Peter Feigin, President of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and formerly Vice President of Marketing for the New York Knicks and Director of Marketing at Six Flags, joins me on the podcast today.
We discussed his incredible career accomplishments at major brands, his rise from recruiter to President, handing out parking tickets in the Bucks lot, working for social justice in the epicenter of the global movement, and his unique leadership style.
“I played soccer and basketball, not overly blessed with athleticism. But you would say I kind of got to play through high school college with just grit and will and really like persistence and relentlessness. And I think the only thing anybody can control is their own effort and kind of their own dreams and where they want to go.” – Peter Feigin
Peter is a serious businessman and an hilarious friend. His is a story of grit, will, and great humor. If you need a shot of good inspiration (and a good laugh), listen to this episode! I guarantee you’ll find motivation and guidance from this remarkable man.
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In this episode Michael and Peter talked about:
- What betting on yourself means to him
- His path to the Milwaukee Bucks
- His “get it done” attitude
- Why no is never the final answer
- The embrace of the city of Milwaukee
- His unending love of gear
- His mentor relationship with Bucks players
- Operating in the Pandemic year
- His part in the social justice movement
- The importance of simple will and grit
- The advice he’d give his 16-year-old self
- And much more!
Peter Feigin: They made it really simple. They're like, "Peter, don't double think anything. Make this the best operation, the best facilities and the best place to be because we're going to go compete with everybody to win a championship and nobody's going to question how great Milwaukee is." And that's what we try to do. The facilities part was easy. The people part is always tough. So, we continue to want to make this a place where players are like, "Shit, I've never been treated like this."
Michael Red: Hey, everybody, this is Michael Red 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. Today I'm talking with Peter Feigin, President of the MBA's Milwaukee Bucks and formerly Vice-President of Marketing for the New York Knicks, and Director of Marketing at Six Flags.
Michael Red: In this episode, we talk about Peter's incredible career accomplishments at major brands. His rise from recruiter's president, handing out parking tickets in the Buck's lot, working for social justice in the epicenter of the global movement, and his unique leadership style. Peter is a serious businessman and a hilarious friend. His is a story of grit, will, and great humor. If you need a shot at good inspiration and a good laugh, listen to this episode. I guarantee you'll find motivation and guidance from this remarkable man. Here's my conversation with Peter Feigin.
Michael Red: Peter, Peter Feigin. I'm just honored and grateful that you took the time to be on the cast today, man.
Peter Feigin: Well, Mr. Red, it's kind of for naught, I'd do anything for you, so this is an easy period of time. This is probably the best hour of the week.
Michael Red: I just, I got to start the podcast off with, before we get into our history, someone just texted me and wanted me to ask you this question. I heard or to make the statement, are you the employee of the month?
Peter Feigin: That's an interesting statement. That is an interesting statement. That can only come from one or two people in the entire organization. Either it came from Khris Middleton or Jack [crosstalk 00:02:21].
Michael Red: I got my sources. You know I got my sources.
Peter Feigin: Khris Middleton, as you can imagine, nobody understands that players have been having to get COVID tested twice a day and you got to come into our training center and we have parking spaces. And Khris parks in a handicap space, because five minutes he's in. So I've been ticketing him with $5,000 tickets, $50,000 tickets with little notes. I've been telling him. So, of course, he's just had enough. So, I might have caught myself parking in that situation a couple of times as well and he's starting to document it, that I was a hypocrite. And claimed, so before I did it again, I changed the two spots by the testing place to instead of handicap, they now say "Employee of the Month" right on the floor. So, that was my one get back to kind of surprise him because I think there were a few spies that were taking pictures of every time I parked in that spot for a second.
Michael Red: So, I did some research and so, the sources got back to me. The one thing about you that I've seen over the years is that you keep the culture in a funny mood, right? There's always joking, a lot of joking and the team, the organization from what I've heard and know of you is that they really, really, really appreciate your leadership within the organization. You and I go back since you came back to the Bucks or since you came to the Bucks and you guys have been incredible to me over the years since you've been in a position in Milwaukee and really grateful of our friendship over the years and how the organization has welcomed me back to the organization.
Peter Feigin: Well, I think, like you talked about the opportunity for a great historic organization like this to embrace a former Olympian, it's all-star, like a person who's current in the game and really is an asset. How we build our brand and how we build our awareness and likability around that, it's just kind of one of those no-brainers, too. Why wouldn't you embrace Michael Red to really be a reflection of our franchise in such a great way because it's kind of what the great teams and brands do around the world is we've got this unbelievable legacy, which, you're a part of.
Peter Feigin: And how we almost flaunt it in a good way and it's kind of easy. It's definitely not brain surgery. It's like how do we, between us, like as you know. How do we talk beyond just coming to Milwaukee, but how do we do business together? How do we work together? How do we affect the community together? Those are all things that are kind of seemed simple, but not done all the time.
Michael Red: Well, I love you back. And I love your brother. And we'll get into the twin in a little bit. So, for all the listeners, I played in Milwaukee for 11 years over a decade and had an incredible time there. And Peter, now is the President of the Milwaukee Bucks and has done an incredible job over the years with the Bucks since he's landed in Milwaukee.
Michael Red: The podcast, as you know, is all about betting on yourself and talk about what that means to you, Peter, like betting on yourself. And you've done this a number of times throughout your career and your life. What has it meant to you to bet on yourself?
Peter Feigin: Yeah, I think it's like I take everything from athletics. And I obviously was kind of like I call myself the Division 3 dream. I played soccer and basketball, not overly blessed with athleticism. But kind of like would say I kind of got to play through high school college with just grit and will and really like persistence and relentlessness. And I think the only thing anybody can control is their own effort and kind of their own dreams and where they want to go.
Peter Feigin: And I think I kind of have this delusion that there's nothing that I can be a part of, that we can't accomplish. There's got to be solutions. There's got to be ways to get there. You got to think about what the objective is, but I truly do believe, just no is not an answer if you surround yourself with smart people. Kind of on a team, if you surround yourself with great players, you can figure out a way to win. And that's kind of the way I think about everything. So, it's a little bit kind of nuts and delusional to go through thinking like you can kind of accomplish or solve or get anything done, but it's kind of the way I've kind of attacked life in a big way.
Michael Red: Is there a pivotal moment that you can think of, even as a teenager or as a young kid, that you'd bet on yourself in a major, major way?
Peter Feigin: Yeah, I think I moved, I graduated from college and had a job, had an opportunity for a job that was kind of nuts. The first kind of fully owned African American sports agency, whose main client was Arthur Ashe. And I knew who Arthur Ashe was, but I wasn't a big tennis guy and my job was basically being Arthur Ashe's right hand person through. And I don't know how many people know this, towards the end of his life, he really kind of did exhibitions, talks, and meetings literally until the day he almost died and traveled the country and the world as really kind of an incredible role model with an incredible story.
Peter Feigin: And for a year of that, I kind of dropped everything and just kind of toured the country with an organized schedule, kind of understood the revenue part of it, kind of do. But it was one of these kind of diversion life lessons that you don't know where life takes you and just take total opportunity for it. And it was kind of an incredible moment. And that, small short less than a year instance kind of just opened my eyes to like, "Oh, my God. The world is incredible. It's got so many other opportunities I never would have thought of ever." And it's kind of as an adult got me to a place where I desperately want our youth to get exposed to things they wouldn't normally get exposed to because that's how they learn what's out there.
Michael Red: Were you always a risk taker or was that cultivated in your household or where did that risk taking ability come from?
Peter Feigin: Yeah, I don't know if it's still risk. I mean, now that I worked for three owners that are kind of in finance and private equity and guys who take real big bets and everything, I don't know if I was so much of a risk taker as I was kind of attention deficit and impulsive. I just wanted to get it done and kind of move the needle and kind of. "Why would we wait till tomorrow when we can get it done today?" So, I'm, as you know, extremely excitable and just want to kind of attack it and love the challenge.
Michael Red: I don't think there's anybody better. Maybe I'm biased, but knowing you and seeing what you've done with the Bucks. I got to talk about the journey to the Bucks though. And I know you had a background in marketing and you worked with the Knicks at certain points in your career. Now just, we've talked about your background. Talk about the journey to the Bucks and how did that happen and then why Milwaukee?
Peter Feigin: So, I mean, this is talk about, "You never know what's going to happen and where." I have an identical twin brother who's the headmaster of a school in New York City, that all of Wes Edens' and Marc Lasry's kids went to, who were two owners of the Bucks. And maybe 15 years ago, when I was working in Madison Square Garden, my brother was in a parent conference with Mark Lasry and Mark might have mentioned that he wants to look at some teams. And my brother said, "Oh, my God. If you're going to go look at teams, grab my brother. He's not the smartest guy in the world, but he'll certainly know the business and he'll help you out beyond your hedge fund guys and your data guys."
Peter Feigin: And make a long story short, I went with him, I think, the first trip was to Philadelphia and we looked at the Sixers and then we looked at probably 10 other teams over the next decade. And it was a fantasy. I don't know, being able to be a business person and kind of get away from your day job and go into a data room of a pro team seemed just the greatest thing I'd ever experienced. And I didn't need to get paid. I didn't need to do anything. It was kind of like take a weekend and moonlight into a fun job.
Peter Feigin: Well, long story short, like, six years ago, he calls me and he says, "Hey, can you get to Milwaukee to go meet with Senator Kohl. We've gotten through conversations. And I think he's going to sell the team. It would be great if you represented me and kind of went down there and looked at the business for a second." And 24 hours later, I think I called them from the Pfister Hotel and said like, "Oh, yeah. He's going to sell the team. He loved you guys and what the conversation is."
Peter Feigin: And I'm digging into the business, and I had no desire to run it or to move to Milwaukee. But in a short period of time, the prospect and the opportunity of just not running a team, but kind of building a city and the real estate and the expansion and kind of where Milwaukee was as a city and kind of an inflection point was just kind of one of these miracle situations. So, the end of the story is I was responsible to hire CEO, so I got two or three candidates I knew Mark and Wes would hate and they couldn't hire them because they didn't like something about them. And they were kind of stuck at the last minute deep in the summer. Crazy story of how things happened.
Michael Red: So, the Recruiter became the President basically?
Peter Feigin: That's right. That's right. What you do is you submarine the entire process into yourself
Michael Red: And this was a decade long process, Peter?
Peter Feigin: I think building the relationship with Mark, probably through looking at other purchase opportunities and kind of talking through it. And then kind of understanding that he knew I was kind of keen on the operation side and understood a team and an organization's P&L for a good way. And at the core, I've always been a sales and marketing guy. So, for people who run businesses, to have an operator who's really geared up and wants to drive revenue is kind of like a positive thing, especially for Mark and Wes.
Michael Red: Talk about the process of redeveloping downtown and one who's so in love with Milwaukee and it's like a second home to me, living there for so many years. I took great pride in seeing the development of downtown and what you guys were doing with the city. Talk about that process.
Peter Feigin: Yeah. Kind of surreal. We got here and kind of the first job was to look for a site and the second job was to really get public backing to build an arena, to demolish the Bradley Center and build a new arena, which were monumental big things to happen. And then I think the most incredible thing, which I can't see happening in a major metropolitan area again, is we were able to acquire 30 acres of contiguous land. So, then you start thinking about really building a district in a small city within a city. And one of the incredible things that Milwaukee did not have was kind of a meeting place. There's no living room, there's no central square, there's no big public park kind of in the middle of the city
Peter Feigin: So, we saw this as the opportunity of, "Oh my goodness. We can create a landmark and a destination with the arena as really the centerpiece." And really build sports entertainment and residential and commercial around it and really have an urban development company that is fueled by the strength of a brand of an NBA team. And lo and behold, kind of five, six years later, we've kind of accelerated it. We've developed about 75% of it and people are living here, working here, and playing. I think COVID, like everything, slowed us up for about a year, but we're back on it. We're going to develop some residential and we'll hopefully have a great commercial tenant and we continue to build. And this is how cities evolve. How do we become attractive and bring more companies here and bring more empty nesters and college graduates and make this a really attractive place to live.
Michael Red: It's becoming that and has become that. The one thing that's been impressive for me, being a part of the family, is seeing how you all embrace the city. I mean, from the local barber shops to the local business leaders, to having owners that are from Wisconsin. There was a collective effort on you guys to really, really embrace the city. Talk about that.
Peter Feigin: Yeah. I think that was a necessity. Because, I mean, you lived here for 11 years and I guarantee you, as great as everybody was, they still thought of you as a Columbus, Ohio guy. It's hard to build trust here and it's provincial. And people like Wisconsinites are close to imagine a fast-talking New Yorker coming in and kind of standing on the soapbox promising the world and kind of great change and a great building. That the only option we really had was to build grassroots and build relationships and take time across the entire community. The good news is it's pretty small shop. This is a small town, even though it's a big city. Everybody knows everybody. You had to kind of build the equity by saying what you're going to do and then doing it.
Peter Feigin: It was, I don't know a better way to say it other than, grassroots. I mean, I probably publicly spoke for the first time in my life 100 times in the first 200 days to everybody from Lions Clubs to the barber shop, to the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts to kind of preach how big a deal it is for city this size to have and keep an NBA team. How big a deal it is to renovate downtown, and how big we can become and what a billboard the Milwaukee Bucks should be for Wisconsin around the world. I mean, that's like, I mean, literally over and over and over again, relentlessly, the whole team to get it done. So it was kind of building rapport and trust was the only way to kind of get this done.
Michael Red: The facilities, everything that you guys have done so far is remarkable. My favorite part of coming to Milwaukee is going into your stash of gear and getting the hoodies and the gear. I know you love gear more than anybody.
Peter Feigin: I mean, my mouth just watered. I mean, if I didn't have real responsibilities of a family and a wife, who actually says we need to live somewhere and stuff, I could get paid in gear. My fantasy, I had two fantasies growing up. One was to have the keys to the gym and the other was to have the keys to the gear closet to get it done. So, I can't be too vocal, because if the owners knew how valuable it was that, I conceptually run a retail operation with thousands of pieces of apparel.
Peter Feigin: I mean, I'll tell you an interesting story. So, Giannis and I have an interesting relationship and sometimes I need him, sometimes he needs me. So, he's at the All-Star game and I literally said, "It's too bad we're not on Zoom," because I'm holding these. I literally said, "Hey, Giannis, do me a favor. Don't talk to me, don't text me, don't come back unless you give me a pair of All-Star socks. I need socks and I know we're not making them. These are special socks, so you bring me back a pair of socks. I don't care where you take them from, then we're on a good path." And Giannis knows whether we're talking about a big deal, whether we're talking about marketing, he knows those socks like he's good with, he owns me for a month now, he owns me.
Michael Red: Giannis Antetokounmpo and that team is so special to watch. I'm so proud for his development. I've known him from a rookie to where he is now and Khris obviously. When Khris was a rookie, I said, "Do you know whose jersey you wearing?" And he said, "Yes, sir. I do." I said, "Man, make sure you represent." And he has represented at the highest level. I'm so proud of him and the team and the roster. You serve as like a mentor to them as well. Talk about that relationship that you have with the players.
Peter Feigin: I think we have a good structure with Jon Horst, who's really our GM and kind of really runs the basketball day-to-day. And I think my job is kind of the overall business and operations to go is a rapport with them that again, in the best case I always think an NBA player, this is a human business. Mike, you get it because you lived it. Very little sympathy or empathy for pro athletes because of what they get paid. But this is literally a business based on humans and psychology and emotion and how we feel every day.
Peter Feigin: So, my job is pretty simple, like how do I build the trust with them? Let them know they're part of the family. We are one big family. We're not an organization that splits up into silos of business or basketball. We have resources, we back them up, whatever you need, it's part of it. And again, it's kind of the relationship. We screw around a hell of a lot, but let me tell you, if one of our guys was in trouble, if we need to circle the wagons, if they need advice on evaluating something they're doing, they know that it's extremely objective, it's immediate, and that's what we do here. We built an infrastructure, to our owners' credit on, they made it really simple.
Peter Feigin: They're like, "Peter, don't double think anything. Make this the best operation, the best facilities and the best place to be, because we're going to go compete with everybody to win a championship. And nobody's going to question how great Milwaukee is." And that's what we try to do. The facilities part was easy. The people part is always tough. So, we continue to want to make this a place where players are like, "Shit, I've never been treated like this."
Michael Red: Wow.
Peter Feigin: This is where I want to be. By the way, I've got access to the Team President, the GM, everybody is all around just to resource and help.
Michael Red: It's been wonderful to watch. And I've got to get Mark and Wes on the cast along with Jon. I've known Jon for, I don't know, 13, 14 years, and to see what he's done with the team as the general manager has been really impressive. Proud of him and all the success.
Michael Red: The family, I know, that's big for you in that culture and what you try to create as a culture is family. And the family went into the most unique times that we've ever seen in our lifetime a year ago. Talk about all the nuances and the dynamics and the pressure was to lead through COVID. And we'll get to social injustice in a bit. But talk about that dynamic leading through that.
Peter Feigin: Yeah. So, I don't think uncommon to probably everybody and certainly every leader, everybody who has a real responsibility, the last 12 months were like nothing we could have ever imagined, we could have ever thought about and really reacted to. So, how do you navigate the ship through waters you've never been through before? And that's kind of like you do it with great people around you. And you do it, for us, kind of my job was to be that rock and support and think about if you told me that 50% of my time would be spent on making sure everybody is okay. That everybody understands their benefits for their health insurance, that we're getting psychological health, that we're feeding people in the community, that we are on top of not just marching for social justice, but that we're dealing with, police reform, that we're resourcing our players.
Peter Feigin: That this was a year you couldn't even imagine. And I think of it, Michael, to answer the second part, it's like we thought we were woke. We thought we were a progressive, pretty forward thinking organization. And I think what happened in this year, in so many ways, was a great splash of ice water thinking like, "Boy, we got a long way to go." We got to like we want to use our platform to affect change and change the world. And we thought we were in a place and we're nowhere close to how good we can be or how we can use this NBA platform and our players and our organization to help change the community, to help change our performance as a team, and to be better citizens. So, this had been a surreal year and tough as a leader because it's exhausting.
Michael Red: And then with all that going on around you, I mean, navigating the waters from a business standpoint. Talk about that as far as the league and the individual teams.
Peter Feigin: Yeah. Well, a year ago, yesterday, we went to zero. So, people talk about business, it wasn't a slow beat. We stopped operating. So, we stopped having basketball games and we stopped having concerts and we stopped. We closed our restaurants down. And you immediately go into, "What does this look like? How could it be?" Nobody ever thought it would be a year shutdown, but our owners are kind of incredible people, who want to see a plan, who want to see a recommendation and want to go forward. So, it's really about cost containment and preservation of jobs. How could we keep everybody afloat as long as we possibly could? How could we reduce our costs immediately knowing that we weren't operating? And what sort of plan could we have when there was some sort of light at the end of the tunnel to kind of ramp back up in a big way.
Peter Feigin: So, that was and sort of weird comfort in that everybody in the world was going through it. But, boy, you talk about how you go to sleep like the night, a night in March, in the middle of March last year thinking like, "Oh, my God. There's no business." And that's before you're worried about what a health scare is. Because I don't think we're really worried about kind of like we would think half a million people are going to die, that what would happen to hospitals and ICUs and things like that. This was just the very beginning, the first thought was, "Oh, boy. We don't have a business, not sure when we will have a business. How are we going to attack this?"
Michael Red: So, the league, obviously, is halted with COVID and then in the middle of all of that, you have the George Floyd issue. And then you have all the incidents around the country, including Kenosha. And I believe in my heart that the Bucks were real leaders in that moment. And obviously, you have dealt with a little bit of this with Sterling Brown a couple years ago, so you guys happened to prepare for this a little bit. But talk about that nuance and being in leaders on the social injustice play.
Peter Feigin: Yeah, I think it's part of the culture and kind of down from ownership, like you're going to stand for something or you're going to stand for nothing. It was important for us for our players, for our organization, for the city to stand up. And because Blake was in our backyard, like literally in Kenosha, which as you know is so close, it became personal. And it became one of the greatest things ever. It's like how it affected the players because that almost helped accelerate the importance of it.
Peter Feigin: And then, one of the more proud moments in pro sports, we lead a boycott to a game, that becomes really a pause for the entire world. Literally the world, like across European soccer, across everything, for people to at least stop and think. And the Milwaukee Bucks players were the catalyst for that to happen in a big way. And I think it was like a checkpoint for us certainly, but for the whole country on like, "Boy, this is one of those inflection points that we've got to make matter in a big way." And we sat down as organization with the players, with the owners, with the executives and just said like, "Oh, we're going to double down." We're not only going to be public, we're going to privately help kind of move the cause and funding. We're going to have systematic plans that last years instead of events or days or months, and we're going to, we're committed."
Peter Feigin: So, it was kind of crazy. It was, like you couldn't even, if you had a thousand scenarios, of what the last year could be for the Milwaukee Bucks and what you're kind of thinking about and dealing with, it's just been a pretty incredible ride and ton of emotion. And I really do think like so powerful and so great, because it really accelerated the chipping away of this systematic racism, if nothing else, brought it to the forefront and the top of discussion in mind.
Michael Red: I know the whole organization showed a ton of grit from ownership to yourself, to management and players, even losing the Democratic National Convention last year. But yet, still being leaders with more than a vote movement, just amazing, amazing. And from your perspective, how was the bubble? How exhausting was the bubble?
Peter Feigin: Yeah, so those are two great questions. So first of all, the bubble was kind of like so exciting, surreal, and awesome. I volunteered/got myself pushed into the reset committee of the bubble committee on the NBA to do something that's never been done before. Right? How do you create a hermetically sealed bubble for people to compete in on a campus and all the thousands of touch points, people, logistics and everything? So, just being a part of that, I mean, I know it sounds crazy. It was like kind of so much fun and learning so much and kind of being on teams with really diverse people all around the league and around different teams. So, that part of it was awesome.
Peter Feigin: I think nobody could have imagined what that does to you on a personal psychological emotional level. It just kind of really trying. I mean, the fact that players had just had it is no surprise. It is a really tough existence. Even though you're at the World of Disney, even Disney after about 10 days, you're ready to get out of Disney no matter where you are.
Michael Red: The mental health and wellness of the players, right? Talk about that nuance because like you were saying, from the outside in, you could say all the players have it made. They all had the space, they're at Disney, they have all the amenities. But I'm sure [inaudible 00:30:10] the players in that process.
Peter Feigin: No. The players, nobody has the awareness that, most of our players are between 20 and 30 years old and it's like for the rest of the world, it's like the most developmental time. So, these guys are thrown into a world where they're responsible for everything, they assume they know everything, and what their experience is. And you know what their experience is? Their experience is basketball. They have been through a system, if nothing else, highly competitive basketball for the last 12, 14 years, including kind of being shelled up in college, and what the pros are. So, you take away every form of a 20- to 30-year-old's life outside of basketball, you take away their family in a big way and by the way, then you isolate them, in basically like a stay at home kind of mode in the middle of a pandemic and really like social justice, kind of uprising while they're locked into a bubble.
Peter Feigin: And you create this really confusing, frustrating, challenging environment that, Mike, when you were playing, maybe you had a few performance psychologist. You talk about how do people help you think through clutch times. That was out the door. You got into really like, "How do we create resources for people to just talk about how they're feeling, about how they vent, about how do they get support for their lives?" Not like how to just excel in basketball. So, whole different world kind of came around with COVID.
Michael Red: I'm a big believer that the healthier the person, the healthier the product, healthier the business. You're exactly right. And kudos to you guys for being cognizant of that. These guys are human beings. People will ask me all the time like, "How would you respond these times, Mike, as a player?" I'm like, "I don't know. I can't even imagine what these guys are going through."
Michael Red: And so, through all of the minutiae and all of 2020 and now going into the new season, which we're in now, managing to still focus the organization on winning the championship. Talk about that.
Peter Feigin: Yeah, I think it's kind of where is the balance? Right? The whole world is on that balance, so part of what we haven't really talked about much is our culture here. So, I think for myself to Coach Bud, to Jon, we all kind of are on the same page of preaching like, "This is a performance culture." Everybody knows you are going to work your butt off if you work here. You're certainly allowed to have fun, because we have fun. Like the Kees, you're going to hopefully be doing something you love with people you love and working your butt off, but there are expectations. And our expectations are to consistently improve and grow as a business and consistently improve on the court and vie for a championship.
Peter Feigin: And you've got to put with everything going on in the world, there's got to be that balance of like, "Hey, there are priorities." Sometimes there's a house on fire and you got to focus on putting out that fire, no question. But you got to remember, there's the rest of the neighborhood and we've got to continue to focus on the task at hand. And the task at hand here is like the more successful we are on the court, the more successful we are on the business, the more opportunity we will have to do other things.
Peter Feigin: So I think we have that balance. And I think the balance is really, really tough because you know what an NBA season is. I mean, nobody understands like players have a handful of days off the entire season. Players, for 50 nights a year, land at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning to get home and kind of do what the time balance is. It's there is no time balance, so it's kind of surreal. So, it really is kind of like all of us working together to figure out what the balance is. There's no right equation. It keeps on changing, but we've got to be able to pivot and understand when we're out of balance.
Michael Red: You talked about Coach Bud and the whole team organization, which I think Coach Bud has done a terrific job thus far. And also, obviously some additions with Jrue Holiday and other great players we have this year. I love our chances this year, sincerely.
Michael Red: One thing that impresses me about our organization is how diverse it is. Talk about the importance of having diversity in the front office particularly.
Peter Feigin: Yeah. Well, I think again, it kind of goes back to we thought we were this awakened organization because our percentages looked good. You know what I mean? I think we had like, "Oh, we had decent amount of African Americans. Here's your Asian Americans. Here's your Hispanics." And we skewed higher than most NBA teams. And then we kind of sat there until like, "Oh, my God." This kind of like, "Why are we looking at other people's metrics? We should put our own definitions and we should continue to improve." And a diverse community gives us diverse thought, gives us better outcomes. How do we change the model, and really put new metrics out there, for us to get it?
Peter Feigin: And I think, even when we looked at ourselves we're completely diverse, but we weren't anywhere near where we should have been on the leadership side of being a diverse leadership. So, how do we figure out and reorganize on the senior leadership pattern. So, for us, it goes back to constantly being really honest and forthright about where you are and how you can improve. And we come from a city that's the urban city is 40% African American and probably 20% Hispanic, right? Why shouldn't we resemble the city we work and live in, instead of kind of what national things are?
Peter Feigin: I mean, just different ways, we started to think about doing this. The NBA is 80% of the players are African American, in such a big way. What are the balances of management, of coaching of anything else? And if nothing else, like we kind of, I always answer everything pretty simply. Anybody who wants to joust with me or do anything, I was like, "Well, just tell me where you're against the equality. So, if you're against equality, then we probably never will understand or get along or agree with each other." But for us, it's kind of like, "How do we make an equal playing field? How do we make this more than equal?" And that's tough, too. That's what and that's ongoing. That's not a "here we got to the finish line." I think that's something that you work with every day.
Michael Red: I don't know if that's the responsibility of the organization to have that permeate throughout the city, but have you seen a shift in Milwaukee, even when it comes to people coming together from different races and different creeds? And have you seen that shift a little bit in the city since Milwaukee is kind of spearheading that, the Bucks?
Peter Feigin: Not as much as you'd like to see. And I think we find it like it's a responsibility where we can set the example and we can innovate and then we can shout it from the mountaintops. We can expose it as like, "Here, we're the example in Milwaukee." Really surprised the 15 largest companies aren't following our lead and kind of like, "Where are they?" So, we see this great opportunity to lead by example and then to almost market and promote it as this should be more the norm than not the norm in a big way. But it's also, listen like I wish, I have patience for nothing, and I think what I'm learning and trying to get a grip of is like how do we chip away over every issue of social justice. Whether it's police reform, whether it's incarceration, whether it's education, whether it's food desert.
Peter Feigin: These are all massive, huge, systematic problems for generations that we've got to chip away from every day. And there is no magic wand that kind of changes this in six months. So that that's been kind of part of my learning is like, "How do we create a system that we're in a much better place six months from now and a much better place 12 months and a much better place three years from now that we've shown change in metrics and results and everything like that.
Michael Red: After knowing you for the last six years, personally, two qualities stand out: Extremely funny and extremely generous. And so, talk about that and your leadership style, generosity and how important it is to give back.
Peter Feigin: Yeah. I don't know how to talk about that other than like my dad was like my hero and he was selfless and kind of quietly just did anything for anybody and kind of was like that's how I had value for him. And I'm not that much of a spiritual person, but I feel like I have been blessed/lucky 10 times more than I ever thought I'd be in my whole life. I talk about it all the time with my wife, with my brother, with everything. "Can you imagine? Holy cow pinch me because this is so awesome where it is."
Peter Feigin: And I think it's all how you how you go at it. If you've been that lucky and you've been that blessed then you've got to share. It's kind of like the joy of, like I said, I was a rough athlete compared to the Olympian and All-Star I'm talking to. But the best way to talk about is like I'd rather throw the pass than hit the shot. If my guys in high school or college gave me the finger as the point back on the assists from a backdoor or something, I think I got more of a thrill out of that than I got out of scoring points.
Michael Red: Wow. Well, that's you. And I know how much you love your brother and your family, your wife, your kids. Talk about that balance between what you do with Milwaukee and obviously, with your family, right? Because there's a lot of founders and entrepreneurs that listen to this as well and managing that dynamic with their family.
Peter Feigin: Listen. If you have a partner in life, they'd better be a teammate. They better know you, they better get you. My wife and I have known each other since high school. Unfortunately, I probably haven't changed mentally or emotionally since we met, but she's my teammate. She is like, "We're in this together." She couldn't be more supporting from everything. She's a teacher. I'll talk with her about her students and kind of support her while she's correcting her papers. It's the same way she'll listen through what I'm going through. It is so important that kind of at least in our infrastructure. I've got two brothers, my mom, my other family member. It's like it really is part of your life.
Peter Feigin: I'm not a good example of life balance, because I kind of blend them in such a big way that my kids, my brothers, my mother, my wife, they're all a part of it. And they all live kind of the job we all live kind of each other's lives. So I'm never a great example of where the balance is and what the cut off is in everything because it's all one big puzzle to me.
Michael Red: If you had to go back to your 16-year-old self, what advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Peter Feigin: Just, just listen, just listen. Just try to be quiet. Just shut up for 15 seconds. Let that person speak. I think if I had kind of the listening skills that I still need to get better at, I would be better at kind of understanding. And more importantly, kind of like building such a strong infrastructure with other people. I had this tendency, which I still do, to get so excited and loud. And like, "Hey, you got to hear my idea," or something. And I think with time, you certainly kind of can take that. But boy, if I could have mastered that a little bit earlier that that'd be one of the things I would do. It's like how do I hold my impulsive self to shut the hell up.
Michael Red: That's great advice. Going back into the past is something I wanted to ask you about. But now, going into the future, obviously in the present now, we got fans at the games now, which I know is massive for the organization. The future for the Bucks, championship, championship, championship, and obviously getting fans back at the games. Talk about that, Peter.
Peter Feigin: Yeah, I think number one, it's restarting the business. It's truly like a restart. Even though we just opened up a building two years ago, you're starting in a place where we're going to have some attrition and lose some fans and have to build equity back up and get back to basics of like building ticket sales, building everything else. That's like, that's today's kind of like, "What are we focused on?"
Peter Feigin: And then I think, the bigger picture is we really have to accelerate becoming the world's team. Our expectation is to win a championship. We've got one of the global sports stars in the world. He's bigger, Giannis is even outside of the country than he is inside of it. That automatically and having him sign for the next five years, that gives you this springboard that we think. There's no way that the reverence, the likeability and kind of the coolness of the Milwaukee can't be a team and a city that the whole world cheers for in such a big way.
Peter Feigin: And how do you rethink your strategies for retail? How do you rethink it for broadcast, for social, for everything to really appeal to the world in a whole different way? We're talking about localizing all of our social, so in every language you can imagine to absorb it from us, so we can tell the story. That sounds like a little piece, but that's a big piece in the world. We're talking about taking global influencers from F1 drivers to surfers, to everybody else. And kind of like who are intrinsically becoming Buck stars and having them be our influencers around the world and thinking about global campaign.
Peter Feigin: So, I think that the sky is the limit in how we take this unbelievable success and what we think could be a championship and get ready just for exponential growth. That's the way we think about it.
Michael Red: That's exciting, man. You sound super excited about the future. I'm so honored, man, to have you on the podcast. Obviously, your assistant help set this up. Shout out to Sarah, who is I think one of the best assistants out there. She's terrific and just the whole organization and I'm honored to be a part of the family, man. So, thank you for being on the cast today.
Peter Feigin: Michael, like I said, anytime, anywhere.
Michael Red: Peter Feigin. He said it. This is a human business. And that is one of the best ways to summarize Peter's spirit. He loves people and he'll go nearly to any length to support, develop and back the people he works with. You're a true friend, Peter, at least until you drop the parking ticket on me. Thank you for coming on the show. You can follow Peter on Twitter at PFeigin. Thanks for listening. And until next time, I'm Michael Red. And remember, betting on yourself is the secret to your success.
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