December 15, 2020 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When people hear about what I do — representing top female professional athletes (and one former athlete) like Lisa Leslie, Chiney Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray, and Liz Cambage — I’m positive they think, “Oh, Allison is an agent.” And I am. But I don’t really think of myself that way. I’ve always seen myself as more of an entrepreneur than an agent.
My role is an extremely active one. I have to pivot quickly, think on my feet and dream up new vehicles that will benefit my clients. I see my agency, Disrupt the Game, as having two pillars: innovation and hustle. In this way, I approach each opportunity with an entrepreneur’s mindset rather than an agent’s mindset.
Here’s how I do it.
Connect the dots
First, grow your network — via natural connections, LinkedIn outreach, cold emailing, etc. — which can help you look for potential opportunities hidden in your rolodex. I am a huge advocate for brainstorming with your clients, and then connecting the dots, to create the most authentic vehicles for their talents and long-term goals.
Here’s the latest example: we are constantly reaching out to new connections on LinkedIn. This WNBA season, my teammate at Disrupt The Game, Josh Rosen, and I were constantly connecting with new potential brands to explore opportunities with our clients. Especially since this season was unlike any other, in a bubble where we had no ability to see our clients in person for several months, we wanted to be as proactive as possible with companies who could activate with our clients from afar. One brand we wanted to connect with was Glossier, the beauty company that disrupted the beauty industry. Fortunately we managed to speak with the executive director of influencer marketing and talent. We began building a rapport and brainstorming opportunity. Fast forward to a month or so later, Glossier did endorsement deals with two of our clients, Kalani Brown and Amanda Zahui, and also became the first official beauty partner of the WNBA. It really came together through making connections and tapping into that network.
Listen, listen, listen
I work for and with my clients, making decisions for their careers. I am always seeking information from my clients, asking them how they are feeling, what they are aspiring to do and how we can help get them there. Clients have to feel that you are listening to them, closely, that you are taking their goals into account and are committed to working as hard as possible to make them happen while keeping their best interests at heart. I am always thinking about the essence of my players — who they are and where they want to go. Then, I create a roadmap to help get them there.
Even if it’s a lateral move, if they want to make it, I want to make it happen. While we can’t always accomplish what our clients would ideally want, at the absolute minimum we will guarantee putting time, effort and energy into it and controlling all we can. I want my clients to feel valued at all times; this is about communicating clearly, asking questions and listening. Really listen, because often, true intention lies in the subtleties.
For instance, Lisa Leslie told us that her son loved LEGO products. In fact, as the amazing mom Lisa is, she even had her son reach out to me directly, to see if we could help with some LEGO products and also teach him how to be proactive about his interests and goals. If we could build out a potential endorsement deal, that would be even better, especially considering what an authentic fit it would be.
We are constantly asking our clients what their goals and interests are — literally anything and everything, no matter how unlikely or improbable it might seem, and do our best to try to make it happen. Once I heard Lisa and her son talk about his passion for LEGO, I got it, embraced the idea and told them I would do what I could to help make it happen.
We reached out to LEGO and shared ideas for ways it could work with Lisa. Eventually, that collaboration culminated in helping promote the LEGO Super Mario set. Lisa is the ultimate mom, and having a partnership that celebrated something that made her son happy made it all the more awesome.
Make big asks
You’d be surprised how open people are to new ideas and passionate people. The world moves quickly and people want to be on the forefront of “what’s next,” not “what’s now.” If you are thinking like an entrepreneur, no matter your industry — whether you’re an agent, a writer, a small business owner, or a designer — you can turn your ideas into a reality by showing potential collaborators how you (and your clients) can add value to their business.
Never be afraid of the big ask, whether it’s a partnership or a new venture. Recently, I was fortunate to build a great relationship with retail-giant Foot Locker, who originally wanted a one-off engagement with one of my clients. By asking questions and getting an understanding of what their needs were, I shot my shot and pitched a bigger partnership. We flipped the original one-off opportunity into a six-month deal and ultimately built out an activation across several clients. First and foremost, you need to know who you’re working with and have a pulse on their needs. Then, you can figure out how to deliver the most value by asking for more opportunity and responsibility.
Finally, it’s about the intangibles. Be cordial and build genuine relationships. Be easy to work with, in terms of responsiveness, availability and urgency. Always deliver a high-quality working experience. Believe in your value and the value of your clients, and show it off: I know my clients inside and out, and I’m always trying to find the Next Big Thing for them to work on that falls right in line with their personalities and goals.
The worst thing that happens? You try something and it doesn’t work out, or you ask and someone says no. The best thing? You uncover great opportunities. If you make 10 big asks and land just one, it can completely change your business. Always keep that in mind when you’re reaching out to new or current relationships; it only takes one to unlock the next step in your career.