In July 2009, I wrote about Blake Baratz, a 29-year-old (at the time), with excellent experience as an NFLPA Contract Advisor at Impact Sports, who left the agency to start up his own – The Institute for Athletes. One of his main goals is to educate athletes off of the field. Baratz surrounded himself with a knowledgeable and experienced team, and has been growing his firm ever since.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Baratz. The following is the transcript.
Darren Heitner: You started your sports agent career working for Impact Sports of Boca Raton, Florida, yet you were based in California at the time. What were the positives and negatives of being so far away from your company’s home base?
Blake Baratz: We ended up flip flopping the offices in 2004. So our main office ended up being in Los Angeles, while we kept a satellite office in Boca Raton. I was working with experienced agents that taught me a lot about the business.
Heitner: What finally pushed you to create your own firm, The Institute for Athletes?
Baratz: The past 8 years have shown me a lot about this business. I have seen a lot of positives, but I have also witnessed very alarming negatives. I felt that it was time for me to branch out, put my own bulletproof team in place, and begin to change what I consider a very broken culture in sports representation.
Heitner: How did you come up with that name?
Baratz: Trial and error. I didn’t like anything I was coming up with, but The Institute for Athletes just stuck with me. As an agent I pride myself on education and I felt that this was an all encompassing title.
Heitner: How have you distinguished your company from the many competitors going after the same athlete clientele?
Baratz: It’s hard for me to really answer that because I only know what we do. We’re not concerned with anybody else. So many agents get caught up in “who else is he considering, what are they doing, who did they sign” none of that matters to me. We know we do a phenomenal job for our clients and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. We continue to educate daily on every aspect of a clients life. I believe another main reason is also that you get 100% honesty from everyone at The Institute for Athletes 100% of the time. We tell clients what they need to hear not what they want to hear.
Heitner: What was the reasoning behind bringing Jaleel White (known for his role as Steve Urkel on the hit TV show, “Family Matters”) into the the fold? Is he still with your company? If so, what is his role?
Baratz: Jaleel and I became friends when I moved out to LA in 2004 and I felt he would be a great mentor to our young men who are constantly in the spotlight. Jaleel has experienced much of what young professionals go though and he can be a very positive influence for them on how to be professional young men. Jaleel continues to be a mentor to our clients.
Heitner: You recently turned 30-years-old, thus I consider you to be one of the “young guys” in the biz. Has this affected you in any way? Particularly, do you use it to your advantage in recruiting?
Baratz: I see it both ways. I think they are many positives to being young. This business takes an incredible amount of energy of which I have seen is a necessity to being successful moving forward. The world is also changing and evolving and to be in touch with your clientele is an absolute in this business. With the advancement of cell phones, social media, and twitter, the world is simply evolving and I think more than anything you need to be able to relate to your clients on many levels.
Heitner: Wisconsin has been a blessing for you in terms of recruitment. How were you able to get such a strong grasp on the school?
Baratz: It all starts with one player. You get one player, you do a great job for him and his family and they refer you to someone else. The thing that I am most proud of as President of The Institute for Athletes is the fact that we only work off of referrals. This is extremely rare in this business. We have built this business with 100% referrals. No Runners, No recruiters, No Facebook, No cold calls, No Website. Strictly referrals. I think that in and of itself is a testament to what a great job we are doing for these players and their respective families.
Heitner: I have you down as representing a 4th and 7th rounder from last year’s draft. What should we expect from you in the 2011 draft?
Baratz: We signed Adrian Clayborn from the University of Iowa & Jonas Mouton from the University of Michigan. Both incredible young men that we are expecting big things out of in 2011 and beyond.
Heitner: What are you currently doing to prepare your clientele for an NFL lockout?
Baratz: While it started months ago, simply financial intelligence and education. Every player was told to tighten their budget by about 35% over the last 18 months to prepare for the unknown. We are also very active in working with the financial advisors to make sure they are properly educating as well.
Heitner: What would you suggest to those reading this interview who have a dream of one day representing professional athletes?
Baratz: While it is a very difficult business to get into, I would always recommend getting an internship with a company that is willing to give you the time of day. Every company out there needs help, so be patient, do more listening then talking and begin to get a feel for what this business entails.
We are always looking for dedicated, intelligent individuals looking to get into the business. Email all resume’s to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. As always Darren, thank you for the time!