In Episode 7, Jordan Gardner, Chairman of the Board and Co-Owner of FC Helsingor and finalist for the Best Executive at the World Football Summit Industry Awards, talks with Phil about cross-cultural leadership, a posture of learning, recruiting and...
In Episode 7, Jordan Gardner, Chairman of the Board and Co-Owner of FC Helsingor and finalist for the Best Executive at the World Football Summit Industry Awards, talks with Phil about cross-cultural leadership, a posture of learning, recruiting and player development, what makes a great manager, and other aspects of successfully owning and running a football club in Europe. Specifically, he discusses:
Resources and Links from this Episode
Uncut video available on the How Soccer Explains Leadership YouTube channel - https://youtu.be/YdZ6UB47z9o
FC Helsingor Website -- https://fchelsingor.dk/en/
Phil: [00:00:00] Welcome back to How Soccer Explains Leadership. I'm very excited today to have with me here Jordan Gardner Jordan is a California boy like me who's co owner of clubs in Wales, Ireland, Denmark. He's actually the Chairman of the Board of FC Helsingor in Denmark. And recently actually was named one of the three finalists for the Best Executive at the World Football Summit Industry Awards. Jordan, welcome.
Jordan: [00:00:28] Thanks for having me.
Phil: [00:00:29] Absolutely. Well, as I say, with most of my guests, the bio is great on paper. but it doesn't really tell a lot about the person. I think that it tells a little bit gets, gets us a little bit introduced to you, but can you just share your story, about your soccer experience, your experience in business, leadership and really how they have intersected with your work today?
Jordan: [00:00:49] Yeah, I grew up in Northern California playing soccer. I played soccer pretty close to a professional level. not quite there. I went to college down in Southern California at University of California, San Diego. And, instead of going to college soccer out and then into the professional route, I started a business and it was a precursor to StubHub, a company, many people are familiar with, so it was in the secondary ticketing space. And so I started that company in college and I ran that company for about 15 years. And then, five or six years ago, I sold the company and I wanted to get back into sports. I didn't know exactly what that looked like.
I knew I wanted it to be soccer wasn't sure. Did I want to own a club? Did I want to be an executive in a club? was that in North America or Europe? And so, I worked on a couple projects in North America had a couple of friends and business partners that own clubs in North America. And then over the last couple of seasons, or the last couple of years, I became more interested in Europe and in terms of my entrepreneurial background, it was really interesting where you could buy a smaller club and get that club promoted.
You could be really sophisticated from a player transfer market. you could obviously run clubs more efficiently. Many of the clubs in Europe weren't run very efficiently. And so, the cool thing about having kind of a startup small business kind of background is that it really applies well to sports and soccer in particular.
our club in Denmark, for instance, we have, I think if you exclude the players, we have six, seven, eight employees. So it's a very small business. Everyone's doing a little bit of everything when I'm over there. I'm helping game days to set up the stadium. I'm helping our sponsorship guy.
Of course, I'm overseeing things on the soccer side. So it's a lot of, hands on deck situation. And so I do think there's a lot of similarities between the business that I had for many years and running a soccer club.
Phil: [00:02:24] it makes me laugh. As you said, you're wearing a lot of hats there because it reminds me of running a nonprofit, you know, , you have a title, but it's really just a title and name only.
You're also doing a lot of other stuff and obviously what that title says too, but a lot of what we want to do on this show is really help people understand how, what you've learned from the game is actually applicable to what you're doing in the business world too. And some of those lessons that you may have learned from when you were playing soccer, when you were younger, but what have you learned from the game of soccer that has it informed your, an entrepreneurial journey that, that you're using now in your professional life, as the business side of the game.
Jordan: [00:03:03] I think, playing team sports for many years, especially a sport like soccer, you really have to learn to work well with others and learn the dynamics of a team environment. In many ways does translate to the business world in the real world. It's really interesting. I talked to my wife a lot about this because she grew up playing individual sports.
So she played tennis. And she's just, she's not that kind of team sports kind of person. And I always kind of scratched my head and I just say, I couldn't imagine doing that. And then being, in the real world, having my own business and understanding how do you so much of this world is managing people and relationships?
I mean, I can't tell you how much when I go to Denmark, interacting with our scoring director and our coach and our players and making sure everyone's on the same page and, leadership, I think in many ways, some of it. just has to come organically. certainly some of it is, intrinsic skills that you have as a leader, but I think sometimes you have to be in those situations and step up and realize that that's, for my, you know, I'm not necessarily, I would say like a type a personality, but when it comes to organizational leadership, for whatever reason that switch kind of comes on, I do think a lot of that comes from playing a team sport like soccer for many, many years growing up.
Phil: [00:04:09] And that, it's something that teamwork, that part of being, as you said, when you're playing individual sports, some people will say, well, tennis is also a team sport because you have players on your team, but it's different when you have an inner dependency with your team where you are actually what you do impacts others and what they do impacts you and you have to be working together and you have to figure out what it is that you can get on that same page.
And I think that really does have a lot to do with running a business and running, in this case, a soccer club and right now you are the Chairman of the Board of FC Helsinger over in Denmark. And one of the cool things about Helsinger that. I learned in researching this that's where the Hamlet castle is.
So that's kind of a cool thing. , if you're a Shakespeare fan, if you're not, then that meant nothing to you, but w hy is it so important for a football club to have a healthy board and healthy relationships really between the boards, executives, owners, managers. And how is that similar to what you've experienced in your experience in business, like outside of the game of football?
Jordan: [00:05:05] Well, at the end of the day, everything starts at the top in terms of setting the tone from a leadership organizational perspective. And so that's the same in the business world, whether it's the ownership or the CEO. in a soccer club, it's really, really important there's direction and engagement from the board level.
So, you know, I've been involved in clubs or I've seen clubs, people I know that invest in clubs where one day of the week, the board or the ownership feels one way the next week they feel something different there's not a lot of consistency about the vision. And of course, if you're an employee or you're a player, or you're a coach, you want to feel like we're all heading in the right direction.
We're all going somewhere. Whether that's we want to get this club promoted, and this is the timeline we feel, or we want to develop young players and on players, like to, has to be consistency of a long-term vision. And if you don't have stability in leadership from a board or ship perspective, it's really difficult to, to get where you want to go.
And I think what I've learned also is. You can't have absentee ownership or leadership, right? So I think a lot of Americans, there's this kind of, this trend of investment in European football and a lot of Americans think, okay, I'm a rich American, I'm going to go to Europe, I'll buy a club and I'll come every once in a while to find a CEO.
And maybe if you find the right leader in terms of, from the executive side, that can work. But for me, I felt it was really, really important to be present in the market where we have the club and whether that's just. Showing up and trading. So the players and the coaching staff and the sporting stuff can see you're there, whether that's being around town
so you get the local coffee shops and the sponsors and the local media can see that you're present. I think that's so incredibly important, especially owning a business from a distance, like in this case, in the foreign country. so I think from that perspective, I know a lot of people here in the Bay area, like I know a lot of the owners of the golden state warriors, and I think a lot of the people say, okay, Steve Kerr's graded as the coach and this player is great.
And I'm like, look they don't do everything perfectly, but look at the ownership. The ownership is fantastic and they've hired great people on the basketball side. They've hired great people. On the commercial side and they built a really good culture and now they have good infrastructure, the new stadium and all of that culture trickles down from the top.
And I think sounds really easy as I say it on a piece of paper, but it's very, very difficult when ego gets involved in sports. And you have people who invest in these clubs who are very successful in other businesses, but may not understand the culture when it comes to sports. So there's just, there's a lot of variables at play.
And if you don't check every box from a leadership perspective, from the ownership level, you're not going to have success.
Phil: [00:07:28] One of the things you talked about there that really made me, think about. Some of the difficulties that you have coming in as an American to a different culture, , to come into Denmark, if you're coming into just a different culture that you need to learn.
So as the chairman of that board, how have you, learned that culture? How have you been able to come in and really earn the respect of, presumably you have, but earned the respect of the team of the managers, of the local community? How have you done that?
How have you been able to accomplish that?
Jordan: [00:08:00] Yeah. I think that just takes time and, a genuine commitment to the project being present. and I think a lot of it has to happen organically. It has to happen by you being on the ground and showing leadership characteristics, whether it's your staff, on and off the pitch from a community perspective, that of course is very challenging.
I mean, People in Denmark, for instance, they just look at the world in a slightly different way than we do, whether it's from a business perspective, whether it's football and culture perspective. So yeah, a lot of it, from my perspective is really understanding the differences. And of course we're not, I'm not going to overnight change the way I do business to fit into a mold that the locals in Denmark are necessarily going to, a hundred percent agree with, but trying to understand their perspective and come to a middle ground so that we can all be on the same page, understanding.
This is why. We make decisions, and this is why we're doing things the way we do things. I mean, the American style of doing business is very, very different than the Danish style of doing business. It's a socialist country. And, whether it's the amount of hours people are at work or whatnot, like, it's not good or bad, it's just different.
And so just it's taken time and I think. there was definitely learning curves for me on a personal level. probably over the first six to 12 months, really making mistakes and learning things. but now I, feel like we have a pretty good grasp of, the way things are being done.
But, I think a lot of it also comes down to showing results. And for us, that was getting promoted last year and putting the club in a much better place financially. I think after that, the respect has come, but, you can't. take any shortcuts to that.
It just, it takes time and it has to happen in a really organic way.
Phil: [00:09:27] And has that involved, with the board surrounding yourself with people from the area of surrounding yourself with people different from you, diverse, whether it's women in the board, whether it's different cultures, people from Denmark, what is the board look like?
And, how have you surrounded yourself with people? I know the, one of the things that we talk about in leadership all the time is surround yourself with people smarter than you and who think differently from you.
And if you're the smartest person in the room, you're probably not a great leader. Is that something that you have taken heed of and really surrounded yourself with a board of people that are different and smarter than you.
Jordan: [00:10:02] Yeah. I firmly believe in that philosophy. I know in sports, oftentimes that's not the case.
I think you have a lot of, like I said earlier, ego driven decision-making and people thinking, Hey, I played soccer at the highest levels, so I can go be a coach at the highest level. And that doesn't necessarily always translate. Yeah. for me, we have a very diverse board and ownership group.
We have a lot of people who've invested, in other sports clubs, whether it's the Golden State Warriors or Major League Soccer, we have executives who've been very, very successful in various areas, mostly in sports. so that, if I have a question about the way we're pricing our tickets at our new stadium, I can lean on one of my good friends who is on our ownership group, who works in that space and can really, help me.
Get up to speed in terms of where we're at in that area of the organization. So for one hand, absolutely from a board ownership level, but also from a management, day-to-day execution standpoint. You know, I brought in an American CEO, a guy named Jim Kirks. Who's worked for me for quite some time on various projects.
And, he's done a really good job of really in philosophically aligned in terms of the way we look at running these organizations and. there was definitely for him as well, learning curve at first, but he's done a really good job, of integrating himself locally, he's learned a good amount of Danish.
the language was a big barrier for us sometimes. So, I think we have people in different parts of the organization that add value in different ways. And you don't necessarily always see that in, sporting organizations.
Phil: [00:11:21] And one of the things that I learned about you, that I, gained a lot of respect with you, was the fact that you didn't just jump into, Hey, I'm going to go buy a club in Denmark.
You actually went and bought an ownership stake in a couple other clubs to say, Hey, what can I learn from these people? And I think that's another thing from soccer that I've learned is really just, again, get those mentors, get those coaches, get those other people you can learn from about how to be a better player.
And really that's what I saw you. You have done. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you did not just jump right in the deep end, but to kind of dip your toe in and really learn what it is to own and how you were able to learn those things from these other clubs.
Jordan: [00:11:59] For me, the way I look at sports and sports investments, sports management, it's not that different from the business world.
In some ways, of course, there are differences. It's such a forward facing business. If we make a decision as a soccer club to, sign a player, that's going to be in the local newspaper and that's coming in the media and it's gonna be on social media. So it's definitely different than the business world, but like anything else in the business world is, Get the building blocks, the good foundation of experience in whatever industry and business you are, and then scale up upwards, prove at each step of the way that you can really grasp what you're doing.
And I looked at this landscape in European soccer in particular and said, this American group is going in and they're buying a 500 million Euro soccer club and they have no idea what they're doing. And they don't understand the culture of European soccer. They don't have the right pieces in place to identify the right management team and it really frustrated me to see.
The amount of, I don't want to say arrogance, maybe it's too strong of a word, but something along those lines from a lot of Americans going into European soccer. And so, I felt it was really important, once I had good grasp of the dynamics of American soccer from a business perspective and having played the game and an entrepreneurial perspective, I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of it, but I felt like it was really important rather than go in and put a group together and buy a big club.
Be very, very smart and strategic about it. So, leveraging my connections of my networks. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to make some small strategic minority investments, one in Ireland, one in the UK and spent a lot of time on the ground over there. Swansea city.
I was over there for eight or nine games. This was two seasons ago. the club in Ireland, I've been over for a couple of games and Just being very open-minded and being able to get the access as being the very small part of the ownership group, but, you know, being able to speak to other owners who are also investors in other clubs, speaking to commercial officers with those clubs, speaking to sporting directors and just really soaking up a lot of the information and a lot of the learning curve and saying, okay, cool. One of those clubs is doing things really well. And I would very much replicate that. And maybe they're doing something over here, not so well. And of course not all things are necessarily applicable to a smaller club, but once I got to the point that I felt like.
the experience level there to go buy a controlling interest of the club, which was Denmark. I felt. Okay, cool. Really good grasp of the things I would do and I wouldn't do it. And then for us being a year and a half in Denmark, now we're at the point now where we've we feel real. good about, the management of a club, a majority stake in a club.
Now we can say, okay, cool. Now we can start talking about a team, Spain or France or Italy. Now we can start talking about a 50 or a hundred million Euro club because everything we go through on a daily basis in Denmark, it's no different than what Arsenal or Chelsea are going through. It's just slightly different zeros at the end of the P and L right.
If we can identify a player on a free transfer and sell him for a half a million euros. We feel confident that I can identify that player at Arsenal and go buy him for 5 million and sell them for 25. Right. So that's the idea behind it. And it goes for both on and off the field. And it certainly goes for beyond just selling players and the football industry, just running a business in a foreign country or running a business in a Western European country that has been just a massive learning curve for us.
And now. I feel like I have the recipe and the ingredients to be successful moving forward. Not that we haven't been successful in Denmark, which we have, but it certainly took a period of time to get to that point.
Phil: [00:15:06] And there's something else that makes me think about it. It's just really, as you've talked about you've learned a lot about what it is to be successful, what it is, as you said, the organic relationships that you've been able to make and that you have to make, and that you're learning the culture and all that. But with all of that, that you've studied with all of that, that you've researched. And with all of that you've experienced. what are some of the keys to that success, of a club, whether it's culture, whether it's just The success measures, things like that. how do you measure success in the clubs and then what are the keys to reaching that success?
Jordan: [00:15:40] Culture to me is the most important thing by and far and away when it comes to sports. I knew that going in, but when we bought this club in Denmark, it had been relegated.
Basically it was on the verge of getting relegated twice in two seasons, which again, from an American perspective, it might be a little bit difficult to wrap people's heads around what that's like, but the culture of this organization was. Toxic. And I cannot stress that enough players didn't want to be there.
Fans didn't want to go to the games. it was just infighting between the staff and the coach was absent in terms of leadership. And you could tell you say, okay, I can see why this club is not having success on the pitch. They might have, good players players that should be winning games, but you're seeing, absolutely no culture whatsoever.
And so. For me, the keys to success were 100%. The organization had to go through an entire culture change. And in many ways that just required bringing in new people. I mean, you're not going to convince that young player, who's a pre-Madonna to all of a sudden work his ass off, right? Like it's just not going to happen overnight.
So we brought a new coach. We brought on new spring director. We brought in about, 80% new players into the roster. We start instilling new pillars from an organizational perspective. We wants to make sure we had players who wanted to be there. Players who were hungry players, who were really passionate about the club.
And that was something that took time as well. It didn't happen overnight. It probably took. Six to 12 months for that culture shift to start to happen. And you could see the dip going down in the lower division. And we start to win a lot more games in the players in the organization, built a lot of confidence.
for me, I give a ton of credit to our coach. A guy named Morten Eskesen. Who's a Danish coach. And he's a former footballer and, he has a very strong background in sports, but he also has a strong background in the business world. He. had a career in human resources, he's very, very good at interpersonal skills and leadership.
And so I give him a ton of credit for building a lot of the culture in the locker room and at the club. And I think. That was a really good decision. in soccer, you get a lot of this. Well, you know, we're going to buy, we're going to bring on a recycled coach and coach who's played the game.
And of course, knowing the game, playing the game, the tactical awareness of the game is very important, but for me, leadership is so much more important. He instilled a leadership in the locker room that was really important. And from our perspective, the same thing happened off the pitch. And then that was making sure people that were in our office and our commercial side were bought into our longterm project and people that were not really heading in the same direction from us.
we moved on from them and brought in new people. And so, beyond that, in terms of what are our KPIs for success? we set very specific goals last season that was getting us promoted from the second division, which we hit this season. It's being, a team in the top six in this division, we're in the first division.
you know, we have kind of a little bit more abstract goals in terms of, we want to sell players. And obviously we don't exactly know the timelines of that. But for us, of course, results, on the pitch show a lot of the KPIs and COVID off the pitch, just complicated things from a commercial perspective, but if you get the culture right, and if you have the right leadership in my mind, everything else will fall into place.
Phil: [00:18:27] And really a lot of it goes to what you just talked about. Jim Collins has the good to great principles of disciplined people, disciplined thought disciplined action. And so it starts with those right people on the bus, in the right seats, in the bus, but it also has clarity on the mission, vision values, which is what you're talking about there with getting everyone on the same page, not just the manager, not just the players, but the board the rest of the staff, the back office, everyone that's involved as well as the fans, that are out there to be able to include them in there too. there's a couple of things I want to mine out of there, but the first one is really the idea, and I know, and I'd want you to share a little bit about it. one of the goals you have is to be able to bring in, develop American talent and then be able to have them, play elsewhere in Europe at some point is one of the hopes and dreams that I've heard you have in other interviews. but with that, one of the principles that we have is to hire the right people and hopefully retain the right people as well, but within the context of that business plan. And then with that goal, It seems like it's inconsistent with that retention part.
So how is it that within that culture, within that understanding what that goal is that you're able to have a, both and response to that where you say we're going to be able to do both where we're going to hire and retain the right people, but also have this plan to be able to develop and send off these people as well.
Jordan: [00:19:43] I think you always tell three thinking in this sport, two steps ahead. So for instance, if you have a coach who's built a really strong culture and of course, if he does a good job, there's, at some point, presumably he's going to move on to a bigger club or do something bigger.
We don't know that, but I think it's always about contingency planning. So saying, okay. his assistant coach, what does that person like? Is that someone who is learning the culture from the head coach? Is that someone that Fits the profile for us, for instance, when we were looking at, instead of taking a traditional, okay, you hired the coach and he brings all his own people on here's the keys to the car.
We were thinking about that. We were saying, look, there's been so much turnover in this organization that, let's think two steps ahead. So we work closely with the coach and ultimately we brought in an assistant coach that we were really excited about. So down the road, if that time comes, when our head coach is ready to leave, we feel really good that this assistant coach can seamlessly come in and take the reins without even dropping the ball.
And the same goes for the players. Like if we're looking and we're saying, okay, we have two or three players that we know in the next six to 12 months, they're going to get sold and they're going to move on because that's just the way things work in European soccer. It's about bringing in the next batch of players and having them ready to take the next spot and make sure they have the same characteristics of the players that you are moving on from.
So. I would say that's the most important part. If you just sit back in your chair and say, okay, I'm really happy with myself and things are great. And all of a sudden, your coach decides to believe for a bigger club and you sell two of your players. Now, what do you do? You're kind of back to square zero, and you have to start from scratch.
Right? So it's always about being two steps ahead. I don't think there are that many organizations in a sport that do that. maybe if you have so much money, you don't know what to do with it. You can just go out and splash a bunch of money around, but again, doing that doesn't necessarily build the culture either.
So for us bringing people into the mix. Continuing to have contingency planning. And as those people leave over the next couple of seasons, bring people right into replace them.
Phil: [00:21:32] And that really goes into the idea of player recruitment and development in the academies, in the other parts of the program that usually doesn't get seen, unless you have special access to that club.
And really one of the things I've also read that you've posted, whether it's on your social media or different articles or different interviews that you've had is that you really feel that a lot of the clubs aren't sophisticated in their player, recruiting and development. and one of the things that you said that resonated with me is that the ability to spend money is a strong indicator for success in football, but creating value by developing your players and smart dealings in the transfer market is actually twice as effective. Can you talk about that more, that idea of that sophistication in the player, recruiting development, and, really again, how it's similar to other organizations, nonprofits, whatever it is out there that I think is neglected a lot of the time.
Jordan: [00:22:21] I think a lot of people think of players as just interchangeable puzzle pieces. Okay. we got rid of a player we're going to buy a player and he's immediately going to fit right. In just like a puzzle piece. these are human beings at the end of the day. Right. It's a team sport as we talked about earlier.
So there's so many different things that go into this. for us, for instance, if we bring in a player. That we really like. it's not a given that that player is going to play right away or integrate right away. It's going to take time for them to be integrated in our environment, cohesively gel with everyone else on the team.
And that's why I think, like I said earlier, being sophisticated about when you bring players in integrating them. And then, I think a lot of these clubs, They take a very short-sighted view of the way they look at recruitment and bringing players, and they'll just bring batches of players in and the loan them out to other clubs.
And there's really no followup in terms of their development. I've seen big clubs in Italy and Spain and France. They're bringing in 40 or 50 or 60 kids into their youth Academy. And they're all in like one bedroom apartments and, stuffed together and no one there's no oversight and there's no individual development.
And the way I look at the end of the day, The players are our assets. If it's for our business and we need to take care of them and we to cultivate them and we need to be very smart, strategic about the decisions we make. And I think a lot of decision-making in this business is very, I don't know what the right way to put it as it's.
It's just irrational, I guess, is the best way to put it. If we're friends and you have a couple of players. Okay, cool. I'll get the players from you or you're an agent, or, I read online somewhere that those players were good. Like it's just, some clubs are getting better using data and becoming a little bit more sophisticated, but in general, the decision making really lags.
And that's, what's a little bit frustrating coming from again, the business world where I'm all about making smart savvy decisions. And I do think one area where a lot of clubs get to trouble is. They make a lot of decisions based on emotion, right? So if you get to know the players and you get to know the player's wife and his kids, and look, I'm not a heartless guy at the end of the day, but if that player isn't producing, we're not going to re-sign him.
But if you let emotion play into the decision-making. I think a lot of times people start to be okay, we'll resign him. He's a good guy, right? Well, no, that's not the right decision for the club. That's not right. Or right decision. So, you know, you have to make kind of cold-hearted decisions.
Sometimes. I think that's one of the good things about me being far away, necessarily at times from the day-to-day operations of our club, I go back and forth, but I can sit here and watch the games and, get feedback from our coach and our sporting director and make Decisions and taking emotion out of the equation.
When I understand if I'm in the locker room every day, and I get to know these guys as people, it's much harder to make that decision. So it's definitely a balancing act. You want to treat the players, right? You want to treat the organization, right. But you also have to be really smart, strategic about making decisions, which isn't always the easiest thing in the world to do.
Phil: [00:24:58] Yeah, so good. I, it reminds me, I talk a lot about that. I used to have a community in Honduras that I ran from Northern California. And I talked to people about that all the time, that there is a tremendous value of being on the ground in the weeds, in the trees. But there's also tremendous value in being at that forest view of the 30,000 foot view, to be able to see and to have both that are working together.
And that's what you talked about earlier to have that healthy culture, that healthy relationships with. The forest and the trees, is critical. And in really that idea of that, both and that you talked about, and then you said it's not heartless, it's just, it's a business on one hand, it's a business.
But you also said earlier that you absolutely have to have the organic relationships that the culture is critical and the healthy culture is not one where people feel like they're always on the chopping block. So it is that balance. Right. and you see this also with these teams where the people that don't really understand the game and understand how the culture is part of it, and talent is part of it, but talent doesn't necessarily always fit in a certain culture.
And you look at, you could name a million players, but the one that pops into my head is Paul Pogba. Right? Alex Ferguson. Said, you're not part of this team for whatever reason they bring them back in. And there's, it seems like a constant conversation of is he the right fit for this?
Well, he's a great player. There's no question about that, but he'd see the right fit for the style. He's the right fit for the team. So that's a constant conversation that I'm assuming you're having as well, with these players that you might consider pulling up.
And that's just something that always fascinates me is at that chairman level. when you see that, how are those decisions made with that? Culture where you do know. Yeah, you're running it like a business, so yes, you want that talent, but you also need to understand the culture and the love of the game and that these fans and these people that are really, the customers may not understand all that.
So how are you able to balance those? Like in reality, outside of theory.
Jordan: [00:26:49] There's no one right way to make decisions. I think the way I look at just from an investment thesis perspective or everything is saying, look, you can't treat everything that you can't just treat every decision, just like a straight business.
You can't just treat everything in this soccer space as just a business, because at the end of the day, I'm sure there's better ways to get a return on your investment or your time. you have to be passionate about it, but you can't just also treat it like a passion project and not care about losing money, all that kind of stuff.
So there's gotta be this middle ground. Right. for me, it's about, you need to continue to identify the players that fit the profile you want and players that are going to fit into your culture. And if those players fit into your culture and ultimately whether it's they get too old or that they're not producing on the pitch, it's a much easier decision to make, makes us say, look everything's worked out really well.
It's just. It's not good enough. You're not good enough for this level. It's not good enough. What I can't accept in my mind a lot of times is players that either aren't good enough and that are really causing issues from a cultural perspective, right. Causing issues in the locker. And they're, they're whining that they're not playing a lot.
So those are much easier decisions you just say okay, I get outta here. you're not bending our culture. So look, There's no one right decision. It's kind of on a case by case basis, but ultimately you kind of have to take all the variables of plans and say what's in the best interest of this organization.
And if that means we have to move on from this player, we move on from this player. And we do that. And if that means the fans get upset, that means the player gets upset. If that means it puts our sporting staff in a difficult place. That's what you gotta do. that's one of the hardest things about being the chairman in this job is you have to make really difficult decisions the reason I think a lot of clubs get into trouble.
Is no one buys a sports organization to really make hard decisions, right? Like you don't buy the, the NBA, the Knicks, right. To go fire all the staff. That's not why you do it. You do it because it's fun. Cause it's a passion. Cause it's enjoyable. But guess what, if you want the Knicks to be run efficiently, you're going to have to make decisions like that.
You're going to have to come in and say, no, I'm not spending money on that. No, I'm not doing that. I have to fire that employee and That has been the hardest thing for me is cause like at the end of the day, I'm sure there are plenty of people. Maybe even former players and stuff who do not like me, but That's okay. All right. That's the burden that I have to, basically be responsible for, if I think this organization is going to get where it needs to go. So, that's one thing in the leadership perspective that I don't think a lot of people talk about is you want to instill culture and you want to install a really positive organization.
But at the end of the day, you gotta be the guy that says, look, we're not going to do that and make sure that everyone is on board with that. And people are on board with that. So be it, you move forward. It's, it's a tough space to be in sometimes.
Phil: [00:29:14] Yeah. with that, how does that work?
Like practically, I'm just thinking at the practical level, the manager comes to you and says, Hey, we've got this player, who's a virus in the locker room. They're a great player, but they're a virus in the locker room. how does that work practically with that conversation as far as a player that needs to go in the manager's opinion and what does that look like in that conversation with you?
Jordan: [00:29:35] Yeah, usually the manager will come to me and, or the sporting director and say, look, this is what's going on. There's a player who, for whatever reason, is having problems. it's a situation that's difficult, and then we'll talk through it, is this a situation we can solve?
Can you just sit with them and figure out if there's a solution, a lot of other variables at play, like one is his contract out, does he want to leave? Right? Because end of the day, we don't want players in organization who don't want to be there. Know it doesn't matter if the end of the day, that's not good for anyone.
So we'll kind of have a really smart strategic conversation about that. And decide, okay, look, this isn't gonna work. Let's talk about timelines for moving this player on. And if it's a player who wants to leave, maybe that's an easier situation for us, but if they're not happy and they don't want to leave, then we have to figure out how that works with their contract.
So, ultimately it's about having a really strong dialogue with our sporting staff and continuing to communicate about where things are and really kind of nip them in the bud before they become real serious issues before it really affects the overall play. for instance, for us in Denmark, with our club, you could start to see maybe guys splintering off a little bit in groups, little subset sometimes, and inherently, there's nothing wrong with that.
Players are friends with each other, they know each other from prior clubs, but that's just something that you start to take a look at and say, okay, are these guys starting to form their own clique and not. Be part of the bigger club. Why is that happening? Okay. Maybe they're not playing a lot of minutes.
They're getting frustrated. Okay. How do we address that? And you take it to the next step and ultimately if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. You move on and be decisive about that.
Phil: [00:30:59] Yeah, that really leads to the next topic I want to talk about is the idea of the managers and the importance of the managers and managers being healthy and successful and great leaders themselves.
But one of the things you recently said was when people think about the keys to success and the characteristics of the best football managers in the world, you'll often hear about the tactical geniuses or experts, player, selection, strategy. But while these are areas are of course important.
I would argue that the best managers, exhibit strong leadership skills, both on and off the pitch, there's no person more visible at a football club than the manager. And in my mind, it's incredibly important that the manager spends the time and energy to lead, not just the players and his staff, but with sponsors, supporters, and ownership, you know, really the thing that came to mind there is something I tell.
Pretty much any leader that I'm mentoring anybody that I've talked to and myself, as much as I can, even in my own home is the idea that leadership is cultivating the environment for your players, your employees, and others to flourish, This idea that you're more than just someone telling people what to do.
Can you expand on your quote and really why it is so important for managers to go well beyond the tactics and the lineups, and talk about what that really looks like in practice as you've seen it in your club and other clubs that you've watched.
Jordan: [00:32:12] Yeah, one example, I think our manager does a very good job. He tries to build people up. He builds a lot of our players up. So for instance, I might be watching a series of games and I'll say, look, this player is really struggling. And then the next game, he'll start that player and we'll, you'll be scratching your head.
Why is that guy starting? He's not playing very well, behind the scenes, he's really, building that player up, instilling confidence in that player, trying to get that player, especially young players. Of course, with us, we have a lot of young players gain that players competence putting them in the best position to be successful.
And ultimately they might not be successful, might not happen for a variety of reasons, but he does a very, very good job of managing people and managing the locker room, which I think is a lot more difficult than a lot of people think. Especially, again, these are full-time professional athletes. Some of them are in their thirties with a wife and kids.
Some of them are 19 years old that are just like completely different lives and, you know, skills. Some of them are from us and New Zealand. Some of them are Danish. Some of them speak different languages. So how do you bring all of those puzzle pieces together and create a cohesive locker room culture?
And I don't want to speak for him because I'm sure he has a whole list of check boxes that he checks when it comes to leadership. But from what I've seen, it's treating people with respect, which sounds like a no-brainer. But if you look at sports, you see these coaches yelling like crazy and, really being condescending to a lot of their players.
So he treats people with respect. He treats, the players, like, adults. He puts them in situations to be successful. He gives them opportunities to succeed or fail. and then when it comes to beyond that, he's such, I mentioned it in that quote, it's like the coach is such a forward facing part of the organization, whether it's in the media, whether it's with the players, whether it's in the ownership.
So we've had coaches, many coaches are like, okay, you just pay me to come here and touch the game. And I go home, right? It's like, well, no, there's a lot more to it than that. If you go out and you can. Do a meeting with our ownership and really, articulate your management style and the way you are doing things in a successful way that helps our organization across the board.
If you can do that to our sponsors, if you can do that, to our office staff, if you really command leadership across our organization, That will help us build a cohesive organization top to bottom. It's the same. That goes, whether it's the entry-level sales rep or the 20th guy on the bench, on the team, It doesn't matter if, as his organization, they're all on the same page and the coach is helping to cultivate to make sure they're on the same page. That is how we will be successful. This kind of one dimensional approach that many coaches have. I think in my mind can be problematic. I just, think there's just much more to it. You need to be much more multifaceted to be a successful coach in a sport.
Phil: [00:34:39] Yeah. that's something that I talk about all the time with people is, whether I'm coaching, whether I'm leading an organization, whether I'm in my house, it goes well beyond the X's and O's, if you're just sitting there and saying, here's what you need to do, here's what we're going to do today.
And you're not getting to know your players. You're not getting to understand who they are. You're not getting understand what makes them tick and not just as a whole, but individually as well. You're never going to get the most out of them. You're never going to be able to see them really flourish that idea of what is your best and that's, you know, that will help everybody. It will make a better culture. It will help the team perform better if they actually care about each other and know each other and love each other, that's gonna take it to another level. Now, the reality is you're not all going to be best friends.
You're not, and that's not, I don't think healthy for coaches to be best friends with their players, but to know them and let them know the old John Maxwell quote. No one cares how much, you know, until they know how much you care. And I think it's absolutely true. And so what does that look like in these locker rooms and think that's what you're talking about there, am I right on that?
Jordan: [00:35:36] Yeah. I mean, good example is we have a center midfielder who, he just had a kid, his wife, girlfriend, They just had a kid. And, we noticed a dip in his form. Like he just wasn't playing as well. And so, the coaches sat down with him and said, look what's going on here. Or you're not getting enough sleep because you just had a child, how can we help as an organization? How can we get you back to where you need to go? Ultimately, at the end of the day, if we're sitting here in six months and he's still not performing, it is what it is. It's a business. We're gonna have to make decisions, of course.
But I think we want to do everything we possibly can to help him to be successful. And the coach is definitely a huge part of that. I think there are a lot of organizations that would say I don't care why you're not performing. You're not performing. So put up or shut up right Of course it's a balance, but at the end of the day, we want to put that player in the best chance to be successful.
Phil: [00:36:21] And that's something that I think when you talk about bringing in young players as well, I think that's even more and more important because these young players, especially if they're coming from outside of Denmark and they're coming into this new country, this new culture, this new place, if you don't have a manager who cares, I just don't see it working. do you agree with that? I just don't see how that would be work. If you have someone who just cold hearted coming in, put up or shut up, like you said, because part of developing young players is developing them as human beings. And you hear that all the time with these young players. Am I right on that? is that what it's actually looking like in your locker room and your team?
Jordan: [00:36:54] Yeah, I definitely think there's a big part of it. we also have an assistant coach who is a former player. He's 35. So he relates well to a lot of the younger players from an age perspective.
definitely, absolutely. I think you need support for those younger players, but I also think what needs to happen is the younger players, honestly, A lot of it, they have to figure out themselves. They have to figure out how to be a professional, how to live in a foreign country. And that just takes time and energy.
And we can do everything as an organization to help them be successful, but some of them are gonna make it and some of them are not. So it definitely is a balance. Of course, you don't want to coddle these players and these young players and give them everything. And, you know, I think some clubs do that, but also you, of course, don't want to, do the opposite end of the spectrum and really, be so.
Harsh and unforgiving that they're not going to be in a position to be successful. So it's definitely a balance we've tried to do as much as we can with our younger players. And fortunately, most of them have had success, not all of them, but most of them, and look at the end of the day, if you bring the player in that has the right profile, are they driven?
Are they hungry? Do they fit into the culture? They're going to be successful more often than they're not.
Phil: [00:37:53] Definitely. And so one of the last things I want to talk with you about is the idea of connections and relationships. And you talked about this a little bit earlier on just the importance of the connections and the networks that you're creating in the soccer community.
You know, the old adage, it's not what you know, it's, who you know, is absolutely true. It's something we've learned since we were little, How is that, something that you've seen and you've experienced not just in the soccer community, but also in the business community, And how does that play out in the soccer world, whether it's the transfer market, whether it's, buying, investing in clubs, just getting players even. how are you using those connections and what can people learn from that from the leadership standpoint?
Jordan: [00:38:32] Like any other businesses is a people business. It's very relationship driven. It's very much about who you now. and that is probably not that different than the business world. Of course, you have to have good grounding in terms of understanding the business and what it's like. But, for me, in terms of getting opportunities in this business, whether it was to invest in clubs or get involved in the sport, that was all very relationship driven and You have to be a person that other people in this industry want to be associated with, want to have relationships with, want to be friends with. Right. And I don't think a lot of people get that it's at times I've seen, particularly in North American sports, it's kind of a zero sum game. we're all competing for the same thing.
And it's not like, Hey, how are we working together to be successful in the sport? Right. my relationships can actually be very quantified. Like I have relationships to one of the biggest academies in New Zealand, and we were able to sign a couple of very good young players out of that Academy.
Of course they have any good enough in the head of fit our profile, but that was strictly 100% relationships I had with the people and the family that owned that Academy. And we've created a relationship over a couple of years now where we are a destination for players coming out of that Academy. And we haven't sold any of those players yet, but we are going to, they're very talented young players.
And so. that wasn't coming out of just, some sort of magical scouting platform that I created. Right. That was just strictly, we liked each other. We were very philosophically aligned and it worked out in the longterm. And so that's just one example of many where. I have a philosophy where in general, I'll take a meeting with anyone and everyone, whether it's a zoom call or an in-person meeting, whether it's a kid who wants to get into the sport, like you just never know, you never know where this world is going to take you.
And so I'm very, very, open-minded when it comes to relationships in this industry. And, I like to think for the most part, a lot of times, that's worked out to my benefit and I'm also very open-minded when it comes to like, Bringing people into my networks that, improve themselves.
a lot of people that I brought on board on various projects that I've been involved with have started as unpaid interns, and really kill themselves to prove to me that they're someone that should be along on this ride for me. So I think it's About being really open-minded and having a big tent when it comes to trying to bring people in and having relationships.
And it takes time. I think a lot of people were kind of in this instant gratification society where. Look, if I'm not successful, if I don't get the job I want in the sport in the next three months, it's like, what do I do? What am I going to do? Right. Like this has taken years for me to build this kind of profile, to be where I am today.
And I've been fortunate in many ways, but, I think it's just about doing the right thing. And ultimately I'm a believer that if you make the right decisions, do you treat people with respect, that that will eventually turn out your benefit in the long run.
Phil: [00:41:00] You being on this podcast is a good example of you just taking appointments.
This interview. We met 45 minutes ago when we started this interview and you never know what will happen with relationships. I think we talked to our kids about that. My parents instilled that in me as well. you know, don't burn any bridges. You never know who might do what. You never know who these people are that you're talking with.
and it's not that you talk with people to maybe get something someday. I think to the contrary, it's just treat people like people treat people how you'd want to be treated and just love people. Well, and you never know what it might lead to. And that's what I heard you say in there. That's what I totally agree with.
And I think it's something that also, no matter how big you get, you're not that big. Yeah is to remember that as well is, people could call you all kinds of good names and things that are great, but at the end of the day, you're a human and they're human, and let's see how we can work together to make this world a better place.
And not like world peace on the miss America pageant, but it's really is a place of, Hey, how can we work together To help things be better, that's something I just have really appreciated about hearing you and your different interviews and just how that is something that hearing you say it there, it's not just something that I feel like you're, saying a platitude that's supposed to work.
It's something that you've done and it's why you are where you are today. So I appreciate that. So keep that up. On that. it's actually a little different thing. I'm just curious. This is just Phil Darke wanting to know something. How do you think the players are doing playing without fans? I know it's just, it's wearing everyone down right now, doing on zoom meetings, whether trainings, you're doing a conference tomorrow where you're talking to a camera, Concerts without fans. And I've seen, concerts on zoom. it's just not the same thing. And I feel like I'm watching these players, I watch a Man U game, and you see in the Stretford End, you see "Football is nothing without fans," big, huge letters as they're playing. I got to imagine that's wearing on the players, but are you seeing that, from your standpoint,
Jordan: [00:42:50] Yeah. I mean, when we're, we're fortunate in Denmark where they've enabled 500 spectators to be at the games, which is not a whole lot, but it's better than nothing, obviously. but yeah, you're seeing a massive lack of environment. I think what you're really seeing is. Let's say you're at home, we're at home and we go down a goal that's where you'd really need the crowd in that electricity kind of pick the players back up and build that momentum back up.
And you're just not seeing that right now. It's really kind of a dead environment. So I think it's been very, very difficult for everyone, including the players to build. They're used to feeding off that energy of the home environment, even the road environment, feeding off the energy of road fans yelling at them and that kind of stuff.
Look, I think it's the world we live in right now. I think it's, it is what it is at this point. And hopefully at some point in 2021 things start to return back to normal. But I think it is very difficult. I concur, I don't really have much more to add than that. I think it is challenging.
Phil: [00:43:41] You think there's going to be longterm repercussions for the game from a game standpoint or the financial standpoint or the ability for smaller clubs, things like that. you're hearing talks all kinds of European, super league, all these different things. do you see any of those things happening, whether it's because of this or just, where there are long-term repercussions?
Jordan: [00:44:00] I think it just depends on how long this goes for, I think what's happening right now. Listen, European football is that. once this came up with last summer, it was kind of like all hands on deck, from a financial perspective, we're just gonna get through this and then there's this kind of, everyone's sat back and thought, okay, cool.
By the fall, this will be over and we'll have fans back or there wasn't a whole lot of expectation that this was going to resurface or this was gonna be a long-term issue. And so now you're seeing a lot of clubs getting into trouble, they're at the point where they haven't budgeted for, this few fans of games, They haven't expected this. And so I think it depends if we're sitting here in March and April and it's starting to get better. And when there's light at the end of the tunnel, I don't think there'll be very many long-term repercussions, but if this goes well into 2021, I do think you'll start to see a lot more clubs go bankrupt, a lot more challenges from that perspective.
I don't think from an onfield perspective, you'll see a huge difference. I mean, we're seeing the player transfer market getting depressed, certainly by a good amount. so I think that is something that is in the future, in the cards for probably the next year or two, but eventually we'll go back to the way it was.
The European super league conversation is always going to be there regardless of COVID. there's just so much money in television for the big leagues and the big club. So. Whether it happens now or five years or 10 years or never, I think that's probably unrelated to COVID so yeah, I would say in the short term, we're definitely seeing major challenges and changes, but I think at some point in that let's say three to five-year term, things will regress back to the more normal way things were done.
Phil: [00:45:22] All right, man. So we're coming to an end here. We have one question we ask all of our guests and it's, what have you read listened to, or watched recently that has impacted your thinking on how soccer intersects with our leadership and other areas of our lives?
Jordan: [00:45:36] Most of the stuff I post about already on LinkedIn or stuff on Twitter, on social media. like I said earlier, I think my example, with a lot of the stuff coming out of the Glden State Warriors is probably the biggest example that I could use over the last year and a half is the way that they looked at leadership, organizational leadership.
I just read something today, how their ownership has committed to investing a large sum of money to get fans into games safely to have rapid testing at stadium there again, an organization that's thinking three steps ahead when it comes to the business of the sport. So, yeah, I would say from their perspective, they've come out with a lot of things, whether it's interviews with their ownership group interviews, with their coach and their players that I find really inspirational when it comes to leadership in sports, even though it's a different sport in a different country.
And I hear behind the scenes things from owners, it crafts a really, really strong narrative that I think can really be applied to other sports and other markets.
Phil: [00:46:25] How can people find you if they want to connect with you on social media?
Jordan: [00:46:28] I'm on Twitter. mr. Mr. Jordan, Gardner, dm's are open. Anyone can reach out to me, on other platforms as well, but you can find me.
Phil: [00:46:35] Sounds good. I think we connected on LinkedIn as well. I reached out to him. He got back. So if you have a question for him, if you're curious about some things, Just, reach out. Again, thanks a lot for being a part of this show. Very much appreciate what you're doing and I'm excited to see what more comes out of FC Helsinger, and any other ventures that you do. I have no doubt that you're going to be seeking to help others to take it to the next level. Thanks a lot, Jordan.
Jordan: [00:46:58] Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Phil: [00:46:59] Absolutely. Thanks a lot folks for being a part of this. Thank you for your download. I encourage you to go rate and review the show. Subscribe to this show if you haven't done so already. And most importantly, take everything that you're learning on this show to help you to encourage the people around you to be better and to help your leadership be better and really at the end of the day, take what you're learning through this beautiful game and use it to help others to flourish. Thanks a lot. Have a great week.