Andy Simms, Co-Founder, PlayersRep Sports Management
First, can you let readers know how you got started as an agent and how you helped start PlayersRep in 1997?
I was just a 22 year old 1st year law student with a few ideas really. The long and short of it is simple – I printed up some business cards and made up a brochure for my start up sports agency. I had no connections, potential clients, or much of a clue on what I was doing. I was able to sign a few clients fortunately, and the rest grew from there.
What prompted you to launch your own agency and what were your biggest obstacles starting out?
The biggest obstacles – inexperience, an industry flooded with competition, lack of money and funding for travel and business expenses. That just names a few. But as in any business, obstacles can be overcome. I started on my own because that was really the only option. It’s extremely hard to catch on with an established agent or agency – very few openings and when there are, the opportunity for growth is fairly limited.
What separates you from other agencies/agents and how do you decide on what players to take on? Are there ones you’d turn away – if so, why?
The cliché’ that a business is only as good as its clients proves true in the agent business. Our clients ARE the business. We have to choose wisely. A lot of time and energy is put into studying potential prospects – both on and off the field. We take on a limited number of clients each year which is different than most of our competitors. We have to do a lot of scouting ourselves, studying game film, speaking with MANY people to get background on athletes. We are looking for clients that are a great fit for PlayersRep, of which many are not. And yes, we end up turning away clients.
You are unique in that you take on various roles with clients – from contract work, marketing opportunities, finding clients jobs, tax advice to post-career counseling, and more. What’s the part of the job you enjoy most, and why?
I can eliminate tax advice, financial advice/budgeting and most forms of post career counseling from the competition for most enjoyable part of the job. The reality is each and every aspect of the job is important and necessary. The enjoyment comes from the success. And success starts with a job in the NFL for your client and a contract that pays them as well as possible.
What are the biggest misperceptions players have when entering the contract negotiation process – especially as rookies?
The new labor deal of 2011 brought about changes for the rookies, and all of the NFL really. The rookie contracts are more set than ever before. There is still work to be done on the agent side, especially regarding off-season bonuses, guaranteed language in the contracts, and injury provisions.
With so much discussion on how players handle their post-NFL careers and lives and the difficulties they have in doing so at times, how do you work with your clients to ensure they have a healthy mindset entering their post-NFL years, and how do you go about doing so?
The key to success post NFL playing career is simple. Planning. We encourage our clients to think about and discuss with us their plans for after football. Once we as a firm can understand their post football interests, then we can help guide them into different career paths that interest them. The NFL and NFLPA offer various programs for business education, entrepreneurship, coaching, and broadcasting.
Planning also involves networking throughout the playing career. NFL players meet a lot of people during their careers. We encourage them to stay in touch and follow up with interesting people they meet along the way. No player should ever be left wondering what to do next after they play their last game.
How do you go about selecting the right marketing/endorsement opportunities for players? How do you know when the fit is right?
Our job is to know our clients. We have to have a firm grasp of our client, his interests, and what he wants and doesn’t want to do publicly. Once we have that, it’s about finding the right opportunities and matching those interests up with corporate America. It’s not a science, but we try to evaluate all possibilities and stick to a plan when possible for each client.
From your perspective, what are some of the biggest misperceptions fans have of the role of agents in sports? How do you dispel those?
Our industry is littered with all kinds of people – I understand and accept that. For myself and for the other agents at PlayersRep, we can only control how we conduct ourselves on a day to day basis. I can’t change how our industry is perceived, but I can affect how I am perceived. So I worry about that and nothing more.
With more and more of players’ personal lives – especially legal issues – becoming public, how do you prepare players to protect themselves from these situations and has that become a bigger part of your player preparation?
One of the main jobs of any agent is to protect your client. We protect clients from varying forms of pitfalls and traps. Education, knowledge and planning are the keys. Our clients have to understand the potential for trouble that exists, and they need to know how to avoid that trouble. We encourage our clients to communicate with us regularly, and if they are contacted by anyone, or if they are attached on social media for example, they know to contact me immediately.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Thanks for allowing me to answer some questions about the agent business. Although the agent industry is sometimes perceived negatively, it is a very rewarding, and fun, business to be involved with.