Cafe Witness

Monday, June 04, 2007

How Much Is Your Reputation Worth?

Until last week, Billy Donovan was the head coach of the University of Florida men's basketball team. He'd just coached the team to two consecutive NCAA Championships, something that hadn't been done in 16 years. He was on top of the world.

He signed a huge contract extension with Florida. He was set for life.

Then, last week, he changed his mind and accepted the head coaching job with the NBA's Orlando Magic. Sources claimed he'd always been interested in making the jump from college to the pros, and that this represented the best opportunity -- a 2-time champion, at his peak, leaving to coach a team located near his family? What better situation could he ask for?

Staying put, apparently, because it's being reported today that Donovan has changed his mind again and will remain at the University of Florida after all.

In addition to the financial repercussions of such "decision-making" -- some sources are claiming Donovan had already signed his contract with the Magic, which means this about-face will likely cost him millions of dollars in breach-of-contract payouts -- the past week has also turned Donovan into possibly the least trustworthy coach in sports.

How does someone manage to go from the absolute top of his profession to a punchline in only 7 days? Simple: He didn't think about his reputation.

If you thought war hero John Kerry was a flip-flopper, how do you explain the prerogative of a man who signs (or doesn't sign, depending on the source) various contracts, only to leapfrog from one to the other when the situation becomes too complicated?

How do you expect the athletes he's hired to coach -- at any level -- to take a word he says seriously? Or his employers, who must now perpetually believe Donovan is one bad weekend away from quitting on a contract?

I'm sure we're not hearing the whole story -- we never do, in these cases -- but the circumstantial evidence has mounted to make EVERYONE in this situation look, to one degree or another, like a fool. And none moreso than Donovan, whose sterling reputation is now permanently warped.

How Does This Apply to You?

Whether you're a freelancer, a social media creator, a boss or an employee, you operate under agreements and deadlines. You have clients and audiences that expect you to deliver on those promises.

Even if you've never signed a contract or issued a mandate, the people you work with / for still have developed a perception of who you are based upon your past behavior.


(It also impacts how you see yourself too.)

If you say your next podcast will be up on Monday and it isn't, you can't complain that your audience didn't come back a day later to see if you'd caught up.

If you tell a client the project will be ready for review by Wednesday and it isn't, you can't blame them for not wanting to work with you again.

People in every walk of life complain that they work themselves to the bone every day for no reward, while others are able to skate by on reputation alone. This is partially true. But the bigger picture is that the people "skating by" are actually doing just as much work, if not more: not only did they have to work themselves to the bone to reach the level of success they've attained, but now they have to maintain their reputations.

Next time Billy Donovan signs a contract, the other party will know the piece of paper is worthless.

Next time you tell someone you'll "have it done by Friday," will they believe you?

Should they?

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  • Justin - Excellent post. I really stopped when I read it yesterday and thought about how many times I've said that I would get something to someone and when the delivery actually came. I can most assuredly say I'm not batting a thousand.

    While in the case of Billy Donovan a lot of that was driven by money, I believe people try to do that as trying to please someone. Some people just can never say "No" or "That's going to take a while". It definitely is all about your reputation, commitment, and your word.

    By Blogger Woy, at 10:24 PM  

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