7N agents & basketball scouts: the similarities

Learn how 7N agents build long-lasting relationships with IT professionals and help them maximize their success as freelance consultants.

03/08/2023 Jakub Konieczny, Consultancy Manager at 7N

What can you expect to learn from this article?

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    how IT professionals benefit from working closely with dedicated 7N agents

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    what it takes to be a trusted agent representing freelance consultants

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    how a dedication to excel in the agent role is reflected in the 7N NPS score

I recently had the opportunity to watch a movie titled “Hustle”, depicting the story of Stanley Sugarman, a basketball scout who, thanks to his distinctive character traits and the right attitude, finds an exceptionally talented player, and then helps him reach the top, taking him from the street basketball court to the floor of the NBA league. The movie amazed me on many levels. Firstly, its makers created an opportunity for Adam Sandler, hitherto known for his vivid comedy roles, to break out of his timeless image, which he perfectly exploited. Secondly, I found many parallels between the main character and a 7N agent role.

I particularly mean our responsibility for finding the best talent on the market and the level of our commitment to taking care of them at all stages of the cooperation. In my opinion, Sandler has managed to create a truly inspiring character – a uniquely committed agent who stands out from the crowd and thinks outside the box. As I watched the movie, I repeatedly had a thought that I was witnessing an astonishing demo lesson on what it meant to be an exceptional agent and what outcomes you could get from properly treating an uncut diamond. At the same time, I had a feeling that many elements from the demonstrated way of thinking and acting also help us, i.e.7N agents, in our daily work with our consultants.

I would dare to hypothesize that the “human factor” is so important to us that our relationship with consultants becomes much deeper and long-lasting than in the common “contractor-account manager” model familiar to the market. When it comes to 7N consultant candidates, we pay special attention to spotting and then helping unleash the potential of exceptional individuals. We strive to get to know and understand their needs, effectively narrowing the distance between us.

The results of extensive effort put into selecting the best candidates and caring for them are strong relationships based on trust, in many cases lasting many years, which, given market standards, is a rare situation, sometimes completely unheard of in companies providing similar services.

Consequently, we are succeeding in building a community of people who strongly identify with the 7N brand and appreciate our simple but noble company values – “respect, professionalism, servant mindset.” The final beneficiaries are also our clients, who can count on the efficient implementation of projects by engaging exceptional specialists.

In the past, I found it quite difficult to clearly explain to someone what I do for a living. After many more or less successful attempts, after which I was placed somewhere between a headhunter and an HR specialist, I found it most effective to compare my role precisely to that of an agent, but the one naturally more associated with the world of sports or show business. Just as in these two fields, two main areas of agent responsibility can be distinguished in the IT world:

Sourcing projects for your “star”

The agent seeks new contracts for the IT specialist and helps to select the ones that will have a significant and positive impact on this specialist's career development and economic situation. He negotiates the terms of cooperation, keeping up with the needs of his consultant. He endeavors to find projects appropriate to the skills and experience, and for the best “players” tries to recommend prestigious, groundbreaking projects of significant business importance or high creative value. Just like a show business agent struggles to land a role with a big-name director or a sports agent tries to sign a contract with a prestigious club on behalf of a player, an IT consultant’s agent tries to find a project where the talent and skills of the professional are likely to be most useful and noticed.

Looking after your “star”

The agent invests in the consultant development, points in the right direction, suggests ideas, provides possible options, and supplies the tools necessary to complete assignments. He frequently steps into the role of motivator. Sometimes he also admonishes, calls to order, brings down to earth, and even pulls out of trouble. He provides representation on a wide range of contractual issues, ensuring security and stability. An athlete needs the care of a physiotherapist and an actor needs stunt preparation to play a role, and an IT consultant needs support to unleash his or her potential to the fullest and ultimately lead his or her “team” to victory.

Both the sourcing of jobs and the ongoing care show how the roles of an agent for a star in sports, show business and the IT world converge. On the other hand, what makes an agent become a brand in itself, just like the protagonist of the aforementioned movie? What is so unique about being an agent, and consequently, what are the benefits of working with an above-average agent, both for the consultant and the client? The character played by Sandler captivated me with specific qualities that, in my opinion, allowed him and his athlete to achieve success:

Patience and persistence in the quest for talent

Stanley has traveled to different corners of the world to personally see what candidates for future NBA players can do. Video footage was not enough for him. He didn’t want to miss any important detail. He knew that the team’s performance in the next season and the “to be or not to be” of many talented players depended on his decision.

Perceptive and attentive

He found his prominent player not at the training of a professional team, but on one of the street basketball courts of a poor Spanish neighborhood.

Ability to win people over and establish relationships

Stanley paid great attention to relationships with influential people representing the environment in which he operated. However, the ones that mattered most to him were the real ones, based on sincerity and trust.

Empathy and understanding

Many times, when his player would close up with his problems, he would get to what the issue was and then take the right action to end the crisis.

Dedication and respect

Stanley put tremendous effort into making his players feel comfortable and safe. He made sure that he didn’t lack anything and that he could focus on training. At the same time, he was respectful of his difficult private situation and the constraints that stemmed from it.

Creativity and a sense of humor

Creativity and a sense of humor – in the athlete’s training plan, Stanley implemented unconventional, but result-producing exercises. In doing so, he displayed remarkable ingenuity and a sense of humor, making it much more interesting and engaging.

Ability to inspire and motivate

Based on his experience, Stanley knew how to tell inspiring and motivating stories that, in situations particularly challenging for the athlete, could put him on his feet and set a direction.

Respect for loved ones and balance

Despite his great dedication to his passion, Stanley did not forget his family, while living his private and professional lives successfully intertwined.

The above set of qualities, skills, and attitudes allowed for creating a unique, inspiring character of a trustworthy, thinking outside the box and caring leader in a demanding world. Having observed for a year and a half how my 7N colleagues work on a daily basis, I dare say that, like Stanley, they strive to go beyond the standard, becoming invaluable partners on the path to success and satisfaction for both parties, consultants and clients. After all, for an IT consultant, working with an “exceptional” agent means:

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    A sense of security and stability

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    Truly personalized, attentive care

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    A sense of support and access to specialist advice

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    Cooperation based on kindness, integrity, and trust

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    A sense of being recognized and appreciated

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    A sense of belonging to a professional and unique environment

And while it is difficult to directly translate an agent’s special efforts into revenue generated by the client, there is no doubt that the profound 7N agent-consultant relationship allows the client to:

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    Provide stable support to ongoing projects

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    Focus on strategic business objectives

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    Access properly matched and appropriately motivated consultants

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    Minimize the risk of incurring costs resulting from delays or lack of access to people with the right competence

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    Receive professional service and advice

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    Work together based on partnership and great commitment, even in emergency and crisis situations

Every day, 7N agents strive to respond to the diverse needs of their clients on the one hand, and take care of an ever-expanding pool of consultants on the other. It is our ambition to deliver this support at a level beyond the market standard. One of the elements of building this kind of “premium” service is creating lasting relationships with our consultants based on partnership and trust, through proactive, out-of-the-box activities. We meet our consultants in person and at regular major events organized by 7N. We feel a natural need to get to know them, not only from the professional side, but also from the private side.

Based on my own experience, I know that we often realize that we share similar experiences or passions. This, in turn, gives the relationship a chance to enter another level, where we as agents get a good idea of what is really important to the consultant. They, in turn, feel listened to and understood, often experiencing this kind of attention for the first time in a professional environment. We support their ongoing development through access to training, and help them decide on their future career path. And like the main character in the aforementioned movie, we are guided by the “human factor” which is the greatest value for us.

The effects can be seen in the result of the annual NPS survey among consultants, which in 2022 was again well above the average not only for the industry but also for the market as a whole (NPS score= 60 in the satisfaction survey among consultants in 2022).

The loyalty and trust that consultants place in us for our efforts is reflected in their greater and stable commitment to projects through 7N, which in turn allows our clients to achieve their ambitious business goals. This is because the success of a team depends on how its members feel and the appropriate level of morale.

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