Have you ever witnessed the future heir to a billion dollar fortune hurriedly dumping bags of ice into a bin behind the counter of a snack bar at a minor league baseball stadium? I have, and seeing it taught me a lesson in business management that influences the way I approach running my voiceover operation to this day: to achieve big goals you have to tackle the smallest tasks like the success of the business depends on it – because it does.
The hard working young dude in question was Merritt Paulson, the son of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson Jr., and at the time (2010) the new owner of the local single-A baseball Portland Beavers. Why was he busting his fanny like this instead of sitting in the owner’s box and enjoying a leisurely afternoon at the ballpark? Because the temps were in the 90s, fans were thirsty and the ice machine was broken. Staff was already scrambling to serve the higher than anticipated turnout, so the boss pitched in and did what was needed.
Young Mr. Paulson understood that first impressions matter. He was new to town and had sold the city on his plan to take over management of the aging stadium: to present three more seasons of baseball, then to convert the stadium to a world class soccer venue for his other teams, the Portland Timbers and their female professional counterparts, the Portland Thorns. A rough start that left unhappy patrons could have spelled disaster for his critical relationship with the local sports fan base. He was not about to let that happen.
I think about this sometimes when I’m polishing that critical audition before sending it out to my agent. Sure, I could just whip something together in a few moments, let excessive sibilance, plosives or breaths stay. The client probably won’t care that she can hear my cat giving me unsolicited “direction” in the background, right? I’m mean it’s just an audition. They can use their imagination and trust that if they award me the work my standards will automatically rise to the occasion and I’ll take care of those issues before sending them the files. Um….no.
Or I can do what I always try to do: take the time to produce a read that I think will be competitive, because I know that”s what the other pros will do. The little things have to matter or the big things won’t, because you won’t have a shot at them.
As for Mr. Paulson, his management style seems to be working out okay. After a sad but necessary goodbye to minor league baseball in the too-large stadium, the renovations were completed on schedule to rave reviews. Upwards of 20,000 of the most loyal and vocal soccer fans in the country show up for each match, win or lose, but mostly win. The Thorns won the women’s championship in the first year of the WMLS (2013), and the Timbers followed suit, hoisting the MLS championship trophy in 2015.
Now, after less than a decade as a local sports team owner, Mr. Paulson is facing a different kind of dilemma: how to upgrade the stadium to accommodate more fans. That’s a problem any business owner would love to have, and one that even he may not have anticipated on that hot afternoon in 2010!