"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Fear of Failure Week 9: The Catch

I received an email from Brett Marshall, Assistant GM of the Adelaide Bite on Monday.

Hi Michael,

Hope all is well and you had a great weekend! Just following up on our meeting last week and thank you for coming in. We’d love to have you on board for this year and definitely looking forward to having you contribute greatly for the Bite. Is there a day maybe later this week or early next week we could have you in and nail down some off-season projects/role to get you involved with. Let me know when is best for you and I’ll mark it on my calendar.

I don't even know what the noise was that escaped my mouth. It was some sort of comical squeal of delight. I punched the air a couple of times and texted my parents and a couple of friends. I replied to Brett's email and organised to meet up on Tuesday at 2pm. I turned up right on time and approached the girl at reception.
'Hi, I'm here to see Brett,' I said.
'Brett's not here at the moment,' she replied. 'Did you have an appointment with him?'
'Um, yeah...' I said losing my confidence straight away. 'He was meant to show me how the business runs.'
'I think Nathan is up there, is he okay to talk to?'
'Oh yeah, if he's free.' Nathan was the first person I'd gotten in touch with in the first place, so it would be nice to finally meet him. I sat in a chair by the door and waited for him to come downstairs.

Based on the interaction I'd had with him, I was expecting a middle-aged man with a smiling face and a proper mannerism to come down those stairs. Instead, I was met by a bald, thickly-build man who looked like he could hold his own in a bar fight.
'Michael. Nice to meet you mate, I'm Nathan,' he said in a deep, oddly aggressive voice. He took me up to his office and sat me down in a chair next to his desk.
'So Brett told me he had a bit of a chat to you and he was pretty impressed,' he said. He leaned back in his chair and his legs were resting well apart in that way men use to signify that they're the dominant man in the room.
'Yeah, I enjoyed it. I can't wait to get on board,' I replied. I was a little bit on edge and I couldn't figure out why. Maybe I could tell I wouldn't be able to just charm this guy like I usually try to do.
'He says you're very nice, well-spoken and you have integrity. Even in our email conversations, you can tell sometime over email the type of person someone is.'
'Well... thank you,' I said embarrassed.
'He says you're looking to find out some of the off-field operations during the off-season?'
'Sure am.'
'Well that's how it works around here. People start out working off field and then they help out, say, in announcing or at the merch stand and because we're an affiliate of the MLB, they often get the opportunity to go abroad. One of our guys is now working for the Oakland Athletics and another's working for the Diamondbacks. I don't know if you like to travel...'
'I love it!'
'Are you at uni?'
'No, I just work a whole bunch of casual jobs because I love the variety of it.'
'So you like to make your work fit around your life?'
'Yeah, that's a big advantage.'
'I'm the same. If I had to go into work at 9am every day and leave at 5, I'd probably go crazy. That's why all our staff here basically choose their own hours. They come in whenever they want and put in as much work as they want.'
'I think that's a really great way to run a business,' I said excitedly. 'It makes people like their job a lot more and in turn, they feel a greater sense of responsibility to the company.' Nathan seemed almost annoyed by the interruption. He kept going. 
'We all need to put in to make this business sustainable and to be sustainable, we need to make more money than we're currently making. There are three ways to make money as a baseball club, and that's sponsorships, packages and memberships.'
'Sponsorships, packages and memberships,' I repeated slowly.
'You'll mainly be dealing with sponsorships. We currently bring in 135 000 dollars a year in sponsorships, you can see it on the whiteboard behind you.' I turned around to see a whiteboard that took pride of place on the wall. It was right next to the door, but I'd missed it on my way in. On the left side of the board was a short list of business names with dollar amounts next to them. On the right was a list that was much longer but in smaller writing, and had no figures next to them.
'So as you can see, the list on the left is all of our major sponsors and the right is our minor sponsors. There are 17 000 businesses in Adelaide,  all you'd have to do is call up any business you like, tell them about us and what we can provide for them and if they say no, that's alright just call up the next business.'

He was asking me to be a salesperson. I've had experience in "direct sales" (the polite name that's given to door-to-door salespeople so they don't sound as bad). It was a VERY rough time in my life and left my self-esteem in tatters. I had to work hard to regain some confidence and belief in myself. In my experience, direct sales can be a very successful and rewarding career... but you have to be a very specific kind of person to do that, and I'm not it.
'So you might call up 50 businesses in a week, you only have to get two of them to sign up and I'll write you a cheque for $8000.'
THAT is the type of person you have to be to succeed in direct sales. The type for whom money is the most important thing in the world, and the more they have the better. End of story. I remember sitting in on a special team meeting where a very high-ranking leader in the business talked to us about how much money he makes. He talked about his plans to quit working at 35, at which point he'd start up what he called "the lion's den" - a committee of all the biggest sales leaders in Australia where they would all come to the table with business ideas and whoever wanted to invest in it would just raise their hand and away they'd go. All the lower-level salespeople I worked with were salivating at the thought of making enough money to do that. I was daydreaming that I was a bird. It was very reasonable of Nathan to think that offering a cheque for $8000 would win me over immediately. But he didn't know who he was talking to.
'Well I have to tell you, I've done that kind of thing before and it was a rough time. Honestly, I'm in a place at the moment where I may try and do it again, but it's nothing to do with the money - I just want to prove to myself that I can do it.'
'Okay, what were you selling?'
'At first it was electricity. Then I moved to a second company that sold charity.' I was ashamed to admit the electricity part, but at the mention of charity my chest swelled a little. I was proud of the fact that while I was still an unwelcome member of society, at least I was also raising money for a good cause.
'Ah, well they're traditionally two very hard things to sell,' replied Nathan, deflating my chest. 'This is a lot easier because you're offering the business so much more. We have corporate boxes, we can give them memberships to hand out to their clients, all sorts of stuff like that. And yeah like I said, it's usually our salespeople who help out on game day. We had one bloke who filled in as a ground announcer two seasons ago, then he got a permanent job with the Melbourne Aces.'
He was pulling out every trick in the book. Objection handling, wild promises... The amount of stories I'd heard of people who'd taken these opportunities and become wildly successful... The problem was, none of those people were me.
'And so I'd need to do this job if I want to be the announcer?'
'Well if you don't want to do this, I'm sure we could find a place for you.' I had a sinking feeling as I realised the probable answer to my next question.
'If I just took the announcing job, would it be paid?'
'Look no one's ever been paid in that position before, but I always keep an open mind,' he said. He was bribing the crap out of me. He couldn't care less about who was calling the games, he just wanted me to sell him some sponsorships. To get me on board, he was trying to make me picture large cheques, travel opportunities and of course, the announcing job. He was implying that if I did this job for him, I might have a chance at being a paid announcer. I wanted to believe it was possible, but I just didn't think I could believe him.

'Well, I'll have to think about it. I'll get back to you with an answer by the end of the week.'
'Sure thing,' he said turning to his computer.
'Thanks for meeting with me,' I offered.
'Not a problem,' he replied without looking up. 'Down the stairs, turn right and then right again.'
Direct salespeople learn to read body language so they know when people are interested and when the're just saying they're interested. Nathan had noticed how awkward and flustered I'd become and had probably seen the disappointment in my face. He'd written me off as a lost sale. I didn't exactly want to come to the same conclusion so quickly - the whole way home I wondered how much I was willing to sacrifice in order to get this announcing job. Could I take up this miserable job for 6 months until the season starts? Would I definitely get the job at the end? Would I even last that long? Maybe I'd flourish this time? I certainly had more skill and was in better emotional shape than before. I needed advice.

I contacted a bunch of people I knew who could help. My parents were the first ones. There was also a friend called Luke who I used to work with demonstrating TVs and had found out he used to work for the same door-to-door company as me. Then there was Tim, a guy who works at Fresh 92.7 selling sponsorships for them exactly the same job as what I was being asked to do for the baseball club.

My parents - as is always the case when I bring up any sort of idea to them - were dead against it.
'Selling baseball would be even harder than selling electricity or charity,' said Dad. 'Nobody follows baseball in Australia.' Whenever he gets like this, I can't seem to help taking the opposing view.
'Yes they do. The Bite made the finals last year and got something like 12 000 people to each game.'
'You're going to be calling up businesses out of the blue and asking them to give money to an organisation that no one's ever heard of. How many sponsors do they have now?'
'Fifty,' I said passively. I saw the very rare sight of Dad faltering.
'Fifty?' He asked incredulously before collecting himself. 'Well, most of those would probably be very small sponsors, only a couple of hundred dollars each. And then how much of that money would you see? If you're spending two weeks turning a lead into a sale and they end up spending a couple of hundred dollars, you've worked for two weeks for about $20. You did say it's all commission, right? There's no base wage?'
'That's right,' I conceded. Mum chimed in at this point.
'You can't do that, that's just a step backwards. Doing this for all commission and then probably doing the announcing for free... You've done too much free work already, you're at a stage in your life where you need something paid.'
'You don't think I know that?' I said frustratedly.

We debated over the logistics of it all before I left in a bit of a huff. I made my way towards the radio station to meet Tim. In the meantime, I sent Luke a message on Facebook explaining the situation.
'I don't know man, it sounds pretty suspect,' he replied. 'He's already kind of hidden the truth from you in order to get you to do the job. Maybe not the sort of person you want to work for.'
Good point. I'd been uneasy about him since I first saw him but of course, I hadn't realised that I was uneasy until much later.
'Depends how you're feeling about sales at the moment too,' he continued. It's something that takes a lot of time and headaches to get right.'
'He says that sponsorships are easier to sell than charity. Would you know anything about that?'
'Nah man, but I've sold advertising which sounds pretty similar. That was annoying.'
'Okay man, thanks for your help.'
'No worries.'

I arrived at Fresh where Tim was hosting the drive-time show. I poked my head in, said hi two the two boys that were in there and asked Tim if I could grab him when he had some time so I could get some advice. His co-host had to record an interview at 5, so he came to see me then.
'Okay, what would you like help with?' he asked plonking himself on a chair while I sat on the table in front of him. I explained the situation again.
'And so your question is...'
'Is selling sponsorships worth doing if I'm just doing it to try and get this other job?' He sighed, obviously unsure of his answer.
'How many days a week do you have to work?'
'Well that's one good thing about it, I can pick whatever hours I want. Presumably only during business hours though.'
'What's the pay structure like?'
'We didn't really cover that much, but it's all commission.'
'Oh well see I get a base wage as well. If it's all commission, anything less then 5% is a waste of time. I'd run.'
'What's a reasonable percentage?'
'I'd say 12-15% is okay.'
'Do you enjoy the job? How are you at handling the rejections?'
'At the beginning it sucked, but as you get your first couple of sales, that subsides and it gets easier.'
'Do you find sponsorships easy to sell?'
'Well I can't imagine there's any difference between things you sell. A product's a product.'
That was probably the right answer.
'Okay thanks heaps. You've been a big help.'
'No problem man, let me know what you decide.'

It took me another day to finally come to a decision. I grabbed my computer and wrote out this email:

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for your offer of the sales job at the Bite. I’ve gotten advice from some friends who work in similar jobs and I’ve come up with plenty of reasons for and against taking the job. But for me, the one factor that outweighs the others is that I’ve been spending years trying to turn my passions into my profession and I think this would be too much of a step backwards from achieving that goal.

If the announcer position is still available, I’d love to meet with you again to discuss how many games I can commit to this season. Eric also mentioned in the initial interview that he’d like some help announcing games for the Adelaide Adrenaline, if that’s still on offer I’d be very happy to take him up on that too.

Michael D’Agostino.

I'd say that my chances of getting anything paid is at pretty much zero. And with four games a week during the season, I don't think I can commit to doing all of them for free. I hope I can at least do some of them so I can get up some experience. But otherwise, this was an incredible opportunity for me that went begging.


  1. Sound decision making. Respect man. :-)

    1. It was hard, I really liked that opportunity :P

  2. I'm glad you declined. I was hoping you would. He was kinda slimy and it makes no sense to me that you'd have to go door-to-door as a step towards being a sports announcer. Wrong. Would be a step backwards, but you'd be taking the step on a different playing field. Stick to your goals and don't get taken. Michael for the win!

    1. Thanks Robyn, I just have to start from scratch again :P

  3. Yeah, good choice. Well some may get rich doing it and some may have gone on to announce at Oakland, etc. How many didn't? I guarantee you what he mentioned is probably like 1 maybe 5% of people. The other 95% work their butt off and get nadda.

    1. That's what I've noticed too. They all seem to be full of wild promises that are technically achievable but very unlikely.

  4. Damn man, that sucks. And like Robyn, I was just praying you would decline. I'm glad you ultimately did. Like you said, it wasn't just that he was trying to get you to do this sales job, it was the way he approached it. If that's what they wanted from the get go, they should have said so, not just dropped it on you last minute and used it as leverage to hold the announcing position hostage. Very shady. Besides, who the hell goes to an interview for one position, essentially gets the job, and then ends up getting bombarded with a lesser, undesirable position?

    "Hi, I'm here for the I.T. job. I believe I'm the new senior database administrator."
    "Oh, sorry son, that's not the way it works. You actually have to start off as a janitor. But you can travel... all over the office. And you set your own hours! And maybe, just MAYBE if you mop hard enough we'll let you get that senior database admin position you've had your eye set on. So... how's $5 an hour to start? Hello? Why are you running away?"

    1. Well I guess when you put it like that, I should have known what my answer would be immediately :P The ignorance of youth...

  5. A bait and switch well-avoided, but it totally sucks for you. What a slimy character!

  6. Here's my favourite way to make a decision. I can't take any credit for it; it's direct from Andy Stanley. But it's the best question ever: "Based on my past experiences, my present circumstances and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?"

    Sounds like you made the right decision, mate.

    1. That sounds exactly like the wisdom I needed. I often fall back on the old Indian proverb "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement." The more mistakes I make, the better my judgement will become in the future an I don't have to even think about it.

  7. I am so sorry. Hiss and spit. It sounds as if that was a pyramid scheme described as a potential job offer. Sneaky, tricky, and no, probably not the sort of person you want to be working for.
    Given that you are doing the A to Z at them moment, I am amazed (and impressed) that you are keeping us up to date with other things as well. I hope the next installment is much, much better for you.

    1. The trick is I've been pre-writing my A-Z posts and I haven't had time to visit anyone else, which I'm very guilty about. I'm thankful you all still come to visit me :)

  8. Man, what a way to get your hopes up, then shot to hell. Glad you didn't take the job. Sounded like you'd be busting your butt for a guy who only saw you as a workhorse, not a valuable employee. Didn't sound like you two meshed well anyway.

    Fingers crossed another opportunity pops up for you soon!

    1. Yeah, I need to be able to have a good relationship with anyone I work with.

  9. I think you did the right thing, Michael. Don't burn bridges, but be clear and focused on your goals. Everyone has ups and downs on the path to what they want. And besides, how can anyone refuse that sweet face? (Now I feel like your grandma)

  10. You made a wise decision, I think. Sorry it didn't work out the way you had hoped.


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