Pros vs. Joes

Are amateurs killing your team?  Does it make you angry?  If you’re a Redskins, Cowboys or Bobcats fan you’d have to answer “Yes.”  If you work for a technology firm (or most B2B companies), the answer may surprise you.

“Pros vs. Joes” is how some describe the lopsided battles between expertly trained specialists (Pro-fessionals) and enthusiastic amateurs (Joes).  Those battles may begin with the scrappy, confident amateur showing a flash of skill or promise but they don’t end well for the Joes do they?  Defeated, red-faced and frustrated is how those match-ups end.

Amazingly, in sports ownership and business today there is a fair amount of “Pros vs. Joes” competition going on but interestingly many of these “Joes” don’t consider themselves amateurs because they are (or were), a successful professional (albeit at something else).

NBA great Michael Jordan struck out as a baseball player

Michael Jordan was the consummate professional basketball player of his era but has proven to be an “Average Joe” (and saying he’s been average is just me being nice), at running basketball franchises (or playing pro baseball for that matter).  A Joe who thinks he’s a Pro.

Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys) and Daniel Snyder (Washington Redskins) bought their way into big time NFL ownership after being successful “Pros” in Oil and Advertising respectively and each decided they could run their franchises themselves and have been abysmal failures competing with real “Pros” on the field.  This has been true despite each of them having virtually unlimited resources.  Year after year, these Joes keep going though.

Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones ordering pizza for their NFL “Fantasy” draft?

Even old George Steinbrenner (R.I.P.), eventually learned that he needed to hire and empower experts with specialized skills and experience for his organization to win consistently on the field.

The business equivalent of  “Pros vs. Joes” are corporate senior executives who “play” at Marketing.  By virtue of their exalted status in the company they can insert themselves into Marketing strategy and tactics (and they do).  Hey, they took a Marketing class or two in college and they KNOW which TV ads are good or not, so they’re qualified to make Marketing decisions, right?

Why do they do it?  Because they can and because it’s fun for them!  A reward for their success after years of “paying their dues” I guess.  Unfortunately, it leads to disappointing marketing results and a cycle of failure that keeps repeating as long as these Senior Execs “help” with Marketing.  Hire a CMO, increase the budget, miss Sales and ROI targets, cut the budget, fire the CMO, rinse and repeat.  The befuddling constant in this cycle is letting non-experts (“Joes”) get involved and make decisions.  They don’t let amateurs make Engineering or Sales decisions yet they when they do it themselves in Marketing they’re shocked and frustrated when Marketing fails.

Professional CEO? Marketing Amateur Joe? (or both)?

Look, I play in a fantasy football league and do pretty well (my beloved Swamp Foxes with our spicy Laura Croft logo won another title last year), and I’d love a shot at actually doing it for real. Heck, I even played some ball and could throw it 70 yards back in the day so I’m as qualified as anyone, right?


People who can and do use money and/or power to compete head-to-head with real Pros deserve to get clobbered and fail; those who repeat the cycle should be treated for insanity.  Stick to what know Joe-

Michael Jordan’s top picks for the Wizards (#1 Overall), and the Bobcats (#3 Overall) exemplify his “Joe-ness” as an owner.


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