“You never know when an opportunity will present itself that can drastically improve your life, your job, or your company.”
Raise your hand if you’ve heard the “Gotta Go to Mo’s” jingle before. If you’re from the North East (NY, NJ, PA, CT, RI, MA, NH or DE), you’ve most likely grown up with Modell’s Sporting Goods stores. They have acted as your local sports store not only for gear but for shirts, jerseys, hats and basically anything sports related. Personally, I’ve been one of the store’s most consistent shoppers. The first baseball glove, football, and most of the Under Armor and Nike sportswear that I can remember buying came from Modell’s. My 2009 New York Yankees World Series Champions shirt? You guessed it; it was purchased from Modell’s at the famous Times Square location (one day after the Yanks clinched the title, too). As both a huge sports fan and participant, Modell’s has been a part of my life, servicing my every need, for as long as I can remember.
You can then imagine my excitement as I went up to the 20th floor at 498 Seventh Ave and walked into the famous HQ with its Rawlings baseball glove chairs and sports memorabilia covering almost every inch of the walls. We then made our way up to a conference room and were shown some introductory videos about Modell’s famously rapid turnaround on clothes and gear after championship wins. In addition, we were educated on its partnerships with teams or players that often turn philanthropic (like the “unbeLEEvable” campaign that they did with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cliff Lee).
After the videos, we briefly heard from Jason Karlowski, who manages PR and Sports Marketing for Modell’s. Following Jason, it was finally time for the man himself, Mitch Modell, to take control of the meeting. Man oh man was it great. Mr. Modell was perhaps the most charismatic and engaging speaker we’ve had the pleasure of listening to thus far in MSBA. It was quickly clear to me why Mr. Modell said that a relationship, with both customers and partners, is perhaps the most important part of business. If you can craft a relationship with customers and make them “miss you if you were to get up and leave,” then you know you’ve become successful. And if you work with your partners truly as “partners” and not just as sponsors, then you become just as valuable to them as they are to you. Relationships are critical to allowing Modell’s to implement some of its business practices. For example, pre-ordering thousands of championship shirts before a team has even won is dangerous. But, with the relationships Modell’s has created with its suppliers, simple negotiation can lower the financial blow that occurs if that team ends up falling short.
If there’s one thing that has become clear to all of us at MSBA this summer it’s that building relationships is the most valuable aspect to furthering our careers. Everyone knows everyone and you can leverage relationships to help you not only as an individual, but with your job and company. Mr. Modell also taught us all a valuable lesson: “you never know when an opportunity will present itself that can drastically improve your life, your job, or your company.” Mr. Modell told us the story of how the year 1985 was a turning point for the company and it was all thanks to a porter named James who worked in his building. James gave Mr. Modell a brutally honest assessment of the current state of Modell’s. He described it as a rundown, unattractive store that he “wouldn’t be caught dead in.” That harsh assessment lead to a total transformation of the Modell’s stores into the shinning, clean, and welcoming ones you see today.
Again, it just goes to show that you can learn potentially life-changing lessons from almost anyone, but it’s up to you to always keep your eyes and ears open for those moments. I will be forever grateful to Mitch Modell for imparting that lesson onto me.