Soaking Up Game

Say what you will about Floyd Mayweather Jr., but for all of his faults it cannot be denied that he is a master salesman of himself. How else can his estimated $300 million earned from last year’s “boxing match” against MMA fighter Conor McGregor, who had never boxed professionally prior to that “fight”, be explained? While McGregor and his brash, over-the-top personality can be cited as part of what sold the fight, the previous buildup and behind-the-scenes negotiations undoubtedly came as a result of Mayweather and his ability to generate interest with a combination of his mouth and his track record. This type of payday would have never been possible had he not decided to opt-out of his Top Rank promotion contract in 2006 and create his own promotion company that would allow him to negotiate his own deals. While he was busy willingly becoming the public villain over the years, he maintained the business relationships necessary to allow for lucrative opportunities while building his public persona, from reality TV to Dancing with the Stars to social media. While becoming among a nation’s most hated personalities and relishing in that role should rarely be the goal for anyone, there is something to said for how he stayed true to himself throughout and maintained a high level of business savvy along the way. Not bad for a man who grew up in such an unstable household that he was once used as a human shield by his father who was being held at gunpoint.

If the effectiveness of relationship building within business isn’t the difference between success and failure, it’s certainly among the most key determinants. Historically, this simple thought had been lost upon me as I trudged through an undergraduate concentration and subsequent 5+ year career focused on an accounting subject I couldn’t care less about. Fortunately, I was able to find and stay connected with some interesting internal people at every stop who shared some of my same passions. I rarely made extra efforts to expand my network within the field itself beyond those few internal people because I ultimately wasn’t into it. More damaging was the fact that the time demands of the profession played a large role in keeping me from positions to develop relationships within my interests. Consequently, this seemingly lost time is what contributes to the feeling of starting from scratch. Luckily, it’s never too late to pursue anything in life and the main lesson here is to never box yourself into unfulfilling career positions if you don’t absolutely have to. There could be a treasure chest worth of opportunities waiting to be explored on the other side containing your actual interests.

That treasure chest has started to open up for me recently. After spending the first two terms of my MBA feeling like the curriculum was too backwards-looking, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the entrepreneurship focus and forward-looking nature of the Advanced Sustainability course in Term 3. For the past two weeks, we’ve been fortunate enough to have firsthand teachings and discussions with founders looking to solve different problems related to sustainability across different industries. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting with leaders such as Rubie van Crevel from Enviu, Ruben van Veen from SKOT, and Mariah Mansvelt Beck from Yoni, among many others.

Rubie van Crevel (Venture Builder) at Enviu

Enviu is a company that co-creates and develops social start-ups. Rubie shed light on how Enviu goes about developing solutions for environmental and social issues being tackled by startups under their guidance. This experience was most rewarding because the class culminated with our group presentation yesterday, which was a thorough analysis and recommendation for one of their next moves regarding fashion sustainability. The presentation from my group, which we had less than 3 weeks to prepare for, required us to put ourselves in the shoes of one of the startups under their guidance and to tackle the feasibility of the construction of a new factory in a country that they were scouting. This meant having to consider everything from surrounding infrastructure, operations, inbound and outbound logistics, marketing, key stakeholders, etc. We were able to receive some valuable feedback and additional things to consider that will bode well for our mindsets going forward. Having to critically consider the various factors that go into the implementation of a startup’s project allowed me to envision how I would approach my prospective venture(s) with a point a reference when that time comes.

Ruben van Veen (Co-Founder) at SKOT Fashion

I really enjoyed Ruben’s visit because I saw some obvious parallels between his story and the way mine is shaping up. Ruben previously worked within finance in New York for a short time just as I did, until he felt that he had more to offer with his all-around skills and left to explore a path that emphasized those skills just as I’ve done. That path led him and a friend towards creating a line of sustainable shirts made of organic cotton and coconut (or pearl buttons) with an ethical, transparent production process. While the shirt does still use some unsustainable materials in certain parts, the plan is to get the shirt production to the point of 100% sustainability and he hopes that it can serve as the launching pad towards more offerings and large-scale industry impact. We were able to briefly put ourselves in the shoes of advisers for his company, as an in-class exercise required us to provide advice on how we would go about growing the brand internationally in a way that’s both sustainable and profitable. The combination of the lecture and the exercise’s conclusion accentuated the need to pay special attention to the needs and desires of the customer through various means that we discussed. This lesson, among others touched on that day, is easily transferable across industries and will be carefully considered as I go forward.

Mariah Mansvelt Beck (Co-Founder) at Yoni

Never had I thought about what’s between a woman’s legs the way that I did after the visit we paid Mariah in Amsterdam. Yoni, a company co-founded by Mariah, was spawned by that very curiosity as they sought to get to the bottom of what’s contained within the average tampon, pad, and panty liner a few years ago. What was found was typically a chemical soup of harmful chemicals and toxins that could be the link to numerous short-term and long-term issues facing vaginas around the world. It’s no wonder that the ingredient listing was typically not apparent on the boxes of such products. Consequently, Mariah and her other co-founder created Yoni as the antithesis of the conventional feminine product by creating products that only use organic cotton with no plastics or perfumes. Among the most inspiring details of Yoni’s creation was the fact that Mariah held odd jobs unrelated to her degree during the creation of the company as a way to still be in more control of her time while still being able to pay the bills. It spoke to the fact that even though it may not appear to be the case in the short-term, time will always be the most valuable currency if it’s used in the proper manner. This reaffirmed my belief that anyone can realize their goals if they make the proper time for it and use it wisely. It was great being able to brainstorm and suggest ways that they could adequately scale within Europe, as it provided further opportunity to explore the approach developing companies need to take on their way towards large-scale prominence.

The other meetings that we had with entrepreneurs and sustainability leaders over the past 3 weeks within Amsterdam and Rotterdam followed the similar format of learning their business and subsequently being tasked with providing solutions to various challenges they are facing, many of which would be seriously considered for adoption. Even though the time was short, I feel like the class provided a unique firsthand opportunity to analyze the psyche of the startup owner who’s already on the path that I’m looking towards, yet early enough in their quest to make it relevant to where I’m currently at. One thing they all had in common is that the internet allowed them to reach an otherwise unreachable customer base. Furthermore, they were all able to speak to the importance of maintaining solid relationships throughout the process. Until we reach a point where robots replace humans, there will always be a need to maintain good enough relationships with people on the other side in order to get a deal done. One last commonality they all shared is that if they didn’t take the full plunge into their prospective ventures, they would forever be left wondering “what if” while someone else is busy filling that void. In reality, the jobs that they left behind will always be there, yet the opportunities that they all pursued may not have remained had there been apprehension.

So what does all of this have to do with Floyd Mayweather? Nothing, other than the fact that he is an example of someone who came from the bottom of the bottom, worked meticulously on a craft, perfected it, became publicly ostracized to the point where he has virtually no endorsement deals relative to his stature within boxing, served time in jail for domestic violence, and despite all of that is still consistently the highest paid individual among all athletes largely because of his 2006 decision to control his own destiny. Although he’s in a completely different field with rules far different from what myself and the aforementioned individuals abide by, he fundamentally embarked on what we are looking to do within our respective fields and succeeded at the highest level. If he can make something of himself through calculated hard work and persistence, despite the myriad odds both he and his environment put him up against, why can’t we all?


Follow me on Twitter @theillmccoy

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