Maverick Carter, founder of SpringHill Company, where he creates some of the most culturally-inspired brands, entertainment, and products, joins me on the podcast today.
It’s not about being able to do whatever we want to do, it’s about intention. If you have good intentions, the right intentions, rational intentions with the feeling of “the sky’s the limit” … then you absolutely have a shot at achieving everything you’ve ever dreamed of.” – Maverick Carter
We discussed Mav’s life growing up in Akron, OH, his internship at Nike, building his business, and playing high school basketball with LeBron James.
Mav is a very smart, creative, and connected man. He’s built an incredible business and continues to create an entrepreneurial vision for the future, no matter what it brings.
In this episode we talked about:
- What betting on yourself means to him
- The influence of his grandmother
- What he learned from playing cards
- His lifelong friendship with LeBron James
- His internship at Nike
- Building and growing SpringHill Company
- Why everyone needs a platform
- The pressure of delivering for your friends
- The moment he realized he could make it all happen
- The advice he’d give his sixteen-year-old self
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Maverick Carter: I think the only way is, you can't duck. You can't run from it because it's there and it's coming. And if you try and run from it, it gets stronger. And it's like fear, one of my mentors, Jimmy Iovine, talks about the idea of, instead of letting that pressure, that fear become a wall in front of you, turn that pressure, that fear and get it behind you to power you, to push you through life, to be afraid of something. But turn that fear into horsepower.
Michael Redd: Hey everybody, this is Michael Redd. And welcome to the Betting On Yourself podcast, where I interview successful entrepreneurs, athletes, and other top performers who rose to the top, took success into their own hands and bet on themselves.
Michael Redd: Today, I'm talking with my friend, Maverick Carter, founder of SpringHill company, where he creates some of the most culturally inspired brands, entertainment and products. In this episode, we talk about Mav's life growing up in Akron, Ohio, his internship at Nike, building his business and playing high school basketball with LeBron James. Mav is a very smart, creative and connected man. He's built an incredible business and continues to create an entrepreneurial vision for the future, no matter what it brings. Here's my conversation with Maverick Carter.
Michael Redd: Mav, thank you again, man, for being on the podcast today, it means a lot to me. I know you're busy, but it means a ton for me to have you on the show today, bud.
Maverick Carter: Thank you for having me, Mike. I mean, it's an honor. Obviously, I've followed your career since Don was in middle school, literally, and all the way through the NBA and I always respect, not just your game, there's a lot of people with game, though you elevated to the highest level, but also the way you carry yourself, your approach, it's an honor to be talking to you.
Michael Redd: I appreciate you, buddy. We go back a long time now and I marvel man at what you've done, obviously LeBron, Rich, all of you guys, Randy, I mean just, it's amazing what you guys have done. We're all from Ohio. I have a special place in my heart for you guys and LeBron and the whole team. Talk to me about what it has meant for you to bet on yourself.
Maverick Carter: Oh man, well betting on yourself, Michael, or just betting is in my DNA. I mean, that's how I got my name, Maverick. My grandmother gave me that name. I've told this story a lot of times, but it's just who I am. And I grew up, my mom would drop me off. My mom was 22 when she had me, her and my dad were the same age when they both had me and they were still young and having fun.
Maverick Carter: And my grandmother was more than willing for any of her kids to drop their kids off, her grandkids. And my mom and dad took full advantage of that. And my grandmother was always home on Fridays and Saturday nights because she ran an after hours, where you could play true craps, play a little pity pat, a little poker. She'd cook food and give it away for free and sell alcohol. Since I was five, I was the sweep up kid. I swept up at the end of the night, but I was always at her house.
Maverick Carter: It was all people she knew and trusted, but I learned to play cards and gamble. And what I was learning was I didn't know then, but I learned that later, what I was actually learning was risk versus reward or upside versus downside. That's what you're doing. And then thinking about playing cards, you're doing it at a very rapid pace, a lot of times in a short amount of time, if you do it very quickly.
Maverick Carter: And I've applied that to my career and the idea of just betting on myself and as you were saying, me and my partners LeBron and Randy, we've been around now a long time doing it. People go, "Wow, how'd you guys do it?" I'm like "We had no other..." I mean, our downside was nothing. We had to take the shot on ourselves.
Michael Redd: Is there a moment that stands out to you, even as a teenager or college? Because a lot of our listeners probably don't know that you play ball.
Maverick Carter: Yeah, I did.
Michael Redd: You played the hooper.
Maverick Carter: I was a hooper, not nearly to the level to achieve my dream to play at Ohio State like you did because I grew up in Ohio in Akron, but I was able to play mid-major ball, went on a scholarship, but I was a hooper, for sure. I still, even at 39 and with a sore back and feet that hurt after I take a run, I still fancy myself a hooper. I still feel like it. I'm sure you know how that goes.
Michael Redd: I do.
Maverick Carter: I still feel like I'm a hooper when I wake up.
Michael Redd: I can't move though. I can't move anymore. And people ask me all the time, do you miss playing? I'm like, "Absolutely not." Loved it. Love the locker room and love being around my teammates and whatnot, but no, the play aspect of things, no. But was there a moment for you that stands out in college or the transition to Nike? And is there a specific moment that was like, "This is it?"
Maverick Carter: Yeah, absolutely. There was a couple. I mean, when I took the internship at Nike, I had met Lynn Merritt and he offered me one. And then I got offered to also take one at Reebok, from a guy named Tom Shine at the time and found out Nike was offering me one and Nike get a leg up in the LeBron race, but I chose Nike.
Maverick Carter: I mean, I really liked Tom, but I really thought doing that would pay off and really be the place where I can learn the most or the most beneficial because of who Lynn was, he and I are still friends. I had dinner with him just three nights ago up in Portland. And then when I had to choose to leave Nike, I mean, I thought Nike was my dream job. It was the place I wanted to work at forever.
Maverick Carter: I still love the place. And as a kid from Akron, young kid at the time, I had a good ass job, I had a great job. And when LeBron asked me to leave, today, it seemed [inaudible 00:06:27] for me as an obvious decision, but it wasn't exactly because how and what could happen, I wasn't exactly sure because I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't know how to do the job. And also just from an economic standpoint, LeBron's agent at the time had already did most of his deals, so it was not like I could even get paid for a while on one of his deals.
Michael Redd: It's interesting because you mentioned Lynn and mentors. How big has that been for you in your journey?
Maverick Carter: Mentors has been gigantic for me in my journey. I mean, I am not a guy who has been technically or institutionally educated. I didn't go to a big university or Harvard, but I've been extremely educated through mentoring and through the people I've been lucky to be around and just ciphering and sponging all the information I possibly could from them. It's been basically the way I built my career.
Michael Redd: This is, as I've watched you over the years and we've known each other for, I don't know, going 20 years, whatever, but you and the team, when did it dawn upon you to see the narrative change, as far as the approach to basketball, sports from not only being an athlete, but thinking business and beyond the game? Because I think there was a paradigm before we came into the NBA where you play for a number of years, you've had a great career and you go right into coaching. You go right into scouting, you go right into general manager, president of basketball operations, you just stay or broadcasting. You stay and there's nothing wrong with that at all, but you stay within that bubble. Talk about when did that click for you, LeBron, Randy, and obviously Rich. When did that shift for you?
Maverick Carter: I think that shifted... I think we went into it thinking about that because we knew there's an expiration date on playing basketball for LeBron. And for us specifically, myself specifically, I knew if I didn't get to be seen outside of just being LeBron's friend, which that would have been, or this or that or LeBron then when he was done playing, which I knew he's nearing the end of his career, who knows how long he's going to play. He definitely doesn't have eight or 10 more years, at 30 odd, I knew when he was done, I'd still be a young person who needed to build a career.
Maverick Carter: I was very intent and focused on building my career with sports, with using... The idea was always more using sports or basketball specifically and sports as the platform, but not becoming dependent on it. And I think we all need platforms. LeBron's platform is basketball and he uses basketball and his pivot off of basketball. My platform started off as the LeBron, now I'm at the SpringHill company, my company, LeBron is still my partner and my platform, the SpringHill company is my platform. When you're in business as a person, you need a platform. Everyone needs a platform. Whether you work somewhere, use a sport or art or build a company, you need a platform. I was very focused on that.
Michael Redd: How did the four of you guys become friends?
Maverick Carter: LeBron and I go way, way back. It's now over 30 years we've known each other, literally at my eighth birthday, I'm 39, well I'm 40 this year. Randy is older than both of us, but we got to know him because he was very close to LeBron's family and came around and was that older brother mentor, who did everything from teach us right and wrong, showed us things but also had a car first, had license, everything first, jobs and he had money.
Maverick Carter: And then Rich, I had known going back to competing against him in high school and then reconnected with him through LeBron on a trip traveling that people have heard down to Atlanta, we reconnected and became friends. I mean, that must be 20 years ago or 18 years ago, something like that.
Michael Redd: And it just clicked?
Maverick Carter: It just clicked, totally clicked. Similar backgrounds obviously, but most importantly, similar aspirations and not just similar aspirations, but also similar understanding of how to achieve those aspirations, which was key.
Michael Redd: Complete alignment. The end goal. You make the leap from Nike to now leading the business of LeBron. Talk about that moment because sometimes friendship and business can be murky. Talk about that dynamic and then how nervous were you and the challenge of that.
Maverick Carter: I was extremely nervous, just because the pressure of delivering for your friend. It's not easy. I was like, if I fuck this up, fine for me, but my friend... If I fuck this up for my friend, that's a bad feeling because not only will I lose a business partner, if I fuck this up, I could lose a friend. That was the biggest downside for me. And then also, I think just because of the attention and scrutiny it received, I look back on it and even at the time thought a lot of it was because young and black.
Maverick Carter: We were young and black, it received a lot of attention when LeBron fired his agent and the people criticized him. The one guy, I'll never forget, said this is like if LeBron eventually needs knee surgery, him hiring his plumber because it's his friend to do the knee surgery.
Maverick Carter: It was just like a lot of scrutiny, but the way to respond to that was I surrounded myself, I was not naive enough to believe or insecure enough to believe that I had to try and go at this the long way. That's been a model for my whole career is to really bring in a team and partners who can help me achieve everything I want.
Michael Redd: I consider you one of the brilliant minds in that world. And obviously you've been on incredible smart people, to your point. When was the moment leading the business for LeBron and all that you... When was the moment when you were like, "I actually can do this?"
Maverick Carter: Oh, that's a great question. Let me think about that. I think the biggest moment would be probably... I think we were into 18 months or two years into me doing it. And LeBron, he makes a decision to start bicycling in the office, during one of you guys' off seasons. He started cycling like crazy. He calls me, says, "Let's start cycling." We start cycling four or five times a week, leave his house at eight in the morning, sometimes seven in the morning and ride bikes, but for training and we started off just cruising, then it got serious.
Maverick Carter: We were doing 30, 40, 50 miles a day and doing that four times a week. And then seeing that, I started thinking about this idea of biking as cross training. If you think about the category of cross training at Nike, invented by Bo Jackson and then could other athletes to build a bike brand. And use them against the idea. They use the bike to cross train. And then how does that translate to consumers?
Maverick Carter: But anyway, I asked the guy who we had brought on, who is still our partner to this day, that I told him I'd love to be introduced, he knew the people who owned Schwinn because that was just the bike brand I knew. And I knew we might be combined as a depressed asset and reinvented to this idea of cross training. And then he ended up finding this company, called Cannondale and he told me to go fly to New York and meet this guy, who's still my friend to this day. Now this is going back, I think 15 years ago, to 2006.
Maverick Carter: I meet this guy, Rodney Cohen, who works at Pegasus and he tells me about this bike company, which I had never heard of because I wasn't that serious to bikes, but get information on it, make a call. We make a deal. LeBron, because I had no money at the time, buys a big chunk of Cannondale, my team and I started coming up with plans and we start the idea of bringing other athletes in that play tennis and this and that.
Maverick Carter: And a year and a half later the company sells for, I think four and a half times what LeBron invested into it. Now, LeBron took the chance and put real money in at a time when not many athletes, today it's extremely commonplace, but back then athletes were like, "Well, wait a minute. If I'm going to put my name and image against this, I get paid. I don't put money up." And LeBron understood and was able to totally get it. And so when I was thinking of my vision and then yeah, literally 15 months later, and I remember it was that because we barely made capital gains timeframe, we sold the company for four times and that was the moment I realized that was it. That was when I realized the question you asked, that I can do this.
Michael Redd: Wow. It's been an incredible journey, man. And that's an incredible story.
Maverick Carter: I'd be interested. I never asked him, but I know it's displayed in his box, but amongst all of LeBron's fantastic achievements, he's got a million achievements, still getting them, but he has a trophy from the buy-out awards, which is awards for the best M&A deals of the year and Cannondale got buy out of the year, it would've been 2007 by then, I think, and he has a trophy for the buyout of the year because he was a significant partner.
Michael Redd: I mean, that's something to be proud of.
Maverick Carter: Thank you.
Michael Redd: Yes that is because it transcends the platform. And like you were saying earlier, talk about how you all and you in particular, have handled adversity. Because along the way, there's been adversity and trials and storms and how do you manage them? What's your mindset to go through those?
Maverick Carter: Sure, there's been a lot and there's going to be more coming. I mean, when you're in the world and doing stuff, you always don't know when it's going to come, but you got to be sure, you know things are going to come. I think the main thing is, it's easy to say this, but it really is true. Rich has a statement. Rich always says, "The best thing to do is not to panic."
Maverick Carter: Not panicking, realizing that things are going to come and go, but the minute adversity hits, don't panic. Don't turn on each other. In fact, if you know you have the right team and smart people when adversity comes, you have to get closer and talk to those people even more. I think not panicking, staying poised and getting even more closer to spending even more time with the people around you is the way we've always dealt with it.
Michael Redd: I think that's awesome because it's been such a pressure packed year and a half, with COVID. You have the political climate, you have social unrest, all that's been going, I think has been tremendous pressure to lead in this time. But it comes across, knowing you, that you lean into that pressure.
Maverick Carter: For sure, I think the only way, when you're dealing with pressure that we've all dealt with, is you can't duck. You can't run from it because it's there and it's coming. And if you try and run from it, it just gets stronger. And it's like fear, one of my mentors, Jimmy Iovine, talks about the idea of, instead of letting that pressure, that fear become a wall in front of you, turn that pressure, that fear and get it behind you to power you, to push you through, to be afraid of something, but turn that fear into horsepower.
Michael Redd: I totally agree because you get stretched and you don't know your potential unless you get into a situation that's pressure packed.
Maverick Carter: Exactly.
Michael Redd: I totally agree with you on that. Why is it, from your perspective, being in the game, the business world, and also the athletic world for many years, what's the key? I should say this, what's the key to reinvention for athletes?
Maverick Carter: That's a great question. I think the key... When you talk about the greatest athletes who reinvented, you to talk about, I think number one on my list would be Michael Strahan. And when you look at what Strahan did, I think it would have to be intentional.
Maverick Carter: If you look at the reinvention of Charles Barkley, he's intentional on who he is, he doesn't give a fuck what anyone says, he sounds silly or off, or he's going to be who he is. And he's afforded himself now a license where he does stuff that other people can't do and they go, "Well, that's just Charles." But he's intentional about not caring what people think or say. He's lost friends behind it, he talked on TV about him and MJ don't speak anymore because he talked about how bad of a job MJ's done years ago, running Charlotte, though Charlotte looks good this year, so MJ may be turning it around.
Maverick Carter: But Strahan was intentional. He was so intentional, in fact, he probably retired a year or two before he had to. I think the key is intention and purpose, but intention with a strategy. With the thought, with a strategy to go into a space that works for you. I think it's the key.
Michael Redd: It's a platform you've started with needing dough. Getting the insights of other athletes and their perspective of running an invention or business. Talk about that impact thus far.
Maverick Carter: I mean it really comes from a place that's super authentic and that I care about, which was this idea of the way athletes were talked about with their money and I wanted to change that conversation and not make anyone feel sorry for athletes, but make people understand and have a better understanding of what athletes go through and athletes to be empowered to have those conversations. So that the viewers and consumers are getting insights and can feel differently, but also so that other athletes could learn. That was really the goal with building out, needing dough as a platform and we've achieved it, now we got to keep building on it and keep iterating on it, but I think we've achieved that.
Michael Redd: It dawned on me in the middle of my career, the narrative around collective bargaining agreements and negotiations was always, "Look how much the players are making." And just foundationally to me, it was like, well, someone has to pay us, why hasn't that narrative been out there? I was intrigued with the guys who were paying us, the hedge fund guys, the private equity guys, the tech guys. And is that something you thought about along the way as well, obviously working at Nike?
Maverick Carter: Well, unfortunately I was not good enough to ever be a part of the players side of the collective bargain agreement, as a player I would've loved to, I probably would have stirred the pot a bit more than it has been stirred. But I did just think about the idea that you never get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. From that point of view, it's just a negotiation. In a negotiation and it becomes public almost every NBA negotiation or NFL or pro sports league negotiation is, then the narrative definitely plays a part.
Maverick Carter: But every single day, there's people negotiating with each other in business, whether it's in sports, it's always the billionaires versus the millionaires but that happens a lot of places, but they're not carried out in the public. I think the sports negotiations are carried out in the public narrative, starts to play a part in putting pressure on one side or the other. I've always thought about it from that standpoint and just controlling that narrative or being a part of that narrative versus just giving a fuck about what what's the best you can negotiate.
Michael Redd: We know that content is powerful and is key and is king right now. Talk about the platform of SpringHill. You guys are doing some incredible work. Talk about how or why content was a target for you guys.
Maverick Carter: Content was the target for us as the company of the SpringHill company, because we believe that talent and creators and athletes are in that careers bucket for us, needed a company that truly empowered them, needed a brand that stood for empowerment and needed a place to partner with and call home. We thought that was extremely important and needed. And then we thought that the consumers and viewers also wanted a brand like SpringHill that stood for true empowerment of creators and the most true and authentic storytelling from the lens of empowering talent.
Michael Redd: And then you have an UNINTERRUPTED, talk about that play, man.
Maverick Carter: That was important from a content creation standpoint of treating athletes like creators. You're looking at entertainment, Hollywood's directors, writers, producers, but we really believe athletes were creators too and needed that same ability.
Michael Redd: Recent news has come out about your partnership now and ownership now within the Red Sox organization. And just talk about there's no limits in what you can do. And talk about that dynamic and how you guys think internally, we can do whatever we want to do. And how important is that mindset?
Maverick Carter: Yeah, I think it's not about being able to do whatever we want to do. It's about, again, going back to when you talked about, you asked me about when you really go from athletes to being more than an athlete. And shifting and changing. It's just intention.
Maverick Carter: If you have good intentions, the right intentions, rational intentions with the feeling of the sky is the limit, with what I want to do, my ambition, then when you have those big ambitions and you match it with great intention, also with ability, then you absolutely have a shot to achieve everything that you've ever dreamed up.
Maverick Carter: Sports ownership was and is still a part of LeBron's plans. He's going to buy an NBA team when he's done playing but along the way, because we had intentions and ambition... Because we had ambition in owning sports and our intention was that, and then we had the ability and the opportunity presented in front of us, we absolutely took advantage of it because we were prepared for it. I think that that idea of intention, ambition with intention, intention and ability are key.
Michael Redd: A great mentor of mine says to me all the time, execution, execution execution.
Maverick Carter: For sure.
Michael Redd: And you're spot on with that, man. Let me ask you this question about success. What's your perspective, at 39 going on 40, what's your perspective of success nowadays?
Maverick Carter: Success. What's my perspective? My POV on success is when you really match, as you just talked about execution, when you match great ideas with great execution, that's true success to me. And that's when you develop or create the most amazing things, when you absolutely have an ambitious idea and match it with tenacious execution. That's true success to me in whatever field or category you are.
Michael Redd: Love it. What's next for you? And what's the next five years, three years, what's next for you?
Maverick Carter: What's next? I have to continue, to your point, we had a audacious idea, the ambition to build the Disney for culture through the lens of empowerment. Now we have to continue to execute and that's a every day, every minute, every second job. I got to continue to do that, over the next five years, really try and achieve that ambition. And the only way to do it is to execute. Not going to be easy, it's not easy at all, but that's what I want to do over the next five years and really build this company.
Michael Redd: What's your advice to athletes, in particular who want to transition, who could gleam from you on the team, what's your advice to them?
Maverick Carter: My advice to them is always, you can't make... The key thing, and it's always hard for athletes is, not making these short-term decisions as it relates to deal making, as it relates to life, as it relates to business, as it relates to what you want to do.
Maverick Carter: It's easy to look up and see Michael Strahan because he's killing it now, but that took a while. He was intentional and ambition and was thoughtful and put a plan together that took some time. He was thinking long-term and thinking about that long before he was done. I think that idea of really thinking long-term is key, that it's not always easy for athletes to think because the athletes are so young And they're also kind of trained to deliver and get paid. Play a sport, average 25 this season, they pay you. If you catch 95 catches, you get paid. If you show up and do a commercial, you get paid.
Maverick Carter: It's always this idea of show up for whatever I do, I get paid and the long-term business, it doesn't necessarily work like that. At my company, I got to go to work every day, now I get paid a salary, but the best thing I can do for myself economically is build the enterprise value of my company. And that may take 10 years, it may take 15 years, who knows how long it's going to take, but I go to work every day, working to build the value of my company and to do that comes with making it a place that people love to work at, people want to be a part of, people respect, know, love what we make. That takes time. Really thinking long term, which is not always the easy thing for athletes.
Michael Redd: If you had any advice for your 16 year old self, what would you tell yourself?
Maverick Carter: At 16? That's a long time ago.
Michael Redd: Oh, I know I'm 41. I'm right ahead of you.
Maverick Carter: I thought you were going to 25 or something. 16, I would tell myself that it's going to be a long life and also made sure I told myself that every person you meet, who is successful at something, whether it's basketball, a doctor, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, ask them as many questions as you can about their successes, because that's how you learn as much information as possible.
Michael Redd: Incredible advice, my brother.
Maverick Carter: Thank you.
Michael Redd: It's been an absolute pleasure. As you heard, Maverick is not only a hooper, but he's a business savant. He's a thinker. And that has bode well, man, for you and your team, man. Listen, I appreciate you brother. It's been an honor having you on the cast, man.
Maverick Carter: Thank you so much, man. I appreciate you having me, Mike.
Michael Redd: Absolutely brother.
Maverick Carter: All right. Take care, man. Appreciate it.
Michael Redd: As the title of this episode states, Maverick is a master of branding, product development and digital entertainment. He has much to teach about business, creativity and life, and still has decades to make his mark in the marketplace. I can't wait to see what he does next.
Michael Redd: Thank you so much for coming on the show, Mav. You can follow Maverick on Twitter, @mavcarter. Thanks for listening. And until next time I'm Michael Redd and remember betting on yourself is the secret to your success.
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