Forstmann’s three lessons


Three and a half years after I joined IMG, Mark McCormack passed away and Ted Forstmann’s company took over the company. Whilst I disagree with several of Forstmann’s (literally) ill advised decisions with IMG, there are three positive lessons that stand out.

  1. The 3 “I”s. If you haven’t read his article on the 3 i’s, read it now. It’s actually Forstann retelling a story by Warren Buffet, but Forstmann puts it into context. That link from the Wall Street Journal requires membership, so if you don’t have membership, you can go to any of the myriad of copied articles available including this word for word copy.
  2. When engaging with a new third party company, whether they are a supplier, customer or speculative in either category, Forstmann recommended keeping an eye out for hiring individual talent within the company, or the company itself. He even had a one page form that we could fill in and escalate quickly within IMG to look into buying that company or hiring the person(s).
    I’ve continued this practice, and find that it raises your commercial senses/awareness when engaging with a new third party. It helps see the relationship longer term. 
  3. Take risks. Forstmann, by his very nature as an investor, takes and promotes risks. Investors get it right more than they get it wrong, and I’ll always remember Forstmann standing on a stage in London telling all the IMG staff that he wanted to take more risks than IMG had in the past, and it was OK to take those risks. He taught that it’s better to take a calculated risk and know that every few will become a success, than never take any risks and continue on a flat line.
    We have a customer who has large posters in their meeting rooms that have in large letters: “Take A Risk” and a similar one promoting “Make A Decision”. It’s vital for modern businesses to take calculated risks, and make decisions quickly.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *