THE ATHLETE CONNECTION
Athletes Go Pro, LLC
When former college athlete Dan Burns started interviewing for jobs, he realized a lot of employers were looking to hire athletes. Three months later, Burns started Athletes Go Pro, LLC (AGP), whose mission is to connect athletes with the companies that want to bring them aboard. With a fun office space and engaging culture, AGP is part of a crop of young startups shaking up Baltimore business.
Q: AGP’s mission is to connect athletes with employers. How did you come up with that idea?
A: I was interviewing for a couple of positions a few years out of college and I asked the hiring managers how they found me. They all said that they went to a couple of recruiters and asked for candidates who were former athletes with a couple of years of sales experience. Those interviews made me realize the value an athlete-specific agency would add to companies that are hiring. Three months later, Athletes Go Pro was created. We consider ourselves the employment agents for our fellow former athletes.
Q: You’re a former college athlete yourself. Did you learn any lessons then that you’re applying now, as an entrepreneur?
A: Resiliency and persistence! There is nothing easy about starting a business. Results are going to take time, just like on the athletic field. Your passion and work ethic are the foundation and backbone that get you through the tough times and put you in a position to be successful. It’s always more important to care about the team/company success than who gets credit.
Q: The competition for talent among startups in Baltimore is pretty fierce. What are you doing to make your company attractive to candidates?
A: My partner, Ben Hunt, and I aren’t shy when it comes to expressing our personalities and passion for AGP. Our company/brand is starting to get buzz in the community and we want the individuals who see an opportunity to work with us and not for us. We are currently looking at new office space downtown and working on incorporating different perks into the compensation packages as well.
Q: What kind of people are you looking for to help you build the company?
A: I want the person who asks me what the commission structure is before they ask the base salary. As a company that places former athletes, I think it is important that our teammates at AGP are former athletes as well. There is a sense of trust, a common ground for communication, and a better response rate when dealing with the candidates. We are also looking for very creative, outside-the-box type of thinkers. Our company is growing very fast, and we are always looking for different perspectives and ideas to assist our growth efforts. Maturity is key — with growth come new responsibilities and higher expectations.
Q: For a lot of startups, the biggest challenge is establishing a reputation in the community. How did you go about that?
A: Providing the best service possible to both our clients and our candidates. As passionate as we are about placing athletes into employment opportunities, we are equally passionate about making our clients happy. We both grew up in the area and knew the best way to grow was to establish our roots in the DMV and grow organically through our reputation. We’ve had a lot of our local clients refer us to different branches around the country as a result.
Q: A fun office space can be key to establishing an appealing culture for startups. How does your office space reflect your culture?
A: Transparency between everyone is extremely important. Our space is open, we don’t have any doors, and there is always an open forum for creative ideas. We also keep it extremely competitive in the office. Performance numbers are displayed (color-coordinated) for all to see — partners included!
Q: AGP started in the DMV area. What are your plans for expanding into other markets?
A: We have started to expand into other markets. AGP has contracts in every state on the East Coast, and we have a couple in the Midwest and West Coast. The last thing we would want to do is get a company on contract and not be able to deliver, so we are supplementing business development efforts as we get new internal recruiters up and running. Our future contracts will determine where the next most effective office location would be.
Q: Where would you like to see the company in 10 years?
A: I would love for our company to be a blend of Under Armour and Google. Employee lifestyle, company culture and innovation are so crucial when growing a business. I see several office AGP locations and having a national presence, but our foundation still in Baltimore. Thanks to other local startups who have become successful over the last decade, our city is on the rise, and I’d like AGP to be part of the next wave of influential businesses in the community.