The following interview is with Paul I. Franklin, Founder and Principle of Franklin Capital Strategies. Franklin Capital Strategies specializes in the protection, accumulation, and distribution of wealth to individuals, families, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and professional athletes throughout the country. This interview was conducted by Evan Thammahong, J.D. Candidate and aspiring NFL/Sports Agent.
1. How did your educational background steer you toward financial advising?
I am a third generation financial professional. My grandfather started his practice back in 1940 and then my father joined in 1974. I frankly had no interest in going into finance and just wanted to be a coach. I got a business management degree from a small liberal arts school where I played baseball. I also played football in high school so my passion for sports and coaching has always been a driving force in my life. My coaches, specifically my high school football coach Cliff Walton, have had the most impact on who I am today as a coach and in my financial work. My passion for working with people, building relationships, and being my own boss has allowed me to create a successful practice and continue to be a coach on the field to my players. My grandfather gave me simple advice as a kid: “Don’t ever be a checker on a checkerboard where somebody else is making the moves. Be your own boss and make the moves yourself.”
2. Per the 2009 Sports Illustrated article on your website, what are the driving factors that contribute to professional athletes’ poor financial stability? How Does this approach differ from your approach for family planning and small business clients?
The driving factors that contribute to poor financial stability come from lack of education of personal finance from an early age, an unwillingness to take responsibility for managing your finances, and being surrounded by people who want your success to benefit them (including family). For example, some of them just aren’t aware of how to find and fix credit errors using a service like Upturn Credit which benefits from its ease of use and also the fact that it’s free so really there’s no excuse for them not to start taking more financial responsibility. I tell young players all the time, you better start getting good at saying no. And you better be prepared to lose some relationships. That’s life. You can either continue to be a yes man and be the most popular person in the room or learn to say no and do what’s right for you and your future family, I end up saying something along the lines of “think about exploring your finances for the future”. It’s that simple. 10-15 years from now when you are retired and out of the spotlight 90% of the people that paid attention to you will move on to the next big thing. I always tell players that your legal, financial, and accounting team will be with you until you grow old and eventually transition your wealth onto the next generation. Everyone else in your life will be moving on to the next young athlete or opportunity. If players would think big picture and think long game and stop focusing on short game, we would have a lot less of them going broke.
3. What differentiates your approach to establishing long term financial stability for your professional athletes? How does this approach differ from your approach for family planning and small business clients?
Each of our client’s, whether it’s an athlete or not is custom to their specific situation at the time. We set short term and long term goals. But the buy in from the client is the most important part in the process. If the client does not buy in to what you are recommending then the goal is as good as the paper it’s written on. I take the same approach with my clients as I do when I coach running backs. You can’t walk out on Monday afternoon worrying about what defense this week’s opponent is going to come out in. You need to rep your fundamentals, take care of the football, keep your pad level down. It’s the same thing with our clients. We can’t stare at the news all day and predict what the market is going to do or when we might become hurt sick or ill. We need to stick to the plan, make adjustments when needed and commit to the process. Process above all else is the key to a good team and a good financial strategy.
4. What role does a sports agent play in your communications with your professional athlete clients?
Our best relationships with players are directly with the players themselves. The agent always has a seat at the table if he wants, however, we make it very clear that everyone should stay in their lane. I’m not going to start telling the player what team he needs to consider or what shoe deal to take. As should the agent not be involved in the financial or accounting planning. Every player needs checks and balances. The best teams I’ve been associated with are when everyone is making sure that they are focusing on their primary expertise and not weighing in on subject matter they do not practice or do not possess the qualifications for. We will not work with a player who does not directly work with us. We will never work “through” an agent or his parents. I’ve said multiple times to player that it’s time to grow up and start showing up to meetings. This is their future and they need to be involved and apart of the process.
5. Given the competitive nature of financial advising, especially with regard to professional athletes, what is the biggest challenge in attaining a new client?
The biggest challenge in my opinion is getting in front of the player and his family. More often than not the family will say they are taken care of. I scratch my head a lot of times because I know they probably went with who they were told to go with versus interviewing 3-5 firms. We do not charge for our initial sit down so I always stress that meeting with us is just another data point for the family to have. Meeting with us now may prompt the family to want to work with us maybe after the player is done playing. You never know when you are needed. I touched on this earlier but another big challenge is getting the player to focus on his finances early. These athletes are being pulled in a million directions but they cannot lose sight of the fact that they are grown adults that are going to be paying taxes now. They cannot afford to just assume everything will be taken care of. If they do, we’ll be reading about them in the news pretty soon.