LeBron James was the most valuable basketball free agent in the universe, and his signing with the Lakers over the weekend changed the landscape of professional sports. Deadspin recently published an article about his unique approach to his free agency this year, and there are valuable B2B business development lessons that all of us can learn from King James.
“James might meet or speak with a club official or owner at some point, but the elaborate presentations that have become common in NBA free agency over the years are unnecessary after 15 seasons in the league.
Should James become a free agent, league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.”
What – no PowerPoints, e-books demos, quantitative modeling, or entertaining videos?
It all makes complete sense. LeBron and his team are sophisticated business people who had more than enough information (bottom of the funnel for you sales folk) to make an informed decision once they are provided with some relevant terms of the agreement. Our “Welcome to Atlanta” video wouldn’t have done much good for the Hawks.
Lebron’s free agency approach also got me thinking about the LeBron of the business world – Amazon – and their HQ2 decision-making process. Do they need all of the hype and mania around their site selection process?
To answer this question I looked back at Lebron’s history in the free agency market. Who can forget the “taking my talents to South Beach” ESPN Thursday night The Decision special in 2010? LeBron then began to show a growing level of business savvy when he simply used a press conference to announce his return to Cleveland in 2014 with a “max money or no meeting” approach that simplified the process. Fast forward to this last weekend, and we witnessed (pun intended) LeBron using a “don’t call us – we’ll call you.” site selection strategy.
The difference in site selection approaches does beg the question: Is Team LeBron more business savvy than Jeff Bezos and his conquering horde? I am not going to answer that because I do not want to anger our good friends in Seattle because I am hoping that they will be coming to Atlanta.
There is also a lesson to be learned about understanding the background and needs of your audience. The 2010 Lebron needed the hype surrounding his departure from Cleveland. All of the competing terms could then come fully loaded with their PowerPoints and videos. The 2018 Lebron “ain’t got time for that.”
How many times have we been in situations where we are blasted with 10X the information that we need to arrive at a decision? I just went through something like this where our firm was considering a strategic alliance with an assessment firm. We had business development people dialing in from California, Colorado, and New York walking us through their extensive PowerPoint decks. What was lost in translation was that their headquarters was only fifteen minutes from ours and we could have handled everything over coffee and bagels.
I watched LeBron’s team selection process closely to learn more about effective business management. With the move to LA, he may soon become our next go-to thought leader in a variety of areas – including business strategy.
Patrick Lynch is the President of CMP – Southeast, a talent and transition firm in the business of developing people and organizations across the full talent lifecycle – from talent acquisition and leadership development to organization development and outplacement/career transition support.