Rick Jones is “Captain” and Chief Creative Officer of FishBait Solutions, LLC, a lifestyle marketing, sponsorship and event-marketing consultancy and properties representation agency with an emphasis on college sports, country music, outdoor sports, food festivals and American Heritage clients. He founded the predecessor agency FishBait Marketing in 2003. He is also a managing partner at EngageMint, a firm that helps teams create and implement better fan engagement processes, and recently launched FishBaitBiz.com, an online resource to help small business owners become more successful and profitable.
Rick is a leading expert on marketing, corporate sponsorship, events, sales techniques, team building, small business consulting, tourism, and travel. Over the course of his pioneering career, Rick has worked with many of the world’s leading corporations, such as MasterCard and UPS, on the development and implementation of sports and entertainment programs. These include World Cup Soccer, The Olympic Games, and the NCAA Basketball Tournament, among countless others. Clients Rick is currently working with include Werner Co., Dollar General, Capital One, JTV, CMA, BMI, Opry Entertainment Group, The Mascot Hall of Fame, and The Country Music Hall of Fame, among others. Rick published his first book, ANALOG ADVICE IN A DIGITAL WORLD: A BABY BOOMER’S WORDS OF WISDOM FOR THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION in 2017 and released his second book, THE BUSINESS TITHE in 2019.
BRYAN WISH: What’s the One Away moment you want to share with us today?
RICK JONES: From the time I was a little boy, I always wanted to be a coach. I was fortunate. When it was time to student teach at Georgia Southern, I got send to a private school on St. Simon’s Island and my supervising teacher quit. I got hired as the athletic director and basketball coach. Then I became an assistant coach at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee in my early 20s. Then became the head coach when our head coach left for a job at South Carolina Spartanburg. Then I left Sewanee and went to graduate school at Georgia State. I had every intention of staying in coaching. Right before Charlotte and I got married, I had been hired as the number one assistant at Wake Forest. I was going to continue to be a basketball coach.
When I was on my honeymoon, the coach at Wake Forest retired. I didn’t have a job. Now I have a fork in the road. Fortunately, I had done an internship at Georgia Tech as part of my graduate school program. Norman Airy, who was an associate AD over there and Dr. Homer Rice who was the AD said, “Hey, come be our marketing director for a year, Rick, and we’ll get you a coaching job next year.” And I never went back. That was my big time fork in the road which has led me to a pretty incredible career in the sports and entertainment marketing business. It all came about because Carl didn’t want to coach anymore.
BRYAN WISH: I can only imagine on your honeymoon, when you’re maybe trying to put your life together, and having this personal chaos of, “What am I going to do now?” That must have been terrifying.
RICK JONES: It was a little bit terrifying. I’ve always been a cowboy. When I was a little boy, my heroes were cowboys. I always had money. I always had a job. I was always such an entrepreneur. At age 11, I climbed up in a tree and picked mistletoe out of the tree and brought it down, bundled it up, and sold it. For the next 11 years, through my senior year in college, I sold mistletoe every year at Christmas. My senior year in college, I made over $5,000 selling mistletoe. That’s a lot of mistletoe. I had a paper route. I always had money because I always had a job. Even in that pivot, when I didn’t have a coaching job, I felt I’d be okay. I drive my wife crazy. We’ve been married 36 years. I’ll say money is like Doritos. I’ll just make more. That makes her crazy. I’ve always believed that. You have to have great faith in yourself and that things will happen.
I’m very spiritual. I believe God has a plan for everybody. When a door closes, usually a window opens. Garth Brooks had a great song years ago called Thank God for Unanswered Prayers. Here’s the truth. I love to coach but I wasn’t a great coach. Part of it was I tended to treat everybody the same. A coach is really a psychologist. You have to treat everybody a little bit differently.
I gave a speech a few years ago at the Duke Fuqua School of Business and one of the master’s students said to me, “How do you go from being a college basketball coach to being a successful sports marketing executive?” I said, “It’s really a lot easier than you think. You just don’t win any games.” There was some truth to that. I really found my passion when I went to Georgia Tech as the marketing director in 1985. There was an amazing staff there. Dr. Rice is a legendary person in college athletics. He’d been a high school coach, a college coach, and even coached the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL. He’d been an AD at North Carolina before. I just learned so much from that guy. I was a sponge around him about how to run a program, how to organize all that.
We also had amazing coaches at the time. At Tech we didn’t beat your alma mater very much but we did back-to-back when I was there in ’85 and ’86. We had a transfer from Georgia named John Dewberry who was a quarterback and beat the Dawgs twice. Bill Curry was the football coach there. Bobby Cremins was the basketball coach. Jim Morris, the legendary baseball coach later at Miami. Puggy Blackmon who later coached a national championship at South Carolina in golf. Just had an amazing staff. When you’ve put yourself as a young person in an environment with so many smart, talented people, you just get better. You learn a lot. Dr. Rice let me do stuff. We had a long time radio contract with WGST in Atlanta and Homer got more money from WCNN. They turned to me and said, “Make sure they can pay their contract. Make sure they can stay in business. Help them sell advertising.” We got to do so many unique things at Tech that was really a great starting position for me in the marketing world.
BRYAN WISH: It seems those resilience skills you built as a youngster, when you realized you weren’t going to be coaching at Wake Forest, you were able to be scrappy and come into an environment at Georgia Tech that gave you a chance to see a different path and make the most of it. Sports marketing back in the mid-1980s to today has probably drastically changed. You’ve seen it from the very beginnings to today. What were the things you were doing back then when you said you were being a sponge? What were your curiosities and passions that you really latched onto in those early days when you were getting a taste for the industry?
RICK JONES: Early on and it resonates even today, I focused on the idea that the business side of sports depends on fans. At the end of the day, fans pay for everything. Take the University of Georgia, there are no sponsors if there are no fans. There are no television rights if there are no fans. There are no ticket sales if there are no fans. There’s no licensed product if there are no fans. Early on, I kind of became a fanthropologist – an anthropologist that studied fans and really looked at sub-setting fans.
One of the first things I did at Georgia Tech was I sold season football tickets to college students at Atlanta universities that didn’t have college football. Emory, Agnes Scott, Georgia State, at that time, Kennesaw. These were all schools, that if you wanted a college football experience in Atlanta, you were going to need to come watch a Georgia Tech game. I really understood that there was a desire by many students that had gone to schools that didn’t have football that still wanted to enjoy football. That was the first idea of segmenting audiences in a really unique way. I’ve really tried to do that the rest of my career; to really pay attention to the demographic, psychographics around fans.
I had a boss, several years later, named Chuck Jarvie. Jarvie is an interesting character. He’s Roger Staubach’s best friend. He was an all American at Cornell in Lacrosse. He was the former CEO of Dr. Pepper, of Fidelity Investments, of Schenley. Just a brilliant man. He defined what we now call a tribe, a fan base, what he called an affinity group. He defined it this way – an affinity group is a group that will suspend rational behavior in pursuit of their passion. That’s the college football fans. That’s a country music fan. Suspend rational behavior because you want to pursue that piece of joy.
Our current agency, we talk about what we do is unite brands with fans and uniting fans with brands. We use the word unite versus connect because we’re in such a weird environment right now. A divisive country, a segmented country. We’re trying to unite people. If you go to a Georgia football game and you sit by somebody, you don’t know if they’re a democrat of republican. You don’t know if they’re straight or gay. You don’t know their family situation. You don’t know their background. You just know, “Go, Dawgs.” That is a unifier and events can really unify people in ways that other things can’t.
BRYAN WISH: Sports and events can create that connective fabric, that glue between people, and that shared experience over something they care about. I’ve always loved our conversations as they tend to get on the deeper side. Talking about uniting and having a lens of what makes fans tick, it seems you’ve studied, almost like an anthropologist in a way – what mobilizes people around specific events? What makes them show up to be a part of an event? What does it take, in your opinion, to mobilize or activate someone with a passion to show up for something? How have you been able to do that time in and time out throughout your career?
RICK JONES: Let’s go back to this concept of uniting. Fans are for something and not against something. If you look at our political world right now, people will tell you all the things they’re against and not what are you for and what do you stand for? A fan is a fan of something, of a team, of an organization, of a sport, of an art, or an artist. It starts with understanding that you’re taking advantage to the fact that the fan is the invited guest. You’re not going to disrupt them like a television commercial would or some kind of a robocall or something like that that disrupts your day. They’re there because they want to be there. You’re receiving fans in a real positive light. That’s number one. Number two, I tell brands that the only reason you get involved with a property like the University of Georgia as a sponsor is for the fans. It’s for the children. In order to do that, I think you have to bring value to the fan. It’s not enough just to put your logo someplace. That doesn’t mean anything. What are you going to do that enhances the experience that the fan has with it?
One of the things that we’re working on with some of our collegiate clients right now is stealing a page out of Walt Disney. Disney does a great thing. The first time you take your child to Disney World, they make a big deal about it. They give that little boy or girl or button that says, “My first trip to Disney.” They wear that button proudly and every character in the theme park makes a point to stop and talk to that child and welcome the to the Magic Kingdom for the first time in their life. We should be doing that in college football. The first time you bring your little boy or little girl to Stanford Stadium, we should make it an experience for them. We should bring them down on the field and let them pet UGA. We should let them stand at mid-field and have their picture up on the jumbotron and welcome them because we’ve seen if you have an experience like that under the age of 5, it overlays in your brainwaves, this connective tissue that even if you choose to go to another school later on, you’ll still have a love for your first love. We should do that. We should have a big button that says, “My first Georgia game.” Everybody is hugging and loving on that little boy or girl because they know how great the experience is going to be for them for the rest of their lives. I’m a big believer in what I call providing value and creating what we refer to as connective tissue back to the particular activity.
BRYAN WISH: I appreciate your Georgia references here. I’m sure you’re doing this for me. Go, Dawgs. I think what you’re saying though is phenomenal. How you create such a meaningful and connective experience for the fans because the business of sports when it exists without the fans. When you have that lens of how do you capture the emotion of the people at their events and those experiences, that can go a long way in creating unified bonds between people and creating these formative moment s that create that attachment to teams in a very loyal way.
Let’s go back to Georgia Tech. How do things progress from there? How do things start to build momentum? How did your journey change and evolve from Tech?
RICK JONES: Another one of those unique moments. Part of my compensation at Tech was I got paid a commission. I had been a teacher my whole life and a coach. You fill out your income tax and write down what you made and Uncle Sam sends you $300 back. It came time do my taxes after making all this money on commissions and lo and behold, I owed $8,000 in federal income tax. I was making $17,000 a year. I owe the government over half of what I’m making a year in my regular salary. Obviously, I kept that money or spent that money or did something with that money. I was fortunate enough that my boss at Georgia Tech, Norman Airy had left to go work at a PR firm called Cohn & Wolf in Atlanta for the legendary, Bob Cohn. Norman wanted me to come over and help him. I said, “Norman, I need a signing bonus.” He said, “What? This is a PR firm. They don’t pay signing bonuses.” I said, “If they want to get me, they have to.” Lo and behold, Cohn & Wolf paid me a salary. They paid me a salary of $32,000 a year and paid me an $8,000 signing bonus to come to work over there. I was able to pay my taxes and stay out of jail. That gave me my first experience in the agency world. I had the privilege of working with some incredible people, Bob Cohn, legendary PR executive. Probably the most creative person I’ve every known.
Let’s go back to what I told you. Homer Rice at Georgia Tech. Organizational structure, discipline, method, process. He was processed before Nick Saban was processed. This guy was processed. Bob Cohn, on the other hand, creativity, zaniness, wildness, and I just learned so much from a creative standpoint from him. There was getting Bob Hope who had been at the Braves before and later had his own agency, Hope-Beckham in Atlanta and still does. Jim Overstreet, great talent. Clisby Clarke who was running with [0:19:06 Tina Erikson?] who I got to interface with. Just giants of marketing that I just go to sit around in rooms and listen. I’m going to tell you a really funny story about this.
The agency is doing a project for the governor of the state of Georgia, Joe Frank Harris. It’s called Quality Basic Education. Bob Cohn says to me – because he just liked hanging out with me. He called me coach. He said, “Coach, ride down to the capitol with me today.” On the way down to the capitol, we had to swing by this artist’s house and pick up this foam board that had QBE, like a kids block with the QBE on it, and it was colored green and blue. All the way down there, Cohn just wants to talk sports and women and all kinds of stuff. Nothing about this project. He just wanted me to ride down there with him. We’re walking down the hall to go meet with the governor and he turns to me and he goes, “Rick, I’ll do all the talking.” No joke. I don’t know anything about this project. You’re going to do all the talking. We get in there and it’s Barbara, the head of education in Georgia and Joe Frank Harris, the governor. We’re sitting in the governor’s office. Bob does the whole thing. Then the governor says, “Why did you pick these colors?” Cohn turns to me and goes, “Tell ‘em, Rick.” I go, “Well, governor, green is for growth and education and blue is for the vastness of the sky and how we’re going to grow education. We didn’t want to use Georgia Tech or Georgia colors.” He goes, “That makes a lot of sense.” We’re working down the hall after the meeting and Cohn pats me on the back and goes, “Way to go, coach. You made that shit up.” He was right. I did.
I called my time there an idea incubator. Some organizations ask you why. Cohn & Wolf asks you, “Why not?” Different mindset. Then they had sold the agency and they were doing a little bit more traditional PR an they were going to work on a project that I didn’t feel comfortable with that was a home for children where the head of the home had been accused of molesting the children. We were going to try to be their PR agency. I made the mistake of asking the head of the agency if he did it. He said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s not our job whether he did it or not.” I said, “If he did it, I’m not working on it.” I kind of knew the writing was on the wall for me. I was ready to be an entrepreneur and I had a chance to leave and got an account with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company running a golf tournament in San Antonio, Texas. That led me to creating my first agency. From that point on, I’ve been a serial agency creator. I’ve built two others and sold both of them. I’m on my third and last agency. You talk about those lifechanging moments, those forks in the road. I’ve had a bunch of those and I’ve been really blessed that it turned out to be the right road I took.
BRYAN WISH: I love what you said about the idea incubator. Using your time there to test things, throw spaghetti at the wall, so to speak. Also realize that deeper there’s something more out there for you and you need to go create and build that.
RICK JONES: As a child, I just liked being an entrepreneur. I like controlling my destiny. As a basketball coach, I was a head coach seven years and an assistant for two years. I didn’t much like those two years. I liked being the had coach. Coaching is a great training for an agency because the first thing you realize, as a coach, is you can’t play; you better get players. You better get players the resources they need to be successful. Same thing in running an agency. Get smart, talented people, and you let them play.
BRYAN WISH: That’s a great analogy. I’m going through this weird shift where I’m so used to just playing. I’m really learning how to put in the right players to get the team to where it needs to go based on the championship we see for ourselves.
RICK JONES: The little book I wrote Analog Advice in a Digital World, one of the chapters says, “Remember, even the Lone Ranger didn’t travel alone.” He was the ultimate cowboy but he had Tonto. Life is a team sport. Business is a team sport. You’ve got to have teammates. My favorite dish – and I like to cook – is gumbo. I’ve probably eaten hundreds of bowls of gumbo and none of them have ever been the same. Gumbo is a consolidation of a whole lot of ingredients, a whole lot of spices, a whole lot of different things. That’s what I like about teams. It’s gumbo. Agencies are ingredients in gumbo. You hope you make something collectively that really resonates in the marketplace in a way that benefits everybody but it’s about the individual ingredients that you put in there, when you put them in, and how much of them you put in. It’s very similar in building organizations.
BRYAN WISH: Love the analogy. I couldn’t agree more. It makes me reflect on what we’re doing. Talk to me about the agencies that you started. I know you’re still on FishBait Marketing today. I’m sure you learned a tremendous amount in your first two agencies to get to where you are.
RICK JONES: I’ll go back to the coaching piece. We won a lot of games when we did all the things wrong but my kids didn’t know they were the wrong things to do. They just found a way to win. I think that’s the same truth in the agencies early on. We didn’t know what we were doing but we were so committed to doing that we had some success. The first agency that I started came out of this relationship with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and their golf division. They had a product called Vantage Cigarettes over on what was then called the Senior PGA Tour. They bought Nabisco brands. They became RJR Nabisco. Legendry CEO named Ross Johnson. They wrote a book called Barbarians of the Gate about his tenor at RJR Nabisco.
The first agency taught me two things. We were deep in the golf business because Nabisco was deep in the golf business and we made a lot of money in the golf business. Secondly, we learned the grocery business. We learned the grocery business. We learned the packaged goods business because Nabisco brands had a variety of products. When you think about Nabisco, you think about cookies and crackers, Nilla Wafers, and Premium Saltines, and Chips Ahoy. They also had a food division that had Fleischmann’s margarine and Planters nuts and a variety of different products. We learned how to take those products to the grocery train. Once we learned that, we had a series of successes where we sold title sponsorships to golf tournaments to grocery chains themselves. We did the HEB Texas Open, the Ralph’s LA Open, the Bruno’s Memorial Classic in Birmingham, all with the same model – grocery chains welcoming the tour once a year. The tour benefits charity, giving money back to charity, but more importantly, it was never the grocer’s money. They went to their vendors and got all the money from their vendors. I talk about Bruno’s in Birmingham – the Bruno family was an old, Italian, Catholic family. In that era, they had a PGA championship.
We had a PGA championship a few weeks ago here in Charleston that Phil Mickelson fortunately won at age 50. In that era, they had done a PGA championship at Shoal Creek in Birmingham that was a course that didn’t accept black members. Birmingham really got a black eye and the Bruno family said, “We’re no longer in the Jim Crow era. We’ve changed in Alabama and we want to do something positive for the community. So, they sponsored this golf tournament. We had a black golfer, Jim Dent, and a white golfer, Orville Moody be our spokespersons. Angelo Bruno, the chairman who tragically died in a plane crash with nine other member of the Bruno family a week after we announced the golf tournament – before he died, he told me, “Rick, remember, I’m in the grocery business 365 days a year. I’m in the golf business, 7 days a year.” We had Coke on the front nine and Pepsi on the back nine. The next year, we flipped it. The drinks were 50 cents. The water was free. Hamburgers were $1. They weren’t trying to make money on the concession business. They’ll make money in the grocery chain.
We also picked up Frito-Lays business. We picked up a number of other packaged goods during that era in that first agency. Then we pivoted and we got involved with Mastercard. We won the Mastercard World Cup business. It’s a great story there. I’m giving a speech in Barcelona, Spain. The woman before me was Mava Heffler. She was giving a speech on behalf of her client, Johnson & Johnson that had created the first battered women’s shelter. It was called Shelter Aid. She did her speech and she walked off and turned to a friend of mine from International Events Group (IEG), Jim Andrews, and said, “Is this next guy any good?” – talking about me. Jim said, “Yeah, you ought to stick around and listen to Rick Jones.” After I gave my speech, she greeted me when I came off the stage and said, “Can we go have a cup of coffee?” We went around the corner and had a cup of coffee. She said, “I’m starting as the head of sponsorship at Mastercard on Monday. We have this thing called World Cup Soccer. I know nothing about it. Can you help me?” That led us to competing for the business and winning the business that really then set us up to be more of a global agency. That led then to us winning the first Olympic piece of business we won which is the Sara Lee business. That led Advantage International which is now Octagon to acquire us.
That first agency, I ended up selling to Advantage and then another fork in the road. After a year, the cowboy is bored. I go to my boss and I go, “I’m really bored.” He goes, “Will you go run Europe?” I remember calling my wife and she said, “You told him yes before you asked me, didn’t you?” I was like, “Oh honey, I’d have never done that but you’ll love London.” That was the next adventure for us. We were able to go to London and run Advantage’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa operation for three years. Then we sold Advantage to Interpublic Group of companies to form Octagon. Literally, the day we sold it, I got called by a headhunter and he had called me three weeks earlier looking for names and I had been involved in a big pitch to do the representation work for the Cricket World Cup in the UK and I hadn’t called him back. He called me back the day we sold the company. Literally that day. He said, “Hey.” I said, “I’m so sorry I haven’t returned your phone calls.” He said, “Don’t worry about it. I called you for some names. In the three weeks you didn’t call me back, everybody gave me your name. Are you interested?” I said, “Honestly, 24 hours ago, no. But we just sold the company tonight, yes.” That then led me to the next agency because I left London and I came and started an agency called Collegiate Marketing Associates (CMA). It became The Gem Group. We ended up selling that company to a British publicly traded company in the UK. That company was really all about big events like Olympic Games and a lot of collegiate marketing in that era.
After we sold it to the British publicly traded company, then I later formed FishBait. FishBait really was about 100% college sports which is a real passion of mine. That has led us to FishBait Solutions which still involves college sports, country music, outdoor sports, food festivals, tourism, and American heritage; some of the great historical places in America. I’m a big believer in what I call riches and niches. Every one of my agencies had a unique niche. When we sold to Advantage, we had one World Cup sponsor and one Olympic sponsor. We then went about winning another 14 Olympic sponsors with Advantage. We had 16 Olympic sponsors in Atlanta for the ’96 Olympic games.
It was about those big, global events and big, global sponsors. Then FishBait was about college sports and largely, about coaches. We built it on the back of college football and college basketball coaches and their trade associations and using coaches as brand ambassadors at a time that everybody watched coaches on TV. You know who the football coaches are. You know who the basketball coaches are. We were able to build a business based on that niche. Our niche today is about this unique fan base; what we call the fly over state fan. The fan that goes to NASCAR races and eats BBQ and listens to Blake Shelton an is very patriotic and goes to battlefields. It’s the same kind of consumer and we’re trying to appeal to that consumer based on their lifestyles and the things that are important to them from a leisure standpoint. What are the tribes they belong to and how do we exploit those?
BRYAN WISH: It’s so neat to see the connective tissue between everything you’ve done. Creating these platforms that appeal to specific groups and bringing in sponsors and audiences to connect the parties to the events. You’ve been able to show up at the right places at the right time. That’s more than luck. It’s hard work. It’s doing a good job over and over. What’s allowed you to continuously find these niches? Once you identify a niche, how do you understand the ingredients to put around it to make it a very rich and thriving environment?
RICK JONES: You have to be a doer. Nike is right. They don’t say, “Just try it” or “Just fake it.” They say, “Just do it.” I’m reading a really interesting book right now by John Maxwell, a leading leadership guru in America. This is called Change Your World. I read a poem in here from a guy named Brad Montague that I thought summed up my foundation. It said: Dare to dream but also do. For dreamers are many but doers are few. A lot of stuff is just showing up. Just do it. Just take that first step. Secondly, marketers will lie to themselves and say they create avalanches. They don’t. Society creates avalanches. Just great marketers snowboard them better. I’m a big believer in looking at trends. What’s going on in the marketplace? What are some business trends? What are some marketplace trends? What are societal trends? What are generational trends? Then understanding where are we in this limited world of sponsorship or events? Where do we fit into the big picture? You’re going to have a miserable experience if every time, you paddle against the stream. It’s a lot easier to ride the current. We try to look at what’s going on in society, in the marketplace, and then figure out ways and things that are going to resonate with consumers.
The last piece of it is I don’t know how to replicate. I’m an instinctive marketer. Years ago, Paul Newman starred in a movie called The Hustler about a pool hustler. Later he starred in the sequel called The Color of Money and Tom Cruise was in it. There’s a scene where Paul Newman and Tom Cruise and the woman lead walk into this pool hall. Paul Newman says, “Do you smell it?” Cruise says, “Smoke?” The girl says, “Money.” I’ve always been able to smell what I think is the right idea for people. I don’t know how I do it. I just instinctively gravitate towards big ideas. It’s a gift. I’m a big believer that your gifts are God-given but what you do with your gifts are up to you. I find that so many people in life suffer with a lack of success because they don’t understand their gifts, they don’t work on their gifts, and they don’t try to make a life and livelihood out of their gifts. I knew early on what my gifts were. I’ve had a great career by doing what I do best.
I suck at details. In fact, when I make it up in my mind, I don’t even need to see it happen. Once I’ve seen it in my mind and I’ve sold it to somebody, I’m ready to create something else. Fortunately, I have great people that are great at details. I have a great woman, Brittany Schiller who works with and another woman that worked with me before that’s now come back, Kayleen Middleton. Both of them will say, “Rick, they said yes. Not get out of the room before you screw it up.” There’s a lot of truth to that. I’m the architect. I’ve designed the building. Don’t ask me to build the building. Don’t ask me to do the plumbing. I don’t know anything about plumbing and don’t want to know anything about plumbing. I want to go design the next one. That’s been the key to my success. Knowing what I’m good at and knowing what I’m really bad at.
BRYAN WISH: I really love that because I connect so much with being able to see things. Architect it in your mind and then doing it, letting it be done by others. At the beginning, you’re always the one doing most of it. You’re doing the details because you have to get something off the ground. At a certain point, letting other people go do it because they can do it better because your time is better spent building an architecting the next set of buildings, communities, and whatever that might be you need to create. Thank you for sharing such professional wisdom.
RICK JONES: I just started playing and teaching team sports and realized agencies are just other teams. Do what you do best. If you look at football coaches, they hire assistants to do all the coaching and they do all the other stuff. Basketball coaches, like I was, hire assistants to do all the other stuff so they can coach their teams. I’m really a basketball coach. I want hands-on but I can’t play. I’ve got to get other people to play. I can say, “Here’s how we’re going to attack this but then you go figure it out.” Great players know what we’re trying to accomplish and will figure it out. They’ll figure it out the way that works for them. With agencies, it’s the same way. You give them a framework, some principles, some direction but you let them go figure out how to do it.
BRYAN WISH: I couldn’t agree more. How have you managed to navigate the personal side of it all and keep a healthy, happy personal side to your life?
RICK JONES: I’m a list maker not only with business but with life. I keep lists and more lists. I’ve identified every trip I want to take now through the year 2035. I’ve written down where I’m going to go and what months I’m going to go. I’m the cook in our family. Charlotte is a good cook but she doesn’t like to cook. I love to cook. I make the grocery list. I write down every day, the meals I’m going to have. I write down the time I’m going to spend with her. I wrote down the time I’m going to spend with my children and my grandchildren and what I’m going to do. The key word for me is intentional. I’m very intentional about life. Nothing is by happenstance. It all has a design to make sure I can squeeze as much out of life as I possibly can. I’m fortunate that I love my work. It’s how I paint. It’s my hobby. Somebody said to me, “When are you going to retire?” I’m never going to retire. Why would you retire to do what you love to do? I get to do what I love to do literally every day.
Navigating life, you have to have a plan for life just like you have to have a plan for business. You’ve got to know the things that are important to you. Part of it is relationships. How do you add value to people? How do you add value to your spouse, to your children, to your grandchildren, people that work with you, to friends? I’m a planner and a squeezer. I probably get more out of life than a lot of people. I’m not a sit around, “What should we do today” kind of guy. I know what I want to do today. I planned it. You’ve got to leave a little room for some spontaneity. Sometimes things change. There’s the old Yiddish expression, “Man plans and God laughs.” This pandemic, I didn’t see that coming. So much for Rick’s to-do list and Rick’s trips in 2020. They all got cancelled and yet I was able to pivot and get a lot of stuff done and enjoy the time in the pandemic because I prepared for it. I did it on a day-by-day basis. I didn’t look two days ahead because the world was changing so rapidly. I knew on Tuesday what I was going to do on Wednesday in my professional life and in my personal life. I’d encourage people to be intentional. Whatever you do, be very intentional about it. I find that if you write it down, it’s kind of like a contract. It’s on paper. I like taking my pen and marking that sucker off. It feels good to do that. I have a long to-do list every day.
BRYAN WISH: This is a treat as always. Excited to share this. Where can someone reach out to you?
RICK JONES: You can find me at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on LinkedIn and I return all the messages there. If you’re desperate to talk to me, my cell phone is 843-412-5605. You can call me.
BRYAN WISH: Let’s see if we have any lucky callers with permission to call. Thank you for making yourself such a light in my life and I’m sure, so many others.