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09TH October 2013

Business Tricks - Choate - Uncategorized

A War for the Best And Brightest

The HorseShoe

The HorseShoe

It’s always cool how random things I witness ends up teaching me something in a totally unrelated field. Last weekend, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes taught me a lot about the importance of recruiting;  that applies in sport, (some) education and business.

What I witnessed in Columbus

Everything is done with one thing in mind: RECRUITING.

  1. “I can’t win a championship with this floor” were actual words spoken in the Buckeye’s Strength Room. A new rubberized floor was installed pronto, for $800,000.
  2. [PA Announcer] “Now coming into the game on offense, Jersey #5. Replacing #5. Not to be confused with the three other #5’s currently on the sidelines for the Buckeyes. What?
  3. Tonight we are wearing our high gloss bullet silver helmets, which complement our dark jersey names and double black pants stripes. We have 36 other uniform configurations from our Nike deal, but tonight that’s what we’re going with.
  4. [PA Announcer] Great play by Jim Smith, #5 (of course) from Akron High School, Coached by Doug James. Full picture treatment on giant Jumbotron, seen by 125,000 people in the stands… including no doubt Coach James.

You see, the Buckeyes are in an arms race, competing with the best teams in the Big 10 and ostensibly the SEC. There is a virtuous circle where a great (and winning) culture attracts the interest of the best prospects. Land them, and you have the best chance of building a winning team. Build a winner and more good kids want to come play for you. Start losing the big ones, and start losing the big prospects. Be progressive or be punished. And on it goes.

Understand what the (talented) kids – and their parents or coaches want

One thing for sure, these kids are young, often simple and frequently fickle.

In NCAA football, great prospects want to see great facilities and equipment (#1 & 3 above). When they have offers from multiple schools, they begin comparing things as mundane as “how good is the strength room” and “how cool are the uniforms”. But the most frequently asked question from top recruits is… can I wear my High School number! OSU has an answer for that: you bet (#2 above) … now sign here!

Parents care about life after football, and want to know about the community and the network and how it will help their kids future. And coaches, well, once they have their names and likeness on the Jumbotron in front of 125,000 people in the Horseshoe it’s pretty hard to send their best prospect to “that school up north aka Michigan”.

Know what an A-Prospect looks like 

Of course, all this focus on recruiting does not go wasted on anyone but the super prime candidates. The coaches and scouts know exactly who they are after, as all stakeholders have a hand in crafting the desired outcomes and skills required at each position. They know what a duck looks like from these scorecards and there is no doubt, when it flies overhead- everyone at OSU unloads all guns.

And so, this means what for business?

For me, in digital media, the athletes are by and large, the product and development talent. No, they don’t bench 400lb (I know one who might) or play in front of 125,000 people. But they are no less talented. They do want to play with other great players, and they do want to make an impact with their work. Facilities are important to some, benefits to others. Recognition for their accomplishments is crucial, and “moving up the depth chart” is also something they want the chance to realize with hard work.

Frankly it’s remarkable how many similarities there are between each set of talent young prospects, on the field or in front of the keyboard. And yes, sometime I do feel I am competing with the Big 10 or SEC equivalent on the Luma Scape of digital media.

I think the winners in each field will look a lot like Urban.


PS: By the way, I am convinced this applies to recruiting in private education as well. Maybe I’ll write about that another time.



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