Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who’s #1? The Client

Who is our top business priority? Simple – our clients. It seems like common sense, but from time to time you see a high profile instance where someone forgets that – most recently, baseball agent Scott Boras. (See the recent New Yorker profile of Boras, aptly titled ‘TheExtortionist’.)

A few weeks ago, Boras advised his client, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriquez, to declare free agency and see what kind of a deal he could get from other teams. Then Rodriguez had a change of heart (read Saturday’s very good Wall Street Journal version.) Turns out he really liked being a Yankee, and didn’t want to leave the team. (It probably didn’t hurt that the Yankees were one of probably only three or four teams who could afford A-Rods $27 million annual price tag.)
For Boras, it had become about him - not his client Rodriguez. That’s bad news, and a dangerous place to be for an advisor whose ego is so big he can’t see it coming. Which apparently Boras didn’t. Having crossed the psychic Rubicon where he could no longer trust Boras, Rodriguez reached out to an unlikely counselor – mega-billionaire Warren Buffet, who the slugger had met in his travels. It’s not clear what Buffet knows about baseball, but he understands business and the importance of good, objective, client-centered advice. He told A-Rod to approach the Yankees himself, using two Goldman Sachs execs as intermediaries and advisors, leaving Boras out.

And the deal was done – without the agent.

Sure, Boras will get the commission, but forgetting that it’s not about him will likely prove costly. He’s already been sidelined by Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers in negotiations with the Tigers, and I’m sure other players are asking themselves a devastating question: “Is this guy really working for me when I’m not in the room?” Once that question is out there, the relationship will never be the same – and rightly so.