When Considering “Star” Free Agents

Posted on June 30, 2010

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So, on the heels of arguably the greatest free agent class in NBA history (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, etc.), I want to share some  thoughts on recruiting free agents to your organization, in particular, those “star” players who have ridiculous talent and a track record of success. Every industry has them. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Free Agent: In sports, it refers to a player who has an expiring contract with his/her current team and is looking for a new deal (possibly with a new team). For the sake of this post, let’s think of it as a”star” with past successes and/or great potential that you would love to have on your team or in your organization.

1. Consider the previous environment. Systems matter. Often great systems produce “stars” and sometimes the high level of production is not replicated when that “star” changes teams because the new system does not highlight their skills. (Also, you want to know the motivation for leaving.)

2. Ask around. By no means am I suggesting that you go visit someone’s third grade teacher. But be strategic and go beyond the references that were provided, because all of those people are probably fans. (I learned that PhD admission committees do this all the time.)

3. Take off the make-up. Sometimes when we are recruiting we only talk about the good stuff. But throw out the realistic challenges and tell the whole story of your organization. See if he or she is still attracted to you with “no make-up”.

4. Your identity. Every team and organization has an identity. Exceptional talent is not an automatic fit into your team or organization. In short, does this talent align with our DNA?

5. Need vs. Want. Is this talent needed to make your team and organization better, or is it a sexy move?

Exceptional talent is usually not easy to find or acquire. But when you do find it, don’t be so quick to fall in love. It does not always translate from one place to another.

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