NSYNC and the WNBA; Trusting The Process With Sixers & Devils CEO Scott O’Neil

NSYNC and the WNBA; Trusting The Process With Sixers & Devils CEO Scott O’Neil


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Warning: The episode does contain a brief mention of a death by suicide. If you are struggling, help is available — In the United States, you can speak with someone today by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or dial 988..

My guest for Episode #72 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is Scott O'Neil. He's the CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, a global sports and entertainment company that includes some of the most iconic and innovative teams and brands in the world, including the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) and the New Jersey Devils (NHL). 

With more than 20 years of experience in the NBA, NHL and NFL, Scott has worked in the NBA league office, was formerly the President of Madison Square Garden Sports and he's now the author of Be Where Your Feet Are: Seven Principles to Keep You Present, Grounded and Thriving – which is available TODAY!

Scott was also featured recently in this fantastic Wall St. Journal article: “For Sports Executive Scott O’Neil, Failure Is the Best Teacher.”

Questions and topics include:

  • Scott's “favorite mistake” when working for the NBA league office
  • Why trying to reach teenage girls through NSYNC, as an attempt to grow the WBNA audience, was a mistake and why it “failed miserably”
  • The mistake of not being more hands on
  • Why relationships matter and how Scott came to appreciate this
  • Have to be able to fail… the Sixers were in first place when we recorded this and they lose one third of the time
  • The Sixers are famous for “the process” — were there ever times when you thought the process was a mistake? 
  • Trust the process” — no short cuts to the top, short term pain for long-term gain
  • How do you know when to stick with “the process” vs. adjusting to a new plan or approach?

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  • Full transcript

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban (0s):

Episode 72, Scott O'Neil, CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment.

Scott O'Neil (7s):

Every great leader fails. Every great leader gets fired. Every great leader, drags a company into the ground, every great… And I kept hearing that, I kept saying, yeah, not me.

Mark Graban (19s):

I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast, you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes. But what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at myfavoritemistakepodcast.com. For links, show notes and the chance to enter, to win a copy of Scott's book, Be Where Your Feet Are, you can go to markgraban.com/mistake72, please follow rate and review.

Mark Graban (1m 0s):

If you liked the episode, please share it with a friend or a colleague. Thanks. Our guest is Scott O'Neil. He is the CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment. They're a global sports and entertainment company. If you don't know that name, you certainly know some of their iconic and innovative teams and brands that includes the Philadelphia 76ers from the NBA and the New Jersey Devils from the NHL. So Scott has more than 20 years of experience working in professional sports, the NBA, NHL, and NFL, he's worked in the NBA league office and he was formerly president of Madison Square Garden Sports.

Mark Graban (1m 40s):

Scott is the author of a book that's coming out in June called Be Where Your Feet Are: Seven principles to keep you present grounded and thriving. So we'll talk about that today. Scott, how are you? Thanks for joining us,

Scott O'Neil (1m 53s):

You know, Mark, thank you. I first off want to say thank you to you. Your, your podcast is fantastic. I think it's making a difference. And for those of us who have made millions upon millions of mistakes, it's kind of heartwarming to see other people have gone through the fire as well.

Mark Graban (2m 10s):

Well, thank you for that, Scott. And thank you for coming and sharing a story today, for those who aren't watching on YouTube, if you're just listening, you won't see the New Jersey Devils jerseys, sweaters, I think is this we'll call them sweaters and

Scott O'Neil (2m 25s):

Hockey. We do. And these are all our retired. We have Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermeyer, Ken Daneyko, Marty Bradeur, and Patrick Elias. So these are five of the all-time greats in the game of hockey, on the Devils.

Mark Graban (2m 37s):

They certainly are. And they had a, there was, there was some good match-ups with my Detroit Red Wings. I remember back in the nineties.

Scott O'Neil (2m 44s):

Yeah, I heard you mentioned the Stars before too. Have you, have you adopted the Stars a little bit?

Mark Graban (2m 50s):

A little bit, since Dallas has been a home for a while, but I am one of the many people who goes to the games, wearing a Red Wings sweater in Dallas. There's so many, that's a unique challenge for that. It

Scott O'Neil (3m 2s):

Is, yeah, it's a transient city. It definitely hard. Yeah. This is more hardcore Northeast, as you know is just hardcore hardcore sports fans. So we get it. You've got a game tonight and I'm just going through COVID it's been a blessing just to be in front of fans and go back to whatever the pseudo new normal is going to be. So I'm, I'm, I'm excited. I'm happy and positive and the life is good. Yeah.

Mark Graban (3m 24s):

Well, good. It's been a year of so many changes in, in the sports world and adaptation. So thank you for being able to take some time here with all that going on to do the episode today. So, you know, as we normally do, we'd like to jump right in. I mean, Scott, looking back at all the things that you've done, what would you consider to be your favorite mistake?

Scott O'Neil (3m 48s):

It's a, it's a, it's a wonderful question and something I've been thinking a lot about since we agreed to do this podcast and, and unfortunately I had countless countless things to draw from. And it was really interesting as I, as I, as I thought back to when I was a 22 year old. And I remember listening to a speaker, tell this big audience of which I was apart, that every great leader fails. Every great leader gets fired every great leader, drags a company into the ground, every great… And I kept hearing, I kept saying, yeah, not me. I'm going to do it and I'm going to do it right. And I'm going to stay on that path and I'm gonna climb that ladder and things are going to go smoothly. And you know what, I actually did take a company into the ground and I have been fired and I have made so many mistakes along the way.

Scott O'Neil (4m 35s):

And I have found that to be like a core principle of how we run our business. Like it has to be okay to fail. You have to fail forward and fail up. And because that, you know, I think that expression is “rough seas make the best sailors.” And, and I truly believe that you have these incredible opportunities to learn from all these mistakes. And I, I know that's the essence. I don't know. I'm assuming that's the essence of what you do and why you do it. But, but my favorite mistake hearkens back to my days at the NBA, the NBA league office, and I was a young and not so up and coming executive at the time, you know, and, and kind of fighting my way through a big company. I'd never worked at a big company before and had over a thousand employees.

Scott O'Neil (5m 18s):

I'd just come from Hoops TV, which I'd run into the ground, which had 50 employees. And, and I loved the small company vibe where you could get in a room with four people and make any decision in the world. And I, I found myself kind of running into wall after wall, after wall. I had a really, really difficult onboarding experience where I went three months without a computer, a phone business cards or any expense check cut back. And as a young guy who was traveling five days a week, that was not ideal. And so I was getting increasingly frustrated and I was, I was working harder than I'd ever worked before. I'm thinking that I was doing everything right. And everything was, was, was rolling around, rolling along smoothly.

Scott O'Neil (5m 59s):

I raised my hand to go help out with the WNBA, which people were, you know, in, in a big company. They're like, why are you, don't jump on a sinking ship ever in a big company. And I, I, you know, I have three daughters. I love the game of basketball. I love women's basketball. I coach girls basketball. And so I sat in my first meeting and they had this big plan. Val Ackerman was the president at the time. Who's still a dear friend today. And the plan was, we need to reach teenage girls. Like that's going to transform a business. And I, I raised my hand first meeting, still wet behind the years. You know, I have an idea. And as I had several stares, staring me down saying, who is the new guy? And why is he raising his hand?

Scott O'Neil (6m 40s):

I said, Hey, you know, I have a friend of mine who manages NSYNC at the time. It was a big boy band run by Justin Timberlake. And the manager is a friend and he'll do just about anything. You know, I think he owes me a favor. Let's like reach out to him. And so there was like muted, enthusiasm. I could say like, Hey, you know, this is like the biggest band in the world right now. Like every teeny bopper, if you want to attract teenage girls, this is the way to do it. And they ended up giving us videos from the band members, autograph stuff. They dropped their new album at our game in 15 cities. I mean, it was incredible. And then we set up cope promotions with all the iHeart radio stations and all of the WNBA markets.

Scott O'Neil (7m 20s):

Like if you were to design a program like from scratch, with no restrictions and no limitations to lift event, this the one you would have done and it failed miserably. So I, of course being young and knowing everything in the entire world and never would it ever come down to me started to point fingers. Like, these guys don't get it. They don't, they don't, they don't do it. They don't make it happen. Like no wonder this league is struggling. Of course it's a young league and we'll always be young. They cause it was everybody else. And so I just, coincidentally, two days later after this flop and failure got a call from Jeff Robinson who was running human resources at the time at the NBA.

Scott O'Neil (8m 6s):

And he was, he was calling to, to meet, to do a six month check-in, which is great for, you know, a young executive. No. So I went in his office and he said, well, how how's it going? And I said, candidly, he said, of course, it sucks. This place sucks. He said, whoa, what, what what's going on? And I said, well, here's the thing Jeff, like, and I went through my onboarding issues. You know, I'm still sitting at the intern desk still. Hadn't had $30,000 of credit card bills and couldn't pay because I hadn't got my money back. And now we tee up the best promotion that I ever possibly could up. And it failed.

Scott O'Neil (8m 46s):

And he looked at me and he said, Scott, what, what role did you play in his demise? And I was like, me, are you kidding me? I teed up the biggest boy band in the world right now. He said, huh, but what, what role do you think you played? And after some frustrated back and forth, he said, well, how often are you on the road? And I proudly said, every day, he said every day, like seven days a week, I said, no, no, usually five or six days depends on if they're weak again. He said, so you're, you're on the road five or six days. How often are you here? And I say this as little as possible. And he said, well, you know, this is a matrix organization, Scott.

Scott O'Neil (9m 28s):

Right? You understand that? I said, not don't know what a matrix organization is. He said, well, it just means that we work together in different ways. And so to be effective here, you're going to have to know somebody in each of those boxes to move anything forward. So do you know the folks in marketing? And I said, no, no I don't. How, how about digital media? Nope. How about the broadcast group? The ones that were working with the radio stations group set up. It's like Nope. Operations people? How about the NBA entertainment crew? Not really. No. Oh, really? Well, how about the, the WNBA? I said, well, I was in a meeting with them.

Scott O'Neil (10m 9s):

You said, do do you know all their names? Not, no, I don't. I actually, I have no idea. I know vow and, and his lesson was, was pretty powerful. You know, his message was really clear is that to me, he said, well, I said, he's like, you need relationships. You need time on the ground. People need to know you and like you and they will help. And I said, well, how do you do that? And he said, Scott, you're your sales, sales person, his background. Right. I said, yeah, he's like, I bet you can figure that part out. And it, so I started coming off the road more and I always said like, Hey, that's where I add value. I'm a, I was a consultant in a group called Timbo.

Scott O'Neil (10m 49s):

So we were effectively like changing the very nature of the way leagues and teams work together. And so I was a glorified consultant. So I would go and build best practices from team to team, to team. And I thought like if I wasn't out of the team finding a best practice to bring to the next team, I wasn't doing my job, but I was missing the big picture. And so for me, what I did coming out of there was I came off the road two days a week. I spent one day in our Secaucus New Jersey office while the entertainment folks, by the way, I didn't even know we had a psychiatrists office at the time. And I spent the other day in our Manhattan office. And I spent it walking around and grabbing a Coke and having a lunch, or just popping in to say, hello.

Scott O'Neil (11m 34s):

And I, and I will say like those relationships, that conversation with Jeff transformed the trajectory of my experience at the NBA. Cause I wouldn't have stayed. They probably wouldn't have wanted me to stay and I wouldn't stay. And I ended up staying for almost eight years. And then those relationships I had catapulted me to not only tremendous friendships that I'll have forever and there's some of my dearest friends in the world, but also when my boss left Bernie Moen to go run the Hawks and the Thrashers, Commissioner, David Stern, who was my boss at the time said like, there's only one person that can run this group. And it was me and it wasn't because I was ready. It was because I had all these relationships. So everyone he talked to was like, Hey Scott, well, you need to talk to Scott. Oh, Scott's incredible. He's in here yesterday.

Scott O'Neil (12m 14s):

And so, so that, that one small mistake of kind of being myopic in my process, not seeing the big picture, thinking that you can work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work through any situation and not understanding kind of the dynamic of the way the world really works, which is through people and relationships.

Mark Graban (12m 35s):

I mean, it, it sounds like to use a sports analogy. There was a lesson there around teamwork that you, Scott might've been playing, you'll have to use a basketball analogy, iso ball or hero ball. And, you know, your, your, your utilization was really high, but the team didn't win is that maybe a fair

Scott O'Neil (12m 54s):

Analogy, truly like th the irony is as a, as a recovering rec league point guard, I will say like, that's not me. That's the irony of it. Every time I dig a hole for myself, or every time I make my biggest, greatest mistakes, X the ones that are kind of environmentally driven is because I am not out of the box. I am not palms up. I'm not kind of focusing on others and the world around me. And I, I once had a, a good friend, Ryan G who's now Under Armour, say to me, we were playing in a basketball league and we got into the huddle. I was like, okay, what do you want to do? He's like, whoa, he played at, Cal, a really good player. And he said, he said, oh, I'm going to score.

Scott O'Neil (13m 37s):

I'm not the captain. That's, you know, I thought that was really like an interesting insight in a basketball context. And so sort of come in and try to be the quote unquote leading score. That's not, that's not, that's not who I am. It's not in my DNA. And, and I think that's that, that hero ball analogy or the ISO ball analogy is a wonderful one in a, in a really one that really stings. So thanks for that.

Mark Graban (13m 59s):

Sorry. Well, I appreciate it. I didn't mean for that to sting, but I thought there was an analogy. I appreciate you sharing, you know, the reflection around that story. I mean, going back to it, I mean, why do you think that promotion failed? I mean, it sounds like as you were teeing it up, that those connections teenage girls in sync radio, like what, what, when you, when you say that failed, what was the measure of failure or what the causes of it failing?

Scott O'Neil (14m 27s):

Yeah. So the measure was just ticket sales, ticket buyers, you know, and it had a, had a diminimous impact. And like I said, nothing was failing that they would ever touch. Why did it fail? I mean, we found out at four of the markets, the stuff never got out of the distribution center, which is kind of crazy, you know, and that's just again about operations, relationships and all that kind of stuff. And generally, like, I, I think if I, you know, again, it was a long time ago. I think if I had to go back and do it again, I would have been more hands-on, you know, I actually would have been engaging like one-on-one with the head of marketing one-on-one with the head of broadcasting one-on-one with operations and distribution.

Scott O'Neil (15m 10s):

And I think we would have been more successful, but, but, but the, the, again, you trip, you fall, you fail, you learn. I mean, that, that has to be the formula for life. I mean, that, that, that notion of intellectual curiosity is something I've learned from every great leader I've ever been around. They're all learning all the time. Yeah.

Mark Graban (15m 33s):

Well, you talked earlier about, you know, the idea of you have to be able to fail and in regards to innovation startups, and that gets talked about a lot, you know, I feel like at the Sixers, they're in first place right now, they're number one in the east, as we record this based don't they lose one third of the time. No, no team, even the legendary Bulls with Michael Jordan, nobody wins every game. The Warriors didn't win every game. How do you, how do you start, you know, reconcile, you know, kind of the hyper competitive world of sports of always wanting to work with the recognition that sometimes you're going to lose, you know, you have an MBA from Harvard Business School, I'm sure people coming out for Harvard don't think their projects or businesses will fail one third of the time.

Mark Graban (16m 18s):

How have you started to come to grips with,

Scott O'Neil (16m 20s):

Yeah, I've never thought of it in those terms, but I think that's a really interesting perspective. I'd say first off, like I'm a, I'm a terrible loser. I still don't get, get really comfortable with that. In fact, my wife years ago, it said to me, when I came home late one night, I was working with the Knicks and Rangers and Liberty. And she's like, literally, it's like, look, your teams are all rebuilding. How many games are you going to be miserable? One out of every three nights of the year? Like this doesn't work. Like you need a new system, you know? And I thought it was really insightful lesson from her. And for me at that point, you know, I had a choice to make, like I had to, you know, it's, it's hard. You get, you actually are so invested in a team.

Scott O'Neil (17m 1s):

People often ask me, like, are you like a fan? I was like, it's different from being a fan. You know, first of all, we're a little more transient. I mean, we move, I know I've worked for the Nets and the, and the Eagles and the Knicks and Rangers and the Devils and the Sixers so I've worked for different teams. And I, I love them, you know, when I'm there and, but it's your livelihood. Like it it's, it's your, you are wrapped up in that. So in terms of winning and losing and how that kind of, how that intersects with innovation, I think it's, I guess a parallel track, you know, on the business side, it's relatively easy, right? I mean, we, we cannot innovate if we're not moving forward, we're going backwards because the world is moving so fast.

Scott O'Neil (17m 46s):

I mean, the world is changing all the time. I remember like being on plane with David Stern, this goes back 10 years. Any of the stacks, you know, kind of, he was an old school guy, but he had a stack, you know, seven inches, high of newspaper clippings and magazine articles you want to read. And he's talking about and learning about life sciences and geopolitical landscapes and, and, and business and sports, you know, but he understood how interconnected the world is. And, and you look at COVID right now. It's like most of my peers and I were spending more times with governors and mayors and department of health experts than we are with coaches or GMs or players, because that's where we should spend our time.

Scott O'Neil (18m 27s):

And so understanding that that the world is small and getting smaller and it's becoming more and more complex as technology emerges, it's like incumbent upon us to be, to have our organizations kind of mindset, be okay with pushing hard enough that we're going to fail and fall. And as leaders, we have to tell people, if you're not failing enough, you're not pushing hard enough. You are not pushing the envelope. And to do that, we'll, we'll get, you know, if you do the same thing over and over, the one thing you can promise is you get the same results and we don't want the same results, you know, as that, or as I tell my kids, if you do what everybody else does, you get, whatever else gets.

Scott O'Neil (19m 7s):

And, and in business, it's the same thing. It's like, we have to be different and unique and try and you have to be okay. And, and in this day and age, you make a mistake and I've made many, you, they will slaughter you in the media and slurry of social media, and I've been slaughtered in the media and I've been slaughtered on social media and it has to be okay if you want to do something great.

Mark Graban (19m 31s):

Yeah. But I mean, your, your mistakes are much more. Yeah. It's interesting to think about how these are public mistakes. You are CEO of, you know, an organization. There are franchises that people care really deeply about, and that, that level of emotion and dissatisfaction, it's one thing for somebody to have a bad meal in a restaurant and then maybe tweet something at the owner, but, you know, it's sports teams, that's, that's a totally different connection. I'm sure that that's why this work is so different.

Scott O'Neil (20m 1s):

Yeah. Not, I think sports holds a special place in the world. I really do. I have this like, notion that it's a little more noble than just a game, you know? And, and I think the pandemic has screened that like we, you know, having the, the opportunity to be down in, in the bubble in Orlando was a pretty remarkable experience. But the one thing I noticed more than anything else is like, I was mentally healthier there, like going to games even before fans and fans are finally back. Thank goodness. But even before fans walking into that arena and seeing the security guards and the ushers and the ticket takers and my colleagues from work and getting to interact, and then watch some of the greatest athletes in the world at the Sixers and New Jersey Devils on the court and on ice.

Scott O'Neil (20m 48s):

And just, it just felt like, okay, everything's okay with the world. And I think we need that escapism and the end, the end, the rooting and the fanaticism and the scream and yell and dance, just like we need concerts back. Cause we need to need to feel that sense of community. And I think the power of sports and entertainment is what, because it brings us together. And so much in this last year has been separating us and dividing us as people, whether it be political lines or racial lines, or, you know, state lines or city lines, or, you know, any line you could possibly find. And, and, and, and that's not what sports is about. Sports is about unity and, and, and love and, and coming together and rooting.

Scott O'Neil (21m 28s):

And I don't know, I just, I just have a strong sense that, that we matter more now than ever.

Mark Graban (21m 35s):

And when I think of passion and particularly with the devils, I'm reminded of, I should have gone back and watched it, I will, the Seinfeld episode where David Puddy paints his face.

Scott O'Neil (21m 46s):

That one. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We had them do a couple promos. He's he's quite a character for sure.

Mark Graban (21m 53s):

I bet. So, yeah. I mean, I think the Seinfeld friends thought that was a mistake on his part to, they were appalled that he was a face painter, right?

Scott O'Neil (22m 0s):

Yeah. Yeah. Puddyis a face painter and then appalled that he was living in New York City and rooting for America's Team the New Jersey Devils. So, so good, good on him. I said, yeah. Yeah.

Mark Graban (22m 12s):

Well, I want to ask one other sports question before asking about the book. And again, the title of that is “be where your feet are: seven principles to keep you present grounded and thriving.” The Philadelphia 76ers famous in recent years for what was described as t”he process.” And like with the work I do working with different organizations, we have process there's process in healthcare that leads to people getting vaccinated or treated. And so I w my ears perked up when I, the first time I heard about the Sixers and quote unquote, the process. So I was wondering if you could kind of, in a nutshell, explain what that process was. And were there times when, when you or others involved with the team thought the process was a mistake?

Scott O'Neil (22m 55s):

Sure. Well, the process, as it was coined by Tony Wroten, who was one of our journeyman guards, he was asked, you know, he just said, Hey, the coaches tell us, just trust the process. And that, that became a moniker that I've heard a cat call to me from Shanghai to London, to New York, to south Philly. So kind of Sixers fans around the world kind of identify with now trust the process. And what it meant was that there were, we weren't going to take any shortcuts to the top. And now we were willing to take some short term term pain for long-term gain. And you mentioned that at the top of the show that we were in first place, it wasn't always that way.

Scott O'Neil (23m 38s):

You know, when I started at the Sixers in 2012, you know, we, we were, we were at cap teams were at the cap spending what you could spend. And, and yet, and we just made a, a trade that's at least widely known as one of the worst trades in NBA history for Andrew Bynum. And so the team was struggling. We didn't have any cap space. We had two first round picks over the next five years. And in our business was a bottom five and every metric that I've ever seen in the sport. And so, and so that's where we were. And we decided to just have a longterm view and our general manager, Sam Hinkie at the time used to say, if you want to go to the moon, you don't grab a ladder. And I used to think, okay, that's it.

Scott O'Neil (24m 19s):

You know, that that's me makes a lot of sense. And so, and so we made a lot of long-term decisions and, and that was about trading veterans, aging veterans for draft picks and young prospects, and trying to build through the draft. And we did. And, you know, and now you have Joel Embiid who's, who will be the MVP of the NBA this year. And you have Ben Simmons who is a monster best defensive player of the year and all star three years in a row. And so, so now you have two cornerstone forces who will guide this franchise for the next decade and have put, put us on the map and we're here to stay. And so, so the, there are so many lessons in that process. And if you asked if we had problems, I don't know if we ever wanted to stop, but if, if, if there were ever days where we looked ourselves in the mirror and said, what are we doing?

Scott O'Neil (25m 3s):

And why are we doing this? Yes, about every day, the scrutiny was, was a, it was a painful experience. And it felt at times, and I think it feels like this when things go south in everybody's life, now, it felt like the world was against us. And, and in, in many ways at a city like Philadelphia kind of digs that it's an underdog city. It's like, you know, Rocky Balboa, you know, Philly versus everybody, you know, you can hate us, but we love us kind of mentality. And I think that was really beneficial, you know, in terms of building the base we have now, I mean, you have fast forward now. And, you know, the value of our organizations is up five times in the last seven years by all metrics.

Scott O'Neil (25m 47s):

And then, you know, we have the largest season ticket base in the, in, in the, in the league. And it's a pretty, it's an incredible turnaround story that started with, with a moniker. And I, I, I would say that those types of hashtags, if you will, or, or monikers or catchphrases we have, when I was with the Knicks, it was Lin-sanity because I was there with Jeremy Lin and, and the best, most laid plans are those driven by the fans. And that's one thing I learned at the team is there to amplify the fans work. And so when, when, when Lin-sanity hit, we amplified it with trust the process. It, we amplified when adopted, but we amplified it. It was kind of a, a pretty, pretty incredible process, but I'm glad I'm on the, you know, to be on the other side, on behalf of the fans, but I'm, I'm, I'm proud to have gone through it.

Scott O'Neil (26m 35s):

Like I'm proud of the, of the, of the group that's still here that actually saw, like, what does it take to win 10 games at 82 and wake up every day and say like, let's get this done today. And that's what we did. It was, it was, it was a great piece on ESPN SportsCenter done with our, on our sales unit. And amazingly through this, through this process, our, our sales kept kept going up, which, which was mystifying everybody. And we just had, we had this Chris Hack, who's now the president and Jake Reynolds, who was at the time, I think director or VP of sales, they had created this environment, culture of fun and love. So it didn't matter if we won 10 games or 50, we were going to be 50 when ready. That's what we kept saying. Let's be 50 when ready like this organization will be from top to bottom operations, marketing, branding, ticket sales, sponsorship, sales communications.

Scott O'Neil (27m 22s):

When this thing goes, we're going to be ready to pop, and that's what we're going to focus. And it was fun. It was a fun place to be with incredible people doing world beating work in the face of incredible headwinds. Certainly glad though, I don't want to do it again for whatever it's worth.

Mark Graban (27m 37s):

Well, I appreciate you reminding me. It wasn't just the process, but trusting the process, I could see where, you know, Embiid was injured and things happen. And through it, it may seem like, well, it's throwing off the plan. I can say a lot of times there would be temptation to give up on that. Long-term focus and say, okay, no, we're we, we need a shortcut. Let's find the shortcut. And I appreciate the, the, you know, sticking with the plan because it's, it's paid off in recent

Scott O'Neil (28m 2s):

Years, not to quote my friend, Sam Hinkie, but he also used to say, there are only shortcuts to the middle, which is a great line too, which I absolutely love. So you take a shortcut if you want to get to the middle, but, but I think that that applies to life that applies to relationships that applies to parenting. That applies to just about everything you do in business.

Mark Graban (28m 24s):

And one other business that comes to mind, you know, Toyota is a company I've learned a lot from and have admired, and they have 14 management principles that are described in the book called the Toyota Way. Number one is I'm paraphrasing. It, make decisions based on the long-term, even at the expense of the short term. And, you know, that's, you know, a lot of companies find it challenging to emulate that longterm focus. So it's interesting to me to hear a parallel with,

Scott O'Neil (28m 51s):

For sure. And, and that's, that's, it's hard to do. And in, in the difference between the sports business and other businesses is simply that, like, we have pressures we're in a fishbowl, right. We have, you know, we have everything from the media to our families, to our neighbors, to corporate partners, to our season ticket holders. And they're kind of all around us, squeezing and leaning in and making life like harder. And, and so making those decisions and having that Toyota process and keeping that long-term approach. That's, that's the key.

Scott O'Neil (29m 31s):


Mark Graban (29m 32s):

So when I asked you about the book, Scott, Be Where Your Feet Are, what, what led to the book, it's a big undertaking to do a book, you know, why write it, who the audience do you think for this book?

Scott O'Neil (29m 44s):

Sure. So, so sad story. Why I wrote it on my best friend. Unfortunately it took his own life about a year and a half ago, and it was my best friend in the world. His name is, Wil Cardon, five kids, amazing family, wonderful friends, very successful in business. And I was suffering from depression. And I unfortunately spiraled into a bit of, on myself after his funeral. And this was my kind of purpose for healing. So the book is a, is a mind body, soul meets purposeful living it's for anybody who is great, wants to be great and want to lead others. It is, it was a labor of love. It is not a victory lap around victory lane, by any means.

Scott O'Neil (30m 28s):

There are some, some stories from, from dear friends of mine from, from people I folks, I work with two people I worked for to just people I admire from Night Shaymalan, incredible director to a Paul Rabil, the worlds best lacrosse player to Marian Bartoli who won a Wimbledon to David Stern, God rest his soul, the former commissioner of the NBA, talking about the grind. And, you know, you have stories of them failing and struggling. And you're like, wait a second, Paul Rabil lost confidence on the lacrosse field? This dude is the best player ever. How is that possible? So that the book goes through it, you know, some of their stories and struggles, and I provide some insight given kind of what I've done and who I'd seen and what I've learned along the way.

Scott O'Neil (31m 17s):

And we try to make it a practical journey to, to grow. You know, it was kind of learn lead love type model. And, and I think it's, I think it's, it's a really valuable book right now. Like we need it, we all need to heal. We all need to feel connection and we need to, to, to be back into our, our feeling, that human connection that, that has been so missed.

Mark Graban (31m 42s):

Well, thank you for writing the book and you know, I'm sorry, you know, to hear of your loss and thank you for writing a book that I think will help inspire others. So I hope everybody will check that out. Be Where Your Feet Are. Scott O'Neil is the author. I hope everybody will check that out. So Scott, I can't thank you enough for sharing some of your stories. I always appreciate it when people are willing to talk about mistakes and what we've learned from them. And I'm really, really appreciate you doing

Scott O'Neil (32m 17s):

Mark. Thank you. And thanks for your, your continued work and push in, educating us. We need more of you out there, so thank you.

Mark Graban (32m 24s):

Oh gosh. I appreciate it. Thank you. And I'm going to root for your Sixers the rest of the year. You know, I, I I've been transient I've I've became a San Antonio Spurs fan. When we moved down there in 2012 and that's organization, I admire a lot, but I'm going to pull for the Sixers. Now

Scott O'Neil (32m 43s):

Let's go love to have you at a game. If you're up east, let me know.

Mark Graban (32m 47s):

I hope I can do that. I hope I can do that someday. That would be awesome.

Scott O'Neil (32m 50s):

Me too. Thanks Mark.

Mark Graban (32m 51s):

I'm not going to paint my face though. Thanks, Scott.

Scott O'Neil (32m 57s):

Thank you.

Mark Graban (32m 58s):

Well, thanks again to Scott. As a reminder, you can enter to win a copy of Scott's book. You can do so at markgraban.com/mistake72, and I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own mistakes and how you can learn from them or turn them into a positive I've had listeners tell me they've started being more open and honest about mistakes and their work. And they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems, cause that leads to more improvement and better business results. If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me myfavoritemistakepodcast@gmail.com. And again, our website is myfavoritemistakepodcast.com. Since every podcast asks you to do it, it would be a mistake.

Mark Graban (33m 43s):

If I didn't ask you to please follow rate and review, but most importantly, thank you. Thank you for listening.

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.