Scott Boras is a sports agent specializing in baseball. He is the Founder and President of Boras Corporation, a sports agency that represents roughly 75 professional baseball clients.  He has negotiated more than $9B in major league baseball contracts, with 11 of them worth more than $100 million—more than any other agent. Scott has been named the “Most Powerful Sports Agent in the World” by Forbes magazine.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He felt it was important to have a backup plan. He earned his Doctor of Pharmacy and law degrees while he was playing baseball so if things didn’t work out, he would have another path to pursue.
  • The hardest part of being an agent isn’t negotiating contracts. It’s figuring out how to optimize a player, both physically and psychologically.
  • To effectively represent a player, you’ve got to not just understand their skill level but to understand them at a personal level as well.
  • You don’t go into a negotiation to win. You go into a negotiation to understand and build a bridge.  And you build that bridge with reasons which benefit the needs and wants of both sides.
  • His firm employs NASA and MIT-trained research scientists and engineers to uncover proprietary player performance data that nobody else uses.
  • His firm also has sports psychologists on staff whose ultimate goal is to increase the durability and hence value of the players.
  • The key to success isn’t comparing yourself to others but just trying to be the best that you can be in what you’re doing.
  • “My measure of excellence is how long can you stay in the game.”

Safi Bahcall received his BA in physics from Harvard and his PhD from Stanford. He co-founded Synta Pharmaceuticals—a biotechnology company developing new drugs for cancer.  He led its IPO and served as its CEO for 13 years. In 2008, he was named E&Y New England Biotechnology Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2011, he served on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Safi is the author of Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries. The book was selected by Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, Susan Cain, and Adam Grant for the Next Big Idea Club.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • “Very often people go on a path that the world expects them to without ever pausing to say ‘why am I doing this?’”
  • For an entrepreneur, the critical ingredient for success in building a company is surrounding yourself with talented executives and then bridging the divide between people who wouldn’t naturally interact with one another.
  • Culture are the patterns of behavior you see on the surface in an organization while structure is what’s underneath that’s driving those patterns of behavior. The activities being rewarded (i.e. incentive structures) will drive the culture.  So it’s the structure that’s ultimately most important in influencing behavior.
  • As companies mature, employees tend to shift from focusing on collective goals toward focusing more on careers and promotions. To reduce that behavioral shift, you want to minimize the growth in compensation that comes with each level in the organization.  In addition, you want to maximize span of control.  With fewer promotions and less of a financial incentive as you move up the organization, employees will focus more on their projects and less on corporate politics.
  • You want some employees focused on activities that reduce risk and another set of employees focused on maximizing intelligent risk taking. Effective leaders create a dynamic equilibrium between these two groups and are able to effectively balance the core with the new.
  • Most innovative products will have at least one or two false fails on their way to achieving significant market traction. The key to success is to get really good at investigating failure and not just accepting it on face value.
  • Companies need to create a new C-suite role called a Chief Incentives Officer whose job is to design customized incentive packages to motivate employees and optimize outcomes.
  • “Excellence is always striving to improve yourself and improve your performance.”

Beth Comstock spent over 25 years at GE where she was a vice chair, CEO of Business Innovations and Chief Marketing Officer among other roles. She has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and Fast Company and has been named to the Fortune and Forbes lists of the world’s most powerful women.  Her new book is titled Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Risk taking is a skill that can be learned.
  • “Most of us fear losing what we have more than we desire winning something we don’t have.”
  • Due to her risk taking mentality, Jeff promoted her to Chief Marketing Officer, a role that hadn’t existed at GE for over two decades.
  • She had to overcome a lack of self-confidence along with her introversion in order to speak up, challenge others and be effective in her role.
  • Success correlates as closely with confidence as it does with competence.
  • Much of the success of Hulu was attributed to hiring an entrepreneur from the outside and keeping him independent vs hiring someone from the inside.
  • She led GE’s disruptive green initiative called Ecomagination which pushed an aggressive clean energy agenda throughout GE’s multiple business lines.
  • GE executives often struggled to see parallels from developments happening in other industries due to a common cognitive bias called Functional Fixedness.
  • She pioneered a new program at GE called Fastworks which leveraged the lean methodology to experiment with new product ideas, increase innovation and accelerate time to market.
  • “Excellence is a never ending journey of learning and trying to get better.”

 

Doug Bernstein is the co-founder and CEO of Melissa and Doug, a several hundred million dollar toy company focused mostly on simple classic toys for children up to 5 years of age.  He and his wife Melissa started the company together about 30 years ago.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • They never intended to build a company from the beginning but rather, were driven by their shared passion to do something good for children.
  • They are a product company at its core. If they simply focus on making great products, everything else will take care of itself.
  • Adversity can fuel motivation. When their supplier decided to compete directly with them, rather than sue or wallow in despair, they shifted their product development cycle and started to innovate with new products so quickly that nobody could keep up with them.
  • If you look at an obstacle as something that will take you out of the game, then it will. But if you look at it as something that you have to figure out how to get around, then you will find a way.
  • They’ve never been tempted to venture into apps and digital media despite external pressure because they feel it’s not good for children at that age and it’s against their corporate values.
  • They grew to several hundred million in revenue without one dollar of advertising. It was entirely word-of-mouth.
  • They don’t do any product testing but are still able to maintain a 75% hit rate with new product introductions.
  • “Excellence is always bringing your very best to what you do and always having the inner pride to do things the very best way.”