By Adam Mendler, CEO of The Veloz Group
While the last game of the NBA season was played on June 13, the most exciting part of the year for many basketball fans didn’t take place until a few weeks later. Basketball has become a rare year-round sport, and fans can look forward to an annual free agent frenzy.
Now that we know where Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker will be playing, we can draw broader lessons from a wild NBA offseason applicable to business leaders in all industries
Read the news carefully.
If the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath brought the issue of fake news to people’s attention, the reporting around Kawhi Leonard’s free agency should further heighten the importance of only consuming information from trusted sources. In the rush to try to break a huge story, basketball writers and television personalities employed by even the most respected media outlets in sports were regularly spreading information that turned out to be false. Unfortunately, the days of being able to read anything and take it as fact are long over.
It is extremely important for leaders to seek and absorb a diversity of perspectives; narrow-mindedness at the top can greatly inhibit the health of an organization. But leaders must place as great a premium as ever on ensuring that they are receiving accurate data. The news you receive is only as credible as the source you receive it from, so take the time to ensure that you are receiving information from parties that are reliable disseminators of fact and truth.
Before digesting new material, check who the proprietor of the content is -- specifically the person delivering it, not the just the outlet the person works for, though that is better than nothing -- and take stock of their credibility. While not a perfect methodology, looking at one's track record can at least provide a strong foundation.
Contracts aren't the final arbiter.
Kawhi Leonard told the Clippers he would sign with them if they could trade for fellow superstar forward Paul George. One of the reasons why no one saw the biggest move of the offseason coming was the fact that George was under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder and was not an obvious chess piece on this summer’s free agency board. But contracts are only so enforceable. George demanded a trade and the Thunder didn’t want to test the ramifications of trying to force George to honor his deal.
While leaders shouldn’t dismiss the importance of contacts, they must recognize that contracts aren’t always set in stone, especially when one party possesses significant leverage. There are many common business scenarios in which contracts aren't worth the paper they are written on.
One such scenario that many business leaders experience: Your largest client or vendor tells you they want to renegotiate. When you can't afford to lose the relationship, the last thing on your mind is trying to hold them to the letter of the contract. Instead, you try to figure out how to make the best of the situation -- contract be damned. While contracts should be put in place, leaders must not rely exclusively on them. Possessing leverage and keeping the people around you happy can be just as important.
Brand value is only so valuable.
The Lakers have been as bad as any team in basketball over the last six years, but in the eyes of superstar Anthony Davis, there was no more desirable team to play for. As his agent Rich Paul told Sports Illustrated, “The Lakers are Jennifer Lopez.” To Kawhi Leonard, though, the Lakers mystique didn’t carry much weight. He instead signed with the team with arguably the worst brand equity in the game.
Leaders who ride on the success of their companies’ name-value do so at their peril. Reputations are fluid; the Lakers’ brand isn’t what it was when the team was winning championships and the Clippers’ brand isn’t what it was when they were the laughingstock of the league. There are also often far more important drivers than brand value, and this summer’s activity only strengthened my core belief that in business as in life there is little more important than relationships.
Effectively building relationships requires a long view, the willingness to invest time, energy and effort, a genuine interest in people and in the party you are connecting with, and the mindset that you will be giving as much, if not more, than you receive. Relationship building may sound daunting if it doesn't come easily to you, but it is needed to attract the best of the best. As important as your brand is to your success, it is the people behind the words, colors and logo that make the biggest difference.
Adam Mendler is CEO of The Veloz Group and Founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions.