Think Like a Champion: Athlete-staffed company on a fast break

    By Michael Goodwin | Small Business

    TEAM Services Corp, a new startup devoted to providing comprehensive security services for sports and entertainment events, is only one month old—but don't get the idea that the management team are beginners. Andre Farr, CEO and Founder of TEAM, is a phenomenally successful entrepreneur who made his first million by the age of 21, and has never worked for anyone else since.

    Farr was CEO of House of Blues Sports Division. He put on concert tours. He staged parties. He produced awards shows and specials featuring Beyonce, Shaquille O’Neal, Floyd Mayweather and more. And he got into sponsorship early. "In business you don't just set yourself up for one thing," he explains. "As an innovator, you look at creating a platform and a vehicle, and then you explore all the viable opportunities that come up along the way."

    Mel Farr Superstar

    One of Andre's earliest entrepreneurial inspirations was his uncle Mel, AKA Mel Farr Superstar. "My freshman year at UCLA," Andre recalls, "his dealership, Mel Farr Ford, grossed approximately $118 million."

    Mel Farr is a rare example of a star athlete making the transition to a successful business career. He joined the Detroit Lions in 1967, the same year he won NFL's Rookie of the Year award. He spent his entire career, from 1967 through 1973, with the Lions, before starting his Ford dealership. For many years Mel Farr appeared in his own commercials in a stylish suit and red superhero cape, flying through the sky. He is also rumored to have sung background vocals on Marvin Gaye's great 1971 hit "What's Going On?"

    Andre, still at UCLA, was inspired. "My uncle Mel was the guy that made me realize that these dreams you have are really obtainable," he declares.

    Life After Sports

    So Andre Farr knows about making money—but TEAM is not just about money. One of the most exciting things about this minority-owned startup is that its prime directive has less to do with profit than its visionary social agenda: Life After Sports.

    TEAM Services Corp. is dedicated to providing a career path out of professional sports for athletes who may be struggling to make that critical transition into the world of business.

    This is a serious issue. Everyone knows that big-time pro athletes make lots of money. But if you look closer that pretty picture gets a lot darker. According to Farr (who cites Sports Illustrated as his source) after a professional career averaging five years or less, and two years of retirement, a troubling 78 percent of NFL and NBA athletes find themselves bankrupt or under great financial stress. Only 49 percent of football professionals have jobs after one year away from the NFL.

    "This is a passion of mine," says Farr. "I grew up in a family where most of us played sports, and many of us played at a very high level. Several of my relatives played sports professionally—D'Marco Farr, Mel Farr, Miller Farr, Jerry LeVias, Mike Felder.... And at some point they all had to transition into life-after-sports. The earlier you're prepared for that, the better the success rate is likely to be. We want to be at least one viable option for these athletes as they move into management and staff positions in business."

    Security For the NBA

    Officially, TEAM started in the Fall of 2013, but Farr announced it to the public in January, 2014. The other founders are Chris Davis, Carey Drayton, Michael Munoz, Anthony Munoz, and Devan Schulz.

    Nonetheless, in February, 2014, when TEAM signed on for its first job—providing security for the four-day-long NBA All-Star Jam Session that accompanied the NBA All-Star game in New Orleans—it was able to bring a 60-strong team of crowd management personnel to the Crescent City. They were trained, vetted, background-checked, ready to work the multiple shifts the job requires, and largely made up of professional athletes working their way into a second career. (The rest of TEAM's security troops are ex-military and ex-police.)

    Intensive Training

    So what does Security Service look like in the real world?

    For TEAM it means Crowd Management. Event Staffing. Area Ambassadors. Ushering. Ticket Taking and Box Office Services. Guest Services. Parking Services. Facility Security. And (if needed) a Bicycle Patrol.

    That's a lot of responsibility, especially for an event at which close to 20,000 jazzed basketball fans were having a wild four-day-long party in New Orleans. Fortunately, all of TEAM's staffers have graduated from SORT, an intensive 40-hour training program designed and administered by Contemporary Services Corporation, a world-leader in crowd management and a mentor of sorts to TEAM.

    CSC's CEO, Damon Zumwalt, notes that SORT (an acronym for Security Officer Registration and Training) started during the Sydney Olympics. "Many different topics are covered in the training," he explains, "including powers of arrest, how to deal with difficult patrons, how to use different security tools, radios, metal detectors, proper methods of searching, even weapons of mass destruction—to mention just a few."

    So were these first-timers faced with any performance issues their first time out? "When people party, they’re less inhibited," acknowledges TEAM President Carey Drayton, who has been Security Chief for several institutions, including the University of Southern California. He credits TEAM’s performance to the rigorous CSC training program. "It’s the first course of this nature approved by the State of California," he says, "which has notoriously high standards, and it exceeds most other state and local requirements for security professionals."

    Challenges and Nasty Surprises

    The biggest challenge for TEAM has been getting its message out. It has an impressive web site, and a presence on Facebook and Twitter, but as Farr notes, "You can't do this through passive communication. It needs to be person-to-person, in-your-face communication to get across what we're doing, how we're doing it, and how people can participate. I have to get out there, put my boots on the ground, and talk to people directly."

    Farr, who's been a successful entrepreneur for many years, has learned that starting a new business usually includes a few nasty surprises. "Oh, always surprises!" he laughs. "Expect surprises! But I'm a really optimistic guy, so when something doesn't work out the way I expect, I don't see that as a failure. I see that as a way to learn not to do that next time. I look at everything in the most positive light, because if you think like a champion then you're closer to being a champion."

    What's next for TEAM? Currently focused on providing security for sporting and entertainment events, it's moving into corporate, municipal and federal contracting as well—and it's ramping up the staff. "Right now we're probably less than 100," says Farr, "but we have the infrastructure in place to staff up to 1000, or more, for any particular event. And those 1000 people are vetted, trained, with all background checks. We go above and beyond where most crowd management companies go."

    'Shipping Out

    There's a reason that Andre Farr sometimes describes himself as a 'shipping tycoon. With an apostrophe.

    "A lot of people ask me what's the secret to being successful in business," he says, "what courses do you need to take, what networks do you need to be in... I believe everything starts with relationships. Through relationships you build partnerships. And through partnerships you can build ownership opportunities. Then there are some other 'ships' in there too, especially entrepreneurship. I think everyone has that in them.

    "So I'm a 'shipping tycoon of sorts because I'm a connector. I enjoy being around people, and I care about people tremendously. When you have a goal, I'm one of those guys who will try to help you obtain that goal, and I'll probably get more satisfaction than you will when we succeed."

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