A Values-Driven Entrepreneur Shares Ten Principles For Success In The Highly Competitive World Of Sports Content.

There are many kinds of entrepreneurs. They are all instigators of win-win arrangements in which customers are served in innovative ways by enterprising individuals and firms. Lives are improved for consumers and producers.

Recently, I was able to learn the path to success of an individual who chose the crowded and highly contested field of sports content production, navigated a way to the top, and then broke out in a new entrepreneurial distribution initiative. Jason Whitlock, the famed sports journalist and occasionally outspoken opinion commentator, shared many principles of his success;  here is a summary.

 Choose a field that fits your personality and interests.

Entrepreneurs talk about assembling a unique and competitively advantaged set of resources. Jason’s unique resources are a love of sports, some original thinking, and a distinctive personality that he was able to express in writing. He wasn’t deeply technically trained for his first profession (journalism) beyond writing for his college newspaper. That wasn’t the point. His commitment to the pathway – starting at the very lowest point in the climb – was the point. This is what the textbooks and white papers call effectual entrepreneurship.

Choose your path based on vocation, and not purely for financial reasons.

Don’t choose entrepreneurship to “get rich” or “make a killing”. Choose it because it’s your vocation. Jason wanted to stay in the world of sports, one he’d joined by playing football in college. If he could spend the rest of his life writing about and talking about sports, he felt he’d be happy – he’d have life licked, as he put it. Would he make money? An adequate salary probably, but money was not his goal.

Credentials are nice but hard work and experience advance you.

Jason has won a number of prestigious awards over his time on the path to success. He was delighted to receive them. But he stressed that advancement comes not from the credentials but from the hard work and experience-gathering of which they are a reflection. Experience is the most important: learning from others, learning from circumstances and events, learning from setbacks, learning from observing industry trends and what happens to others. Experienced entrepreneurs are the most successful in business even if they have made mistakes along the way – because they are able to glean from their experiences what is most important for the success of a business and what is merely incidental or actually detrimental.

Let your values guide you the whole way – define them, write them down, adhere to them.

Jason has thought deeply about – and codified – his own values. He includes them in his personal profile on his entrepreneurial distribution platform, Outkick. He cites Booker T. Washington as one of his guides. The entrepreneurial life is a values-driven life.

Study your field – know its history and role models.

It dawned on Jason why they teach you history in school – in order to learn about trends and the consequences of actions and the role of change and the nature of competition in ideas, institutions, nations and firms. Having chosen sports journalism as his field, he studied it deeply, to get a sense of how it changed over time, with technology, and in the culture. He tried to imagine – even though no-one can forecast – how it might evolve over time, and to equip himself for a new and different future.

Your intuition and innate ability to read people are your best tools for managing the future.

We discussed the entrepreneurial act of embracing change and trying to “stay ahead of it”, in Jason’s words. How do you do that? He elevates the role of intuition and empathy over data gathering and predictive analytics. At Mises University 2020, Professor Peter Klein spoke of the elevated role Austrian economics allocates to those two cognitive skills, and even cited academic studies about the entrepreneurial advantages of intuition (“smart intuitors”) among cognitive skills.

Be yourself! Emphasize your own uniqueness, personality and talents.

 Many of the assets Jason brings to the business of sports are personal and individual – a sense of humor, a jaunty outspokenness, a willingness to delve below the surface in defiance of conventional wisdom. In a corporate world, these traits can be viewed through a clouded lens; in the entrepreneurial world, they can be great strengths and differentiators if applied for customer benefit, information, and entertainment. Be yourself, and on your vocational path, your individual attributes will support you in your journey.

Always keep building a bigger and bigger platform for yourself and your content.

Jason started his career at the bottom of the ladder, covering minor college sports for a local newspaper as a part-time reporter. That’s a platform – a small one. He kept ascending on to bigger platforms – a major city newspaper, then a national reporting and opinion platform (ESPN), and now an independent internet platform (Outkick). There is always the opportunity to expand and grow.

Embrace change; try to stay ahead of it by always reinventing yourself.

By studying change in his industry and attempting to understand it and chart it, or at least acknowledge it, Jason was able to avoid being caught out by unexpected disruption, and to embrace the wave. If it is impossible to predict and master change, it is feasible to be the kind of economic actor who can self-reinvent, whether that is by learning, moving from platform to platform, adding new skills and capabilities, or finding new audiences. Never get locked in to one persona or set of capabilities.

Your intuition and innate ability to read people are your best tools for managing the future.

 I asked Jason how he predicts the future. Of course, he acknowledged, you can’t do that. But you do have tools, and intuition and what he called an “innate ability to read people and situations” are the most important. This is consistent with scientific research into the cognitive attributes of successful entrepreneurs. They have highly developed intuitive skills as well as more formal cognitive abilities, and it is a highly developed intuition that gives them the confidence to make quick decisions without waiting for all the data.

Always, always put your customer first. Be honest with them, be objective, and serve them distinctively.

It is the first principle of economics for business that the consumer is sovereign and that a successful business puts the customer in first role in everything that they do. Jason Whitlock confirmed the same principle. For a sports content producer, the customer is the reader, viewer or listener. Jason characterizes his audience as the intelligent sports fan who can appreciate an original take and distinctive reporting on subjects that many other content producers are covering in a more conventional fashion.

He commented on how athletes today don’t understand the principle. The customers are fans who attend the events and enjoy the performance. Athletes sometimes misunderstand and think that “their twitter feeds are their fans” and often go to the point of ridiculing or rejecting or offending their customers. We’d call that a failure to demonstrate empathy, and disrespecting consumer sovereignty. Successful entrepreneurs don’t make that mistake.


You can listen to Jason on the Economics For Entrepreneurs podcast #75.



2. Trini Amador on the Role of Values in Business

Values As A Basis For Business Building And Brand Building.

In Economics For Entrepreneurs, we will attempt to bring you some usable tools that represent a way to apply economic principles to your business to help you to greater success. Economists talk about individuals embracing values as a guidepost to the right behavior and the right choices. An example of such a value might be Family Security. An individual who holds this value in high esteem will make certain choices about their career, for example, perhaps emphasizing stability over frequent change. Another individual who prefers an exciting life might make the choice of more change, excited by the possibilities it brings. How can entrepreneurs diagnose and understand these idiosyncratic choices and take cognizance and advantage of them in business? This week we talked with Trini Amador, who is an entrepreneur who advises some of the biggest corporations in the world on these mysteries, and has built a highly successful values-based brand of his own. Here are some highlights.

Show Notes

People adopt values as a guide to their behavior and a signpost for prioritizing their preferences and choices. For example, a sense of achievement might be a value for one individual to pursue, and in as many circumstances as they feel are applicable, they’ll ask themselves, “Will this choice or action bring me a sense of accomplishment?

There are many possible values; individuals tend to be most motivated by their “highest values”. Entrepreneurs who can identify these highest values in their customers, and can develop an understanding of how to appeal to them, can be especially successful in designing value propositions and service offerings.

The way for entrepreneurs to understand how to appeal to consumers’ highest values is to think about climbing up the values ladder to reach the top. Their first encounter with your business will be at the bottom rung – the service or product you are offering. Their first question will be, what’s the benefit for me? If they see a functional benefit, they’ll ask themselves if it makes them feel good – proud, comfortable, energized, whatever feeling is relevant. If they experience an emotional benefit, they’ll ask if your offering fits with their highest value – that’s what makes them a devoted and loyal customer.

The tool to help your business climb the values ladder is the Mean-End Chain. We posted a simple example with Episode #1.

When you’ve constructed a Means-Ends chain for your target customer, you can begin to populate a brand framework. People are loyal to brands, and they often pay a premium price. A brand can be a person (you) or a business (yours) or a product or a service. Trini explains how to populate the brand framework to make your brand relevant to the target audience and differentiated by making a unique promise that you keep every time.

These are the brand building tools utilized by the world’s most successful brands. Trini delivers the insider’s knowledge.

Rokeach’s Values

The Use Of Terminal And Instrumental Values In Understanding Consumer Motivations.

Economists know that consumers make purchase decisions in the context of their subjectively held values. Each individual holds different values. They all have a hierarchy of values – some are more important to them than others – and this internal hierarchy determines how they make choices. They are always pursuing their “highest” or “ultimate” values, and selecting the ends that they think will help them attain those values.

Click Here for a PDF Version of Rokeach’s Values Sheet

Sociologists can name those values. Based on research among specific populations, they can identify and record patterns that apply. This is helpful to the entrepreneur because convincing a consumer that a product or service can contribute to the consumer’s value attainment is a step towards making a sale. Some people call this process “marketing”, but it is really just applied economics.

Milton Rokeach was a sociologist who researched these matters. He developed a Value Survey that he used to collect large amounts of respondent data, and he published his findings in a number of books, including The Nature Of Human Values (Macmillan, 1973).

He defined “terminal values” as the personal end-states toward which individuals strive. One example is “inner harmony” – the achievement of a balance between internal desires and external pressures. In his view, there could also be social end states desired by individuals, such as Global Brotherhood.

Rokeach also identified “instrumental values”, defined as the values we “ought” to have to achieve our ends (morals – such as honesty) or the personal competencies we need to have (confidence, reason).

A value is a preference, as well as a “conception of the preferable”. One value does not define any individual’s behavior, and Rokeach called the combination of values a “value system” – multiple, clustered values. Rokeach thought the total number of terminal values was 18, and the universe of instrumental values could be 60 or 70 in number.

This means that it is possible for the entrepreneur to identify the values held and pursued by consumers in a specific category of business. The entrepreneur can see these values as motivational to the consumer. The return on identifying, studying and understanding these motivational values comes from developing innovations, services variations and communications which are better aligned with consumers’ values and therefore more attractive to buyers. The most successful entrepreneurs are able to imagine the values system that exists in the mind of the consumer.