Since the time we founded the practice, I’ve recognized the need to make connections with people, and I’ve found no better way to make friendships than through sports.
I moved to Manhattan after college in 1987 and did not know many people, nor did I have a surfeit of disposable wealth. Without many friends, money, or social cache, enjoying a summer share in the Hamptons was unattainable. Then again, I did have Central Park and a pair of soccer flats. That first summer, and then the next, I spent six or seven hours a day every Saturday and Sunday playing pick-up soccer on a dusty and broken glass strewn pitch in the Park with a rag-tag group of Europeans, Latin Americans and Middle Easterners. There is no better way to appreciate diversity than to be a minority, and to have to earn your way onto the field through your play and good humor. Following was a stint with a French restaurant sponsored team. The team was a mix of waiters and expatriates, but luckily for me, our right wing was an American – a Stanford educated partner at a midtown law firm with a young family, who taught me a great deal about balancing career, family and sports. He became one of our firm’s first clients, and although neither of us any longer plays competitively, we stay in touch and we remain good friends.
I’ll always be a fan of team sports, but the practicality of continued participation has been challenged by age, family time, and leaving the City on weekends with family (playing soccer at midnight at Chelsea piers with young bankers, or at dawn in Riverside Park with the Geezers – yes, I’ve done both – holds less appeal every year). Fortunately, I joined a social club in midtown near our office that has six singles squash courts and a doubles court. The squash program at our club is one of the strongest in the nation, and since 1995, I’ve played regularly and the friendships I’ve made at the club are my closest since college. If you study our bubble chart, the clients that have come to DFA through my club relationships outnumber any other.
And now, I have had the opportunity of adding the country club sports of golf and tennis. Even as appalled as we are by the dated adage that you need to play golf to succeed in business, it sure doesn’t hurt to tee it up or jump on court for some spirited doubles with friends and colleagues. All competitive sports offer an opportunity to demonstrate sportsmanship – perhaps none more so than golf, with its tradition that rules violations are the responsibility of the player. While the concept may seem quaint, competitive play offers a meaningful insight into an opponent’s character, and offers opponents an insight into yours. Many of my most enduring friendships and business relationships stem directly from my sports endeavors. If someone behaves badly in sport, how would they be as clients? If I were to be a bad sport or a cheat, how would I be as the architect entrusted with the design of a sportsman’s home?
Which brings me to the title of this installment – “Apres Ski = Sports Marketing.” I skied as a kid, and during graduate school had what I thought was a career-ending injury, a torn ACL. I had the surgery, did the physical therapy, and a year later skied in Utah. But then, I hung them up, so to speak. Twenty-five plus years later, I’ve come back to the sport with the kids. They love skiing and it has become our family’s winter sport. The majority of our skiing occurs at a small hill in Cornwall, Connecticut. If the weather isn’t perfect and the kids are in ski school, I’ll sometimes hang out in the lodge with the rest of the parents. On the first day of ski school this year, it was raining, and I didn’t even bother bringing my equipment to the mountain. While waiting in the lodge and worrying whether our kids would be good sports with the bad weather, I ran into parents for whom we had renovated their City apartment and designed their CT home; a client for whom we had just broken ground on a new home near ours; and a friend for whom we are just beginning to talk about designing a home. A few weeks later, at an après ski party, at a home we had designed, we met another potential client. While I had, heretofore, thought nothing could beat squash for making friends and developing relationships, I now feel skiing may give it a run for the money. Let it snow; Let it snow; Let it snow.