[inline:eldridge] While Bros hold down jobs of all types, there is no career aspiration more common among us than the prospect of becoming a successful entrepreneur. What Bro hasn't had an idea for a new business and dreamed of making it big -- and yes, striking it rich? And so, every Wednesday, BroBible picks the mind of a successful Bro entrepreneur and discovers what it takes to turn a simple idea into a thriving business. You've already met Maverik Lacrosse's John Gagliardi, Tap'd Founder Craig Zucker, New York party promoters Derek and Daniel Koch, and TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie. Up next is sports agent Doug Eldridge, founder and president of Washington, D.C.-based DLE Sports Management, which represents football players, cyclists, long-distance runners, and other athletes. In January, Eldridge embarked on a year-long marathon of marathons that he's dubbed the "10-12-100 Campaign," meaning 10 marathons in 12 months in order to raise $100,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. Just last week, Eldridge ran the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon in an impressive 3:33:15. As he prepares for the Seattle Rock n' Roll Marathon in late June, Eldridge spoke with BroBible about why he wakes up at 0400hrs every morning, why running a marathon is like running a sports agency, and why the October Marine Corps Marathon in Washington holds such an important place in his heart. BroBible: You're halfway through your incredible, year-long 10-12-100 campaign. How are things going so far? Do you think you have another five marathons in you? Doug Eldridge: Things have gone really well through the first five marathons. First and foremost, I haven't had any injuries to speak of which is probably the most important thing as that would have a big impact on the remaining marathons. There's a big difference in nagging aches and pains and an actual injury, so in that regard, I've been very fortunate. Even though I front-loaded the campaign--running the first five marathons over the first four months of the year -- the remaining five will be equally difficult, if not tougher. Even though they are slightly more spaced out, the courses and c*mulative fatigue will start to play a more significant factor. Regardless, I'm just as determined and focused in my preparation for the sixth marathon, as I was in January when I was training for the first race, the ING Miami Marathon. That said, I've never been one to tempt fate (or the Almighty) but I'm confident that I will not only complete the remaining five marathons, but I will continue to do so at or under 8-minute pace.
Were you a marathoner before this? Eldridge: Instinctively I would answer no. I ran 400m hurdles for the first part of college and I completed several Ironmans during law school, but I still don't think of myself as a 'marathoner.' Having represented three professional marathoners last year in the U.S. Olympic Trials leading up to the Beijing Olympics, I know what it means to be a true marathoner and using that standard as a meter stick, I fall woefully short. To be honest, however, if I were an elite marathoner, I don't think the 10-12-100 Campaign would have as much significance or potentially as much impact. Despite being a jock since birth, I'm very much the "every man" when it comes to marathons. As I recently told a friend, "I represent pro athletes, I do not count myself among them." In that, there is a certain realness with what I'm trying to do with these marathons. I am not Kenyan, Ethiopian, Eritrean or even an elite American marathoner. I am out there suffering every step of the way, from the first marathon through the tenth one, in Las Vegas in December. What was the inspiration behind this project? Do you have a personal connection with the Wounded Warrior Project? Eldridge: I was raised in a military household, where duty to God, country, and family was ingrained in my personality from day one. Being the son of an Army Colonel and a true southern lady meant that I had the opportunity to travel and live in new places when I was younger as my father was transferred to different assignments before ultimately retiring out of the Pentagon in the mid-90s. I can remember living in what was (then) West Germany and traveling to see my Dad, who was a tank battalion commander, doing war game maneuvers along the East German border. At that time, the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union was very real. Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gates, the Wall, I saw all of that when there were still armed Soviet guards manning it. This was long before those images were immortalized in Time, Life, Newsweek, or even MTV videos, so I guess I grew up consciously aware of the danger our country faces on a daily basis and the sacrifice that our soldiers undertake in vowing to protect it. That awareness isn't something you grow out of as you grow older; it's just part of who you are. My father ultimately died from complications of a cancerous brain tumor on Sept. 8, 2001... three days before 9/11. Throughout his battle with cancer, my Dad was in and out of Walter Reed Army Hospital many times. When my Mom went there three years ago for a procedure, I found myself again spending time in the storied facility. This time, however, the first round of wounded young veterans were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. At night, I would walk the halls to stretch my legs and I came across some of the most horribly wounded, yet valiantly defiant young soldiers that were sent back home for treatment. Being an able-bodied athlete and working with professional athletes on a daily basis, there was something inexplicably chilling about seeing these soldiers --many if not most of whom were eight to 10n years younger than I am -- and all of whom were victims of gunshots, IEDs, burns, or were otherwise somehow severely injured. That image stayed with me long after my Mom was discharged. More than that was the optimistic tone and selfless sense of duty to country that each of these soldiers exhibited. To a man, none expressed regret for their decision to serve; only a regret that they would not be able to recuperate and rejoin their comrades in battle. How do you reconcile that as you stand there hearing a 19 year-old boy who is now being fitted for two prosthetic legs? The Campaign was about recognition for the sacrifices and suffering that these young wounded warriors have voluntarily undertaken in the defense of our country. This Campaign is not about making an anti-war or anti-administration statement whatsoever and that's a point I make emphatically when asked. These young soldiers don't get mired down in political rhetoric or partisan tactics, their job remains the same regardless of who is in the Oval Office or which party has the majority in the House of Senate. As such, I selected the Wounded Warrior Project (a registered 501(c)(3)) as the recipient of my fundraising efforts. Their established track record for the unwavering advocacy of the American soldier is astounding and was something that I thought create an ideal match for my 10-12-100 Campaign. Something makes us think that you have your eyes especially set on the Marine Corps marathon in October: it's in your hometown, it's organized by the military, you even run through Arlington National Cemetery and finish at the Iwo Jima Memorial. How special will that ninth race be for you? [inline:doug]Eldridge: The Marine Corps Marathon is always a special race. It's actually called "The People's Marathon" because it is the largest marathon in the country not to offer prize money to the winner. As a result, there are frequently service men and women who win the race. It visits the most beautiful areas of our nation's capital: GW Parkway, Georgetown, Hains Point, the Mall, the Capital, and then winds through Crystal City (where many of the big defense contractors are headquartered) before getting onto the "Concrete Jungle" which is a long stretch on 395 that leads around to the finish line at Iwo Jima Memorial. It is as challenging as it is beautiful and there's something incredibly inspiring about the constant military presence and support along the course. It will definitely be a special race for me for several reasons. First, it'll be a "homecoming" in so far as my race travels. Though DLE Sports is based out of DC, this will be a return to my home, my family, my friends, etc. Secondly, my father is buried in Arlington National Cemetery on the side overlooking the western side of the Pentagon, which is where the American Airlines Flight 77 collided on 9/11. The course passes this point around the 25th Mile, which is generally the point where everything hurts and you're running on pure determination. The symbolism and meaning are more than I can adequately describe. It was a powerful feeling last year when I completed the MCM, and I can only imagine that the feeling will be ten-fold this year. How does the 10-12-100 campaign dovetail into the way you operate DLE Sports? Are there any business/client-relationship philosophies that you've carried over into your training for and running of these marathons? Eldridge: Ironically, the 10-12-100 Campaign is run in the same manner as DLE Sports. It's about organization, planning, and execution. I get up every morning at 0400hrs. I read emails, news, and Google alerts and return client text messages and phone calls for an hour before doing a sunrise workout. Having clients on the East and West coast, as well as on the European circuit means I get calls and emails all through the night. It's rare that I miss one, but if I do that's the time to get back to them. Most people cringe when I say that, but 0400 is my most productive hour of the day. The remainder of the morning usually consists of meetings and follow-up calls. I don't typically take a lunch break unless I have a scheduled lunch meeting, which is certainly part of the business. If it's a slow day or if I had to get into office particularly early, sometimes I'll go for a workout in middle of the day, then shower, and head back to the office for the afternoon/evening appointments, call-backs, research and client/industry outreach. In terms of parallel philosophies or core values, I'd say the biggest cross-overs between the Agency and the Campaign are the research, preparedness, planning and execution required to be successful at both. In the context of DLE Sports that means that in order for me to be successful, I must do the research, understand the relevant collective bargaining agreements in place, have the personal relationships to connect with team officials or sponsor contacts, and above all, have the industry understanding, personality and drive to bring it all together. By way of analogy, 10-12-100 is the same. I must research the course, reach out to the surrounding community for each race, do the necessary training and preparation, and then have the physical stamina and mental endurance to pull it all together 10 times in the course of the year. All in all, each of them requires detailed research, a clear-cut plan, unwavering commitment to the completion of the goal, and a certain personality necessary to see it through to the end. How did you get your start in athlete representation? What was the impetus behind starting your own agency? Eldridge: I always knew I wanted to represent athletes. All throughout law school and immediately afterwards, I worked in the federal government, in various capacities and branches. When it came time to leave government practice, it wasn't a question of what I was going to do, but rather a question of where I was going to do it. That said, I did my due diligence and applied with a couple larger West Coast agencies. I had a good resume and apparently had all the makings of what they were looking for; in my heart, however, I knew that the large agency format just wasn't what I wanted. In truth, I wanted to hang out my own shingle. I wanted to create something that would be much larger than a business card or letters on the door. I wanted to build something in my image and with my own two hands, something which would live on long after I passed away. For me, the entrepreneurial drive was never born out of an inability to be part of a larger organization. I think the federal government is the largest business organization in the world. It was different for me. I wanted to create a business and a standard by which client athletes should be treated: zealous advocacy coupled with unwavering loyalty and a sustainable, reliable association with the athlete long after they walk off the filed, court or track for the last time. I wanted to turn a company into an Agency, and ultimately, this Agency into a brand. DLE. Going back to the marathon analogy, that takes planning, consistency, execution and an unwavering dedication to the things that you want to see happen. It's never a sprint, it truly is a marathon. Who are some of your most well-known clients? Eldridge: I have an evolving roster of talent that has stretched over six sports, on three continents. I always say that my "best" client is "every client on the roster." I sign them not because of what they have done, but because of what I think they are capable of achieving. A critical part of my job is being able to accurately evaluate talent and potential. I've been blessed to work with some of the most gifted young athletes today and I'm confident that through their hard work and our continued commitment to one another that you will be hearing their names over and over in the years to come. When our readers think "sports agent," most of them think "Jerry Maguire" (or, worse, "Bob Sugar"), and nowadays, you can't think "agent" without thinking "Ari Gold." What has Hollywood captured accurately about the business, and what misconceptions do most people have about what you do on a daily basis? Eldridge: That's funny. You're right, when people hear I'm an agent, they automatically assume that it's some amorphous blend between Jerry Maguire and Ari Gold. I think Cruise is a great actor, and nobody has a better delivery than Piven, but each character is a composite of sorts, an idealized version of what this job is really like. At the same time, I think both of them capture some of the elements that ring true on a daily basis. First, consistency. Whether Jerry or Ari, you see that the highs are euphoric and the lows are insufferable. This is very true, which is why the key is to find a consistent middle ground; never get caught up in the high points or dragged down in the lows. Second, learn to be magnanimous. Anyone can smile through victory, but doing so in the face of defeat or rejection requires a certain mettle. Third, Always but Always put it in writing. Whether it's Jerry losing Cushman due to an ill-advised "handshake understanding" with his father or Ari losing and resigning Vince; at the end of the day, ink on paper is all that stands up. Fourth, personal relationships are everything. By definition, my job is the manage the contractual negotiations and business obligations of my clients. Ultimately, you hit a point with every client where there is disappointment or frustration, and it's the personal relationship and connection that has been established that pulls you through. You can have a voluminous, itemized contract delineating the obligations each party has to one another, but in the end, it's the personal obligation you feel to perform for that person that makes the difference. The same holds true from their end. I have a policy of brutal honesty with all of them. We will never lie, misinform, or keep information from one another. Without truth there can't be respect and without respect there can't be a relationship and without a relationship that extends beyond the four corners of the contract, we'll never achieve the goals we set out to accomplish together when they sign with DLE Sports. What's the best part of the job? The worst? Eldridge: The best part of my job is getting to see them compete, succeed, and show their talents on a big stage with fans and media there to applaud and doc*ment their efforts. To be honest, I also love getting to meet their families. I took a family approach when building this company and with each new signee, I give them a hug and look them in the eyes when I say "welcome to the DLE family." In life, family is everything. Jobs, money, percentages, titles. It can all be won, earned, made, and lost. Family is what sustains you and when talking about many of my clients, it's what drives them. There isn't a "worst part" of my job. There are a lot of thankless days. Few clients ever fully know what I do to make their lives better and their careers more successful. To be honest, I've never felt compelled to give them detailed accounts of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting a deal done. It's really just a commitment to getting the job done. What advice do you have for an aspiring entrepreneur? What should every entrepreneur know before they jump in? Eldridge: Every industry is different, so the barriers to entry and the requirements for sustainability and continued growth all differ as well. There are a couple tenets of business, which I think are applicable in all forms and industries: Always look another man in the eye. Have a good team of advisors in place from day one. Have a firm understanding of what your vision is from the outset and how you choose to define "success" relative to your venture. There's a difference in patience and complacency. You're only as good as your support staff. Personal relationships are everything. Your reputation precedes you where you go. Any advice for someone thinking about running their first marathon? Eldridge: In a sense, it's like starting a small, short-term business venture. Do your homework, understand what you're getting into, do the necessary preparation, and put yourself in a place to succeed when it comes time to perform. I always tell people "you just can't fake your way through a marathon." When it comes to starting, growing and running your own company the principle remains the same: you can't fake your way through it. Those who have done their homework and are prepared survive and succeed, those that do not will always struggle. In a more literal context, get a good medical check-up before embarking on any training regiment. Marathons are utterly brutal and the violent impact that distance racing has on the human body can be pretty damaging. Be smart and be realistic. How can someone contribute to your 10-12-100 campaign? Eldridge: Thanks for asking. There are two basic ways to contribute: 1They can send checks made out to the "Wounded Warrior Project" with "Doug Eldridge: 10-12-100 Campaign" in the memo/note line on the bottom left corner of the check. Those checks can be mailed to our office (DLE Sports, 1920 I St., NW, First Floor, Washington, DC. 20006) as we're about to start doing a weekly mailing to the WWP. Or, we are in the process of setting up a PayPal link between 10-12-100 and the Wounded Warrior Project so that guys in our generation who are more accustomed to using plastic than paper checks can easily jump on line and two clicks later, make a donation to the WWP that is directly tracked back to the 10-12-100 Campaign. In the end, word of mouth is just as valuable as stroking a check or authorizing a debit and I'd love to hear from other young guys out there that would like to get behind this cause. As I said earlier, this is truly a bi-partisan effort and one which effects everyone. Words like sacrifice and service have universal meaning to all bro's, whether they're civilian or in uniform. [portrait by Zaid Hamid]