown the essential components of working with NFL players.
1) Communication: There is a certain way, an art if you will, to communicate with NFL players that is more instinctive than learned. Most coaches and trainers have it, as do a few financial advisors and agents. You either have it or you don’t.
Most players are hardwired in a way that if they don’t understand something; they feel vulnerable, inferior and maybe sometimes just downright insecure. Which then leads to feeling uncomfortable. When this happens they just shutdown, ignore your calls and avoid tough or even elementary subjects they should be dealing with as part of being a pro.
As a professional service provider to pro athletes, you have to be able to command their attention and get their respect. If you are long winded, like hearing yourself talk, insecure, and use lots of big words to impress, you will lose them. I noticed that people who are not used to being around NFL players either try too hard to impress them or simply become star struck.
So what’s the best way to talk to a Pro? For one, its always best to package your information in the form of three to five points, four categories and/or 3 stages. Trust me, players react well to packaged and organized information. Secondly, ask deep probing questions and listen. Thirdly, when possible, back up your points with something visual. The vast majority of NFL players are very visual learners.
2) Education: The easiest way to build trust with clients is by educating them. One day one of my more intelligent clients and I were talking about taxes and investments. I asked him if he understood what I was saying. He replied, “when it comes to finances and money you have to talk to me like I am a sixth grader”. One can never assume that players even know the basics of investing and banking. The large majority of these guys are at ground zero when it comes to financial knowledge.
In addition to being young and inexperienced, many young men from all different kinds of social-economical up-bringings can easily associate wealth with ownership of material things. Whether it's cars, furniture, houses, jewelry or pick-up trucks and land, players must be taught the difference between appreciating assets and depreciating assets. Even simple books like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, can help teach some basic principles. Getting one on one face time is also important in gaining a client’s trust.
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3) Organization: The biggest problem young players face is their lack of organizational abilities. Walk into most young players apartments and there is stuff thrown in every direction. Coaches, teachers, parents, girlfriends, tutors and friends have been telling players where to go and what to do since they started scoring touchdowns. Therefore, many organizational and planning skills were never properly developed.
I truly believe that if players had a weekly, monthly or even daily scoreboard of their finances, they would be more in tune with their spending and saving habits. Professional service providers should spend as much time if not more on organizing their clients’ finances than investing it. Simplified statements that show the bottom line would be a more useful tool than most statements I’ve seen. Electronic “alerts” such as texts or emails would be great in setting alarms on clients' accounts when they have exceeded some type of benchmark like a monthly expenses budget.
Those who really go out of their way helping players stay organized will help to develop a loyal client.
4) Real simple investments/plans: Making hundreds of thousand dollars and or millions of dollars at a young age can set up a player for life. We all know this, so why do about 75% of players continue to follow a losing game plan.
I will tell you this from experience. If a young player loses money in an investment, the chances are that he will take his ball and go home. I have a client with some money in equity mutual funds that were down about 12% a year ago. He called me in a panic and wanted to pull all his money out. I told him to call his financial advisor and talk to him about it before doing anything. He didn’t want to do that. After talking him off the ledge, I called the advisor just to see what he was invested in. I thought the funds were invested responsibly with moderate risk. So I advised my client to be patient and give it a few more years. I just checked in with him for the sake of this article and he is now quite pleased with the returns as of late.
NFL players have already hit the home run with their contracts so they don’t need to hit anymore. They will be served fine by just hitting singles in low risk investments that are easy to understand, easy to follow and evaluate. In addition, it may be even better for some players to have a strategy of just paying off all debt such as mortgage.
I truly believe that if those helping players with their money will focus on these four components of the way they deliver services and advice, they will have a better chance in helping a player be financially stable for life.
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