Monday, January 25, 2010

Carlon Haas' Take On Lane Kiffin

I asked my good friend, colleague and marketing mentor Carlon Haas to be a guest Blogger here on The Ripple Effect. Carlon has recently started a BLOG called Don't Step In The Poop and if you aren't reading his quirky, yet profound, take on just about everything then you are really missing out. I encourage you to check it by going to

With no further adieu may I present Carlon Haas......

Quit Your Job Today: Lessons from Lane Kiffin

When Steve asked me to guest blog, I was honored. Of course, I wondered what can I write about that even comes close to the Ripple man—on his own blog of all places. Well, Steve and I talked and we decided that something sports-related would be appropriate since we are both sports fans.

But the process was more arduous that I thought.

Steve flat-out rejected my first 100 ideas or so. Some of the rejected ideas included:

  • Wade Philips on Winning the Big One
  • Michael Vick’s Tips on Pet Care
  • Marriage Lessons from Tiger Woods
  • Honesty with Mark McGwire
  • Rex Ryan on Humility
  • Shaquille O’Neil Diet Tips
  • Success the Ryan Leaf Way
  • How to negotiate like Michael Crabtree
  • The Flaxseed Oil Workout Secrets of Barry Bonds

Finally, after all these rejections, he finally let me go with something non-controversial like “life lessons learned from Lane Kiffin’s decision to leave the University of Tennessee and bolt to USC.”

So, here goes.

I am not only about to defend Lane Kiffin, but I’m also going to encourage you to be JUST like him. For those who don’t follow sports, I’ll give you the skinny.

Lane Kiffin was the football coach for the University of Tennessee. He was offered a job at USC that had better players and paid a whole lot more. So, Kiffin jumps ship from Tennessee to USC.

And the sports blogs have gone crazy ever since.

Here’s one of my favorite sportswriters, Peter King:

“I think there are a lot of people who would not break a contract for three times the salary. I am among them. It's called honesty. I signed a contract with SI for four years, and no matter who offered me what, I would not break it.”

The sports blogs seem to echo King’s criticism that Kiffin is unethical tool and not a man of his word. But, with all due respect, Peter King is wrong. If a contract allows you to break it, then you’re NOT breaking a contract.

The fact in this case is that Kiffin (and the university) had a buyout clause in his contract. This means that if Kiffin resigns, he could pay a set amount of money to compensate the university and leave. Ergo, Kiffin didn’t break his contract.

So, to sum up: Kiffin is offered a job with more prestige and more money. He exercises a clause in his contract. He takes the job.

And that my friends is called being smart.

If Kiffin didn’t have the buyout clause in his contract, I’d be right up there with all of the critics. A contract is your word and your word should be your bond. But with protection in his contract, Kiffin can ethically walk away.

So, how does this relate to you? Here are some lessons I learned:

1. Quit your job today

I don’t mean literally. Come on…who do you think I am? But rather than thinking of yourself as an employee, think of yourself as a free agent. Always look for better opportunities out there. And don’t get me wrong. This isn’t always about money. Free agents change jobs for many reasons: better location, closer to family, etc.

And if you do become a free agent, you’ll be that much better of an employee. Why? Because if you want that better opportunity, you need to show how good you are where you are RIGHT NOW. You’re now like those players who play their hearts out in a contract season. That’s you. Office hero.

And if you’re a business owner. This also means you can look at working with better clients instead of the ones treating you like a serf. Seriously. Quit today.

2. Never sign a long-term contract if you can help it.

This is a big one. A long-term contract commits you to something for longer than you can foresee. In other words, it may look good now but down the road, you might regret it. This goes double if you have a business and a client wants to sign you to a long-term contract. Shorter contracts give you leverage if you are a good performer. And I know you are good. You need to be compensated for it and not giving expert work at a novice wage.

3. Always give yourself a way out

Never lock yourself in. Actually, in the case of Kiffin, both he AND the university covered themselves. If the university wanted to fire him, it could exercises its buyout clause in the contract and not pay him the remainder.

You should also have your own buyout clause in whatever you do. Don’t make yourself choose between your ethics and other considerations like money. Your ethics and morals are what center you and care never worth breaking. So, make sure you never have to break it. Being smart in a contract will never put you in that bind.

Kiffin may well be a tool in other areas, but in this case he gave himself a way out to take a job he really wanted.

And frankly, you should too. Look to what you want to do…and give yourself the means to do it—just like Lane Kiffin did.

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