An Open Letter to MLS and the MLSPU

Dear MLS Players and Owners:

With all due respect, you guys are idiots if you allow this season to start with a strike.

I understand both sides of the issue. Your league is experiencing the most growth it’s ever seen. The players feel they should benefit from all their sacrifice, and the owners feel like this is no time to upset the economic model that finally seems to be working.

You are both right. And you are both wrong.

First, I’m going to explain why the players are out of line for risking the health of their league.

Yes, it sucks that some of the guys in you league are making $40,000 a year and have no ability to switch teams. You want free agency and that seem like a fair request. But here’s the thing – you DO have free agency. There are something like 60-80 professional soccer leagues across the globe. You can go to Norway, low level English leagues, Belgium, India, Turkey, etc… Sure it’s hard to bring your wife and kids to Sweden, but that’s not the guys we’re talking about.

The argument is, “Well most of the guys we’re talking about CAN’T get jobs playing abroad so they should have free agency here.” Well, there’s the problem. If there is no demand for your services abroad, then you aren’t really in a good position to demand things here. Not only that, but you need to think long term. Let’s say minimum salaries get bumped up to $80k and there’s MLS free agency. Well the league suddenly became much more attractive for people who play in Norway, low level English leagues, Belgium, India, Turkey, etc… They HAVE demand from multiple leagues. And now your strike has created a financial plan that gives them reason to explore the U.S. as an option. I fear that some of you will be out of jobs.

On the flip side, I want to explain why I think the owners are out of line for risking the health of their league.

Good god people. If 10 years ago someone said you would be at the level of growth, TV revenue and prestige that you are at now, you never would have believed it. Don’t pat yourself on the backs too much, because you got lucky on a lot of levels. No one expected Seattle to become the financial catalyst that’s driving the league’s revenue engine. And then Portland came in and you had a regional rivalry that other rivalries could try to live up to.

Then you got even luckier. At the same time that every broadcast company decided that they needed they own Sports Network, all the Conferences in the NCAA decided they could keep their rights to themselves and start their own channels. Demand for content far exceeded supply and suddenly we had Barclay’s Premier League games on real channels just about every day. We also had TV deals for the MLS. These sports networks needed content and you were there to oblige.

So yea, you can give in a little to the players here. You don’t have to give in all the way, but you can certainly look at how the NBA has slots for player salaries and work that into some sort of restricted free-agency program. Look at how the NFL uses tricks like Franchise Tags to keep some players from driving up the free agent market. Let teams restrict a certain amount of their young guys. Give teams first chance to pluck unprotected players off teams that poach yours. Be creative. Come up with something.

Because here’s the thing. I’m sorry, but you don’t have the juice to survive a strike. MLB, NFL, NBA – they all suffer but survive work stoppages thanks to the 40-100 years they’ve been embedded in our national fabric. Hockey sat out a whole season and is still feeling the effects.

You have 17 home games – mostly weekend games – that my season ticket group has had to schedule our spring, summer and fall around. Do you realize what a pain in the arse it will be if you make us try to readjust our calendars because you couldn’t come to a consensus on how much profit you want to keep for yourselves vs sharing with the players? We’ll make maybe 2/3 of the games. And it will make us think about how many tickets to buy the following year.

So both of you get your act together and come to a compromise. You have some momentum now. You have a chance to say, “No we’re not like other leagues. We can solve problems because the fans are our most important asset.” Realize that you are a growing league, but recognize where you are in both in the U.S. fabric and the International Soccer landscape. This is the time to hit the accelerator, not slam on self-imposed brakes.

Does Pronto Have Their Pricing Wrong

Since I work downtown a lot, and I am always rooting for startups, I’ve been keeping an eye on the bike-renting service, “Pronto.” I think it’s a cool idea, and with enough manipulation, you can kind of shove this square peg into the circle hole of The Collaborative Economy. So that intrigues me as well.

Via DowntownSeattle.com

So this week I wanted to use the service to get about 9-10 blocks across downtown. And here is where I found out that I think they have a simple to fix problem – pricing.

Pronto will let you rent a bike for 24 hours for $8. It seems like a paltry amount to spend.

But I don’t need a bike for 24 hours. I need a bike Car2Go style – for 5 minutes to get to my meeting across downtown, and then an hour later I need it for 5 minutes to get back.

For $8, I can hop in an Uber. For $8 I can buy a sandwich and eat it as I enjoy a 15 minute walk. Sure $ is only $.33 an hour. But I only need the bike for 4% of the time in which I can have it. I’d rather pay 5-10x that $.33 per hour rate, and get closer to 70-100% efficiency.

That’s my use case. Maybe I’m unique. But I see a lot of Pronto bikes every time I walk past a rental station. I may not be alone.

Get Your B2B Questions Answered Tuesday Night

There will be no Super Bowl Commercials featuring dogs and horses promoting a B2B brand this year. Liam Neeson won’t be doing voiceovers Sunday about Enterprise software.

B2B Marketing is the quiet opportunity. Its success is not measured on fluffy numbers like “Followers,” “Retweets” or “Net Promoter Score.” B2B is about leads and sales. Not $.99 sales. $99,000 sales. B2B is sexy in its own unsexy way.

This Tuesday, some great people from the B2B Marketing world will get together at Moz World Headquarters and each share 15 minutes of wisdom. At the end, I’m going to get to ask these experts a few questions panel style. I’m looking forward to it, and if you are into B2B Marketing, I hope to see you there.

www.B2BNowAndNext.com

What is a Winning Football Team Worth to Seattle

There’s a guy at my gym who fancies himself as somewhat of a philosopher. His podium is the sauna, where he knows he has a captive audience of helpless people who have no other place to get a good sweat.

I call him “Sauna Sam” and he adds as much to the world’s philosophical endeavors as I do to nuclear engineering. The beauty of Sauna Sam is that the more conviction he has about a topic, the less he actually knows about it.

How does this relate to football? Bear with me a moment.

For some reason, I have no actual downloaded media on my phone. I live in an all-stream kind of world I suppose. And of course, there’s no internet in the sauna. So how annoying is Sauna Sam? I will actually put on my headset, open up video games on my phone, and listen to the minute long introductory music from the game’s home screen 10 times rather than listen to Sam.

So yesterday I’m fumbling around, desperately trying to find a game with a loud soundtrack, and before I can get there, I have to hear Sam’s latest rant, directed at no one in particular other than that poor sap that made the mistake of making eye contact and now was looking for a back door to sneak out of.

Sam is ranting about how the mainstream media has brainwashed all the pacifists and progressive minds in Seattle to support a sport that is all about barbarianism. He mocks Seattle for spending their money to placate millionaires and billionaires running a fascist business in which people purposely and willfully attempt to hurt each other.

Being the open minded soul that I am, I tried to embrace this line of thought. Concussions are certainly a bad thing. Domestic Violence is definitely bad. Shootings, drug use, steroids, these are all negative things that NFL players can become known for.

So then I looked at the other side. There are very few times in my life when I have felt such irrational exuberance as I did Sunday afternoon in Century Link. At several moments in that game, I shared emotions with 65,000 other people. Surprise at an early Russel Wilson interception, relief that the Packers only had 2 field goals, depression on the interception with 5:00 left, hope when the Seahawks got the ball back, excitement when they scored, celebration when they got the onside kick, pure disbelief when they took the lead, a nervous sigh when they gave up the field goal, a tempered optimism when they won the overtime coin flip, and unbridled jubilation when they got the touchdown.

That my friends, is a roller coaster of human emotions. And I didn’t go through them by myself. I had 65,000 neighbors with me. Throughout those last 5:00, all of strangers hugged, high-fived, stared open mouth in disbelief, danced and smiled like we just learned how.

So obviously, I am one of the brain washed. One of the NFL’s minions who receive joy from watching grown men fight on a field of battle. Right, Sam?

Well I think that idea is garbage. Football is dangerous, not all of the players are upstanding citizens and there are definite health risks you take by being hit by large, structurally sound men in return for a million dollar paycheck.

But barbaric? The Roman Colosseum was barbaric. Dog fighting is barbaric. Football is dangerous. Football takes bravery. But no one is supposed to die playing football.

All of the players on that field were doing things that you and I could never imagine doing. The discipline and training it takes is more than we can comprehend. The 65,000 people sitting in Century Link, and the hundreds of thousands watching at home, wanted their team to be braver, stronger, faster and smarter than the other guys risking their health to win a game. And not just this week, but over the last 18 weeks.

But these are our guys. And we’re proud that they wear a Seattle jersey. And so we will do whatever small part we can to contribute. That means being loud when the team needs a pick me up. It means being louder when we can affect the other team. It means losing all sanity and rational thought and truly believing we are part of the team, the collective 12th man.

And that’s what the team means to the city. We all have our different political views, jobs, education, etc… But Seattleites – and the region around us – all have a singular bond if we choose to embrace it. We are the 12th Man. Together. It makes us stronger as a city, and closer as a population.

It’s too bad Sauna Sam wants to focus on the negative. He is really missing out on how cool it is to be part of this community.

The Best Company You Don’t Know You Need

I don’t shill for companies very often. And I am getting no benefit for this.

But I love RePC. (Google Map)

Now maybe you are one of those super careful people who never do anything dumb like accidentally back over your laptop bag after scraping the snow off your car, or accidentally have your laptop bag fall out of the back of an SUV. Maybe you never have a need to get your laptop screen replaced.

But maybe you do. And if you do, you want to take it to RePC. If they have the screen in stock (which they often do), the whole thing is less than $100. If they have to buy it from somewhere else, maybe $150. If you can find the right screen yourself somewhere, then they’ll do the install for like $40.

Of course, they do all kinds of other things for people have different kinds of laptop issues. So next time you have some computer calamity, give these guys a shot. They are just down by Safeco Field. Super nice, really helpful and really fair.

Advice for New Grads Seeking Those “Jobs” Things

Young people seem to like to ask me about how to get a job. Sometimes I think they don’t really want my advice and just want me to actually “give” them a job, but I get asked all the same.

So here are a few quick thoughts for you new grads. In no particular order.

1) No one wants to “give you a job.” People do want you to “work for them.” These are two completely different sentences and they mean totally different things. If you can’t figure out the difference, then you may want to ask someone.

2) Hiring Managers expect you to bring a skill to the role. It’s your first job. No one expects you to be an all-star. What they want is to see that you have some skill – or set of skills – that they can add to their team that makes the overall team better. Know what you are best at, and get even better. In an interview be able to clearly articulate that you are able to solve some sort of problem that the manager has, because your skill set enables you to do so.

3) If you want to work in a start-up for a career, there is a lot of value in working in a huge company first. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. But working in a large, successful company gets you the following: A nice large network of colleagues to call upon later in your career, experience doing things the right way, an understanding of how large companies work so you know how to sell to them later, a nice brand name on your resume that indicates you *could* work in a big company if you wanted, and finally, stable money that you can sock away in a savings account, so you can take a risk later. Side note: Nothing is more liberating than money in the bank. Nothing is more chilling than being forced to work for someone you don’t like because the rent is due.

4) Your first job is probably going to kind of suck. Here’s why. You’re the low pup on the totem pole. That means your boss is second lowest, and that it’s probably their first time managing people. They will have some managerial growing pains. They’ll also be worried about their own boss 90% of the time and trying to figure out how to get promoted. So you probably will end up flipping from being ignored to being micro-managed based on what your boss just got told by their boss. Accept that this is going to be part of the game, so look for a boss that you like, no matter what the company is like.

5) Interview EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to work there. Go practice. Nothing is more humbling than not getting an offer at a company you didn’t want to work for. But it will help you figure out how to nail the interview you really want.

6) Work for a product, customer base or marketplace you care about. It’s the natural truth. If you don’t like your customers, you can’t do your job. I once worked someplace where the customers were all rich, arrogant, conceited and hard to deal with. Do you know how little I felt like helping them? You can’t do good work unless you have an affinity for what you are doing. So at least identify early who it is that you want to be associated with.

In a nutshell – To “work” for someone, find a skill you are great at, optimize it, sell yourself everywhere, and try to find a manager you like in an industry you care about, no matter how large or small the company. Then save some money, build a nest egg, and never have to fear a lack of a job again.

What’s Up With the Mariners Spending Spree?

To get things started, let’s be clear that I have no insight, intelligence or idea why the Mariners are suddenly spending like a drunken sailor on shore leave. $100 million for Seeger, $60 million for Cruz, maybe more for Cabrera. This is very un-Mariner like. So let’s speculate on a few reasons this is happening.

1) They’ve saved up a war chest that we cannot even imagine.
The Mariners have been bad bad bad for a long long time. Sure they had a couple of years between 2004 and 2013 of relative mediocrity. But after winning 93 games in 2002 and 2003, they finished above .500 two years out of 10. Heck they finished under .400 three times. All told they won just 44$ of their games. And yet they still made money. Year after year of cash registers firing all season long. It’s possible that they have so much money saved up, that now they have a chance to win, they are going all in. Budgets be damned.

2) There’s a new sheriff in Japan.
Mariners savior, long time owner and Safeco Field no-show Hiroshi Yamauchi died in Sept 2013. According to Wikipedia, he sold his shares to Nintendo in 2004, stayed on the Nintendo board and was tasked with running the team while he was alive. Of course, we know that the Operations were run by Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong (since retired). But maybe this non-baseball fan was just managing to the bottom line. I don’t know how the transition process worked after his death, but we can make a pretty safe assumption that someone new on the Nintendo board is in charge. Maybe they like baseball? Or coming to Seattle? Or coming to baseball games in Seattle? Or meeting baseball players? Or meeting Jay-z and Beyonce? Who knows.

3) Howard Lincoln is retiring soon?
If I was the long-time CEO of the Mariners, I would not want my Wikipedia profile to read, “Boyer ran the Mariners for 15 years, the longest tenure of any CEO to not make a World Series.” Let’s say that Lincoln has an expiration date on his Mariners tenure. That would accelerate his will to win in the next 2 years, not keep building the war chest.

Chuck Armstrong was the one who refused to spend any money?
Armstrong retired last year. Maybe he was the guy hiding all the money under the mattress.

4) Felix handed down an ultimatum?
We all wondered why the best pitcher in baseball would sign a long-term deal that pretty much eliminates him from ever being qualified for the Hall of Fame. I’m not going to go ALL stats geek here but from 2006-2013, the Mariners went 586-710 (.452). Felix was 106-82 (.563) with a ridiculous ERA of 3.22. So in the games Felix DIDN’T get a decision, the Mariners were 480-628 (.433). Let’s make up some calculations. Pretend the Mariners could be .500 in games Felix didn’t pitch. That would get them another 71 wins, or 15% more. So let’s do the same thing with Felix. Give him 15% more wins. Now instead of 106-82, he’s 122-66. The Mariners ineptitude for 8 years basically cost him 16 wins – or 2 wins a year. If he pitches for 18 years at that pace it takes him from a 239 win pitching version of Edgar to a 275 win pitcher with HoF aspirations.

5) All of the above
Is it unreasonable to think that the Mariners are a franchise with buckets and buckets and buckets of $1000 bills buried under 2nd base, a new TV deal that will make them even MORE money, an “owner” in Japan who is younger and more interested in the fun part of winning baseball games, an outgoing CEO who wants a legacy, a void in the front office where a penny pincher used to sit and a superstar “face of the franchise” who demanded they make some changes for him to stay a few years ago? That’s where I fall on this. We may have a super fun run from 2015-2017. I wonder what happens when the Perfect Storm subsides…

A Quick Thought About A Common Dilemma

I don’t think I’m the only person who regularly gets asked for money by homeless people. On any given day, I can be hit up by one when I get on I-5, one when I get off I-5 and anywhere between 1 and 3 within 20 yards of the Wallingford QFC. So long ago I drew a line in the sand and just decided not to give out dollar bills to guys who may simply take my dollar bill and buy some cheap booze.

So here’s what I’d like to have. I’d like to be able to donate $100, $200, $300, however much to a shelter. I’d like them to mail me a bunch of $1 “gift cards” that can only be redeemed at that shelter. And I’d like the shelter to make the recipient do something to redeem it. Work in the kitchen, take a skills class, whatever. And then I’d like all the “gift cards” they’ve collected to be put towards something they need. Or let the shelter act as a bank and hold the cards for them. In fact, I’d even have the cards contain a # to a taxi company where the person could ride to the Mission for free and have the ride paid for as part of this program.

I know, this can’t work for a hundred reasons. But I’d like it to. I’d feel way more comfortable giving a card to someone than 1/2 the money he needs for a 40.

Join Me With a Bunch of Ad Folks Thursday

Thursday, September 25 will be a busy evening for advertising professionals.

You *could* go drink free beer and play bocce ball up on Capitol Hill. But for those of you who like some education with your alcohol, and prefer a more refined audience, I invite you up to Pike Place Market’s Atrium for the AAF Seattle panel entitled: MARKET INSIGHTS: MOBILE FIRST.

Here’s how they describe the content:

With Twitter machines in every pocket, mobile is key to consumers’ experiences today. How are you incorporating it into you clients’ brands—and into yours? We dialed up a bunch of experts in the mobile biz and asked them to share their secrets, strategies and insights on the topic.

We’ll look into what customers expect from mobile interactions with a brand, when you need an app (and when you don’t), thinking beyond responsive design, and plenty more.

Oh, and I’ll be moderating this group of experts. I’m not an expert myself, and I’ll have as many questions as you do, so it should be a fun time.