Peter Feigin, a fast-talking New Yorker with a background in Marketing, came to the Wisconsin School of Business to give his insights about how he has been able to make huge waves in a small, humble market like Milwaukee. As President of the Milwaukee Bucks Basketball Organization, Peter has found success few would have dreamed of: He brought a dying franchise on the brink of failure back to championship-contending heights. Beyond success on the basketball court, Peter talked to the room of students and staff about how he has been able to drive the organization’s financial success through innovation, commitment, and hard work.
“We were lucky, we had the opportunity to start completely over,” Peter said of the organization that had only 15 wins, a dated arena, and was dead last in league merchandise sales just one year before he took over. He was able to rebrand and start fresh, which included a new logo, a new arena, and new owners concurrently, a rare occurrence in the NBA. As the success of the team and the organization continues, one thing he impressed upon the audience was that, “The sky is not the limit.” Peter talked about staying committed to the process and, in doing so, discussed what he called his guiding principles. These principles are the core foundations that he has instilled in the Milwaukee Bucks Organization.
- Be Present or Don’t Show Up – The first principle Peter urged was that he wanted his staff to either bring their whole self to work with all their energy or don’t come in at all, literally. He would ask employees who were not having good days, not feeling 100% themselves, or just not into their work that day to go home. Bringing your best self to work means producing your best results. It’s more than just going to a meeting and being there, you must give all your energy to the task at hand to create the best results.
- Set Ridiculously High Standards – As the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. If you don’t make it, at least you’ll land amongst the stars.” Peter had the same idea. Set ridiculously high standards for yourself. Even if you don’t reach that goal, you’ll still produce great outcomes. He stressed how it’s important to expect the most out of yourself because if you set mediocre goals, you can expect mediocre results.
- Include Everyone; People – Inclusion in the workplace is important in many organizations, but Peter goes one step further by allowing everyone to be a part of the success no matter their position in the organization. He talked about the development of an innovative app that allows fans to push a button and have a beer delivered directly to their seats. “That was developed by an intern!” Peter informed us, making sure to highlight that everyone’s contributions are valued.
- Understand That Culture Happens With or Without You – Peter highlighted the importance of developing and maintaining a culture that is driven by everyone around you. That culture is going to evolve, and if you don’t invest in that culture, you can be left behind. It’s important to engage in your workplace culture.
- Make Sure Your Words Match Your Actions – Peter knows the importance of putting your money where your mouth is. It was often hard to get people on board with completely revamping the Bucks Organization. When he showed year after year that there were successes and how much the hard work was paying off, it was easier to win people over.
- The Best, Most Effective Form of Social Media is a Face-to-Face Relationship – Peter makes sure he is a visible figure around the organization. Nothing builds a relationship better than sitting down with someone and talking to them face-to-face. Having a conversation through email or social media is not the best way to build a relationship within your organization, with your co-workers, or with your team.
- Don’t Be A Jerk, Be Nice – An obvious yet overlooked tenet in most organizations, being nice goes along with the principle of including everyone. “I can be critical, but I try not to be a jerk,” Peter told the room. It’s important to distinguish between being constructive, and just being a jerk. This is important when you’re trying to keep your team on board.
- Work Your Butt Off – The best for last. Peter stressed that the only way for your team to be successful is to work hard. Peter told us all, “How were we able to make the organization so successful? We worked our butts off!” To produce good results, you must give your best effort and work hard to achieve those ridiculously high standards you set for yourself.
Peter finished the evening spending 30 minutes answering questions from students and staff. He was straightforward, relatable, and incredibly genuine. His talk felt off-the-cuff yet organized and well thought out. You could feel that he really believed in his guiding principles, and given the success of the organization he has led for six years now, how could you not believe in them too?