Unexpected Experiences: Relationships Are Everything - Data Driven Design

Unexpected Experiences: Relationships Are Everything

By: Paul Hickey, Founder and Lead Strategist

Do you remember your first boyfriend or girlfriend? I mean, your first SERIOUS boyfriend or girlfriend. Not the love of your life, necessarily, but someone very important to you. Someone you think of often, even have dreams about?

Okay, I’ll calm down now. But for real though, this “person” to me was actually not a person at all, but rather a job.

When I was 19 years old, my buddy Dan Hauser’s dad, Dan, Sr., worked for the Detroit Pistons. In fact, he was a legend/institution for 25+ years, working with then-President Tom Wilson to grow the Detroit Pistons Basketball Company and Palace Sports & Entertainment into one of the most successful businesses in the Midwest. Dan Sr. was Executive VP of Marketing (in the top 5 in the company at the time) and a super nice guy.

I asked Dan Jr., who I played high school basketball with if his dad might be able to hook me up with a summer internship with the Pistons after my sophomore year of college.

I was pretty naive, but also fearless. There were thousands of people my age who wanted these internships. But Dan Sr., hooked me up with a guy named Kevin Grigg, the director of media relations for the Pistons at the time – now “KG,” as I called him – is the VP of Public Relations for the Pistons. These were the old teal uniform days, and the team wasn’t very good during the 2000-01 season. KG had just moved from California where he worked for the Golden State Warriors. He was 28 at the time, and was busy traveling with the team when I called his office line in Fall 2000. “Hello Kevin, I’m Paul Hickey, a sophomore at Michigan State University….” I told his voicemail.

I expected a call back right away. 🙂

The weeks and months went by with no return call. This made me want the internship more and more. I basically had to stalk KG to get him to pay attention, and he finally agreed to let me come to an “interview” at a Pistons home game in February, 2001. Valentine’s Day, in fact.

The interview was a job shadow, and I was immediately in love. Head over heels. I’d be a public relations intern for the Detroit Pistons.

But months later, I showed up at KG’s office in May of 2001 to a different tune. The season was over. No exciting games. I was told I needed to clean out the closet, and that I was pretty much lucky to be allowed in the office from 1-4 p.m. three days a week. No compensation for the internship, just experience and a few college credits.

It set the tone, but it was cool by me. I liked KG, and knew I could learn a ton from him and his team, including Cletus Lewis, Jr., another intern who loved the job as much as I did.

Dan Hauser and Kevin Grigg encouraged me to get as much experience as I could that summer with the Pistons, and I was able to meet up with my future mentor, Dennis Sampier (then of the WNBA Detroit Shock).

“DSamp” and I worked together for 7 years, building out the Community Relations department several years later and hiring an amazing person named Erika Swilley, who is now the VP of Community Relations for the Pistons.

I’ve lost touch with many of my old friends from my Pistons / Shock days, but this past year have reached out to many, including former Shock forward Barbara Farris, who was a guest on my podcast. I’ve also been in touch with DSamp, also a podcast guest earlier this year, and have worked on some website projects for him.

You see, when you can have your current love (metaphor for current job/business) also mix with your first love (my Pistons job), it’s a special thing.

Recently, Swilley did something extremely special for me though. She created a totally unexpected experience. On a personal note, she had no idea how many times I’ve wished I could have a “Back To The Future” moment with my son Max, who is a HUGE sports fan.

Think about this: I used to work with Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Lindsey Hunter, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, the list goes on and on – with constant unlimited access to the Pistons arena, practice facility and locker room – places my son DREAMS of going. Dozens of times in the last 4-5 years I’ve wished I could take him back to those years.

But Max had never even been to a Pistons game, that is, until recently. Thanks to Swilley, I was able to take my entire family and some friends to the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on December 26, 2017.

After the game, I just wanted to say “thank you for the tickets.” She called me down to the court, allowing my entire crew to come down as well. Not only was it amazing to see her, but it brought back so many amazing memories from my early career, as a 19-25 year old being able to have so many phenomenal experiences on such a grand stage.

Max and Samantha, my daughter, were so excited to “touch the P” on the court, take photos and meet players, like first round draft pick Luke Kennard.

My old normal, which I then wished I could recreate with my family, was actually happening. Such a cool feeling.

Thanks to Swilley.

Another amazing, unexpected bonus, was seeing Cletus and KG again.

These guys don’t know how important they are to me, but I think of them often. I know they work their asses off, but are ALWAYS behind the scenes. I respect them a ton and always will. Each of them, in many ways, are contributing motivational factors to my current work ethic.

I’m grateful to Swilley, big time, for the experience, the hospitality and the love.

I’m grateful to KG, for showing me that it’s all worth working for. That others want it to, and that you have to outwork them to get it.

I’m grateful to Cletus, for showing me what loyalty and positivity look like.

I’m of course grateful to Dan (and Marilyn, who I haven’t mentioned yet) Hauser – for supporting me.

There are way too many amazing lessons I learned and experiences that shaped me early on for one blog post, but I’ll leave you with this…When I left the Pistons in 2007 to come down to Tennessee, I remember walking out the door with my box of stuff – it was so underwhelming. Nobody cared, really. It was eye-opening. I was so replaceable. Humility FLOODED through my veins. I always felt there was some kind of lack of closure between me and my old love (the job, remember).

Well, now, seeing Swilley, KG and Cletus – talking to DSamp regularly and having Barb on the show – I’m even more grateful for these relationships.

If you’re wondering why this is on a Business Blog, shame on you. Screw the phrase “It’s not Personal. It’s Business.”

No.

Business is Personal.

Jobs are Relationships.

Relationships Are Everything.

Patience, hard work and doing the right thing will always pay off, especially in unexpected ways.

Paul Hickey has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 10 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing and Email Marketing. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.

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