By Ronell Smith, The Tackle Insider
First, since this an article about professional angling, I’d like to congratulate one of the sport’s true good guys in Brent Chapman, who just earned the 2012 Toyota Tundra B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year prize. I met Chapman in 2003, at a Yamaha/Skeeter event on Georgia’s Lake Lanier. I thought he was a great guy then; I still feel the exact same way.
As you might assume, my days are spent primarily on the phone, talking to folks at various levels within the sportfishing industry. I’m usually fishing for nuggets of information, and more folks than not are willing to share. One group, however, that I don’t normally seek out for comment are pro staff managers. But, oddly enough, no group is—when I do converse with them—more vociferous in voicing their “concerns” about the industry.
What usually begins with us talking about a new lure or how well a pro on his team has done becomes a 10-minute data dump. Chief among their concerns are how to deal with the flood of incoming requests from pros who want to join their staff; dwindling budgets coupled with added responsibility; bosses who devalue their role; pros who see them as babysitters; and the unease they feel in having to pare their staff for budgetary reasons.
Admittedly, I do more listening than talking. One thing I always offer up is this sentence: “The best pros understand their role as an ‘employee’ and as an ambassador for your brand(s).”
I say that because I sense a genuine unease on their part in dealing with pros. Maybe it’s that the title of pro staff manager was thrust upon them, adding to their already-full plate. Or, just as likely, maybe they are initimidated by the prospect of dealing with pros who might be household names but who are a chore to deal with on a day-to day-basis. (“I feel like I’m running a daycare,” said one pro staff manager.)
My advice, were someone to ask me, would be summed up in five simple sentences that, by themselves, pretty well forms the backbone of what should be a straightforward, doable agreement.
Before signing any pro staffer, have him repeat after you …
1. I will return calls in a timely fashion. It’s no coincidence that this one is listed first. I am frequently appalled at how many “pros” are absolutely horrible at returning the calls of media members. I get that you have lots of irons in the fire. But if a pro cannot be bothered to return calls in a timely fashion, maybe he’s too busy to promote your brand. Be reasonable but firm.
2. I will be honest. All anglers lie. It’s what we do to keep our friends from learning what lures to use to beat us during tournaments. But lying to hide the fact that you weren’t using a sponsor’s product is a no-no. A number of pros have reputations in the dumpster because they got on stage and lied about which product they were using. Now, if he does do well using your products, why should anyone believe him? They won’t.
3. I will be a great teammate. Any time you get two or more people together, there’s bound to be conflict. But on your staff, guys play nice—or they aren’t on the team anymore. This establishes an importnat precendent, for it effectively says “You don’t have to like one another, but you will get along.”
4. I will accept responsibility for my actions. It’s bad enough when a guy has an obvious lapse in judgement, but it happens. We’ve seen the rants directed at tournament officials and at other pros. We’ve seen foul language used within earshot of fans. Make it entirely unacceptable for him to make excuses and hem-haw his way out of the fire. From the outset, it should be understood that if mistakes are made, they will be rectified.
5. I will do nothing to injure the brand or the company it represents. See Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4.