Mark McCormack was an individual who had a big impact on my life. I had never heard of him until I came across a book entitled What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School. I thought the title was a little unusual and consequently picked up a copy. I couldn't put it down. It was filled with common sense and solid advice-I felt like I had discovered gold.
When I am asked to speak, I often mention the book and what McCormack had to say about dealing with people. That was the genius of Mark McCormack-he knew how to work with others and how to gain their trust and respect by adhering to principles that are in short supply today. He had integrity and the common touch that is so important when talking to and negotiating with others. He was direct, honest and had respect for his clients. He didn't overpromise and he didn't exaggerate. In short, he did business the old-fashioned way. He was honest and that's why he was so successful. Maybe that's the reason he wrote a sequel to his first book, entitled What They Still Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School. McCormack believed in simplicity and doing the right thing. I wish more leaders would take notice of how McCormack not only conducted business but also how focused he was when it came to keeping one's word.
I wasn't the only person who noticed McCormack's talents. Forbes listed McCormack as the 209th richest American, estimating his worth at $1 billion. Golf called him "the most powerful man in golf." Tennis said he was "the most powerful man in tennis" and Sports Illustrated cited him as "the most powerful man in sports." The Times of London wrote that he was "one of the 1,000 people who have most influenced the 20th century."
McCormack was owner, chairman and chief executive of IMG, formerly International Management Group, which represented all kinds of sports stars and celebrity talents. His first big-name client was Arnold Palmer, whom he knew from his college days when McCormack played golf for the College of William & Mary and Palmer played for Wake Forest University.
Before signing with McCormack, Palmer had received watches and trophies for winning golf tournaments. McCormack changed all that and, according to an obituary in the New York Times, Palmer's annual income went from $50,000 to $500,000 within three years. Eventually, Palmer made $10 million per year.
By 2002, IMG had more than 2000 employees in 85 offices in 35 nations. IMG negotiated the Tiger Woods contract with Nike in 2000 for close to $100 million. He obviously loved doing business and enjoyed being in the middle of the action. Just about every major sports star and commentator-from tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams and John McEnroe to quarterback Joe Montana and broadcasters John Madden and Bob Costas-is on the IMG roster. But there are more than just sports stars and commentators. People such as former General Electric Co. Chairman Jack Welch or violinist Itzhak Perlman are part of the group. The list goes on and on.
The reason I mention McCormack-I talked about another book McCormack had written called Staying Street Smart in the March 10 issue (p. 28)-is because I believe he probably is one of the greatest salespeople who ever lived.
What stands out most is that McCormack was a salesman's salesman. He approached sports marketing like a consummate salesman. He had the basic instincts and talents of a man who could make things happen. Good salespeople are what I call movers and shakers. They are creative and when they see an opportunity they go for it. They strategize, work hard, and see their clients as often as they can-in person. They may occasionally use e-mail or even voice mail, but what most talented salespeople believe in the most is seeing their customers eyeball to eyeball, and McCormack believed in that formula for success. McCormack's books and advice on how to deal with others are timeless.
McCormack to me represents what integrity is all about. When he made his first deal with Arnold Palmer, they sealed the deal with a handshake. Through his relationship with Palmer, the word obviously got out that you could trust Mark McCormack. After all, that's what we're all looking for as we journey through life-people we can trust. But trust has to be earned and a relationship takes time and patience. Too many businesses and too many personal relationships go nowhere because trust is absent. I don't believe these are the kinds of things that are taught in business schools around the country. They deal with the latest management fad or what it takes to climb the corporate ladder. Too many academics forget that the things that are important to customers and prospects are honesty, integrity and caring. Look around at the corporate scandals we've endured and witnessed in the past year.
Mark McCormack passed away last month after having been in a coma since suffering a heart attack in January. Maybe the legacy he leaves behind is that which he shared in his best-selling books: Stay humble, don't cheat, keep things simple and stay with your core business. They say McCormack was a fierce competitor and hated losing, but that doesn't mean he forgot what ethics and principle are all about.
Street smarts are best,
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Lauer is the author of two books, Reach for the Stars and Soar with the Eagles, and is an experienced guest lecturer available for public speaking engagements. For more information, visit www.chucklauer.com.