LEGENDS SPOTLIGHT: KEVIN CARR

January 17, 2018

By:Hemda Mizrahi - Rebound Magazine
Editor: Excell Hardy Jr.

THE DNA OF AN ENTREPRENEURIAL CAREER THAT REINVENTS SUCCESS

Kevin Carr’s tenure with the NBA extended for over 11 years, including seven years with the NBA Development League, first as the Director of Community Relations and next as the Senior Director of Player Development. Carr then served as the NBA’s Vice President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs. In his subsequent and present role as the CEO and Principal of PRO2CEO, a strategic career transition and business development consulting firm serving elite performers like current and former athletes, Carr continues to facilitate the high level contributions of players both within and outside of the NBA.

His business acumen comes as no surprise to those who are aware that his passion for entrepreneurship preceded his NBA aspirations. He credits his mother with cultivating within him a mindset that values education and the belief that people can create their own realities by putting forth their best. Carr recalls, “I could hear my mother’s keys in the morning at 5 am as she left for work. I watched her reinvent herself out of poverty through training and retooling. She was in business construction maintenance at Disney World, and she showed at her own initiative that getting into the door of Disney was possible at a time when it wasn’t as open to minorities and women of color.”

With this outlook, and by actively assessing his strengths, Carr became aware of his natural ability to coach and advise others who share a similar drive to excel. He states, “I’m big into modeling and being a mentor. One of my roles in sports was to help players find their passions.” He acknowledges though, that even having a solid sense of other talents does not prevent the tug of war that often ensues as athletes come face-to-face with their pivot away from the game. “When you work with a brand like the NBA, you feel like you’ve arrived and people remind you of that. You want to do it longer than you can. Many see you as just as a player and you have to work even harder now because others will keep pulling you back there. You might hear, ‘you can’t do this,’ ‘what you do isn’t good enough,’ or ‘I don’t know if you should have left.’ In the path of these perceptions, you must be more focused and intentional to establish your own realities and develop an expanded perspective of yourself. Do your research, set goals and give it time so that you don’t fall into questioning yourself and allowing others to take you off track.”

On the other side of the pain that change can bring, Carr speaks to the benefits for which players can prepare, even before a new opportunity begins. “To be the best means that you have to sacrifice a lot of time with family and friends. It entails being on a treadmill that you can’t get off of when you want to. The business of sports is always moving. It took me close to five years to say that was ready to leave my role. I planned for my transition, putting relationships and finances in order. I’ve always had a desire to do new things. I’ve been really blessed to take what I thought wanted to do and bring it to fruition, to have full control of life as my own CEO, to become a better husband and dad with a more balanced approach. I can pick and choose, spread my wings and surprise people. I feel confident that what I do now can serve industries even beyond sports.”
Through PRO2CEO, Carr aims to reconstruct the narrative that trails those coming out of high performance professions. For example, he partners with former athletes to find new arenas in which they can compete to emerge just as, or even more fulfilled as they were as players. This includes being a trusted resource to ensure that his clients’ time is well spent, that they obtain necessary development, and evaluate the potential of investments to be optimized and monetized.

Carr explains, “We assist by being the group that has their best interests in mind and can get them going quicker, better, faster. Whether they want to establish a franchise model, do a joint venture, or operate their own business, we collaborate to create a solid plan. We use technology to support our clients in entering a new competitive world, creating websites, social media content, and campaigns that declare who they are and what they are doing.” This includes coaching current players who want to start to re-identify and rebrand themselves. Carr emphasizes, “Athletes are used to converting quickly to results, whereas entrepreneurship takes trial, error, and time.”

Noting that many former players “are seeking answers and don’t always know who to turn to,” his motivation is to guide others in replicating some of the outcomes of his own transition. “We want our clients to be the CEOs of their lives, to build control of the life they want to have, to think with strategy and balance, to lead themselves and others with values and self-appraisal. We help our clients to gage where they are, to be introspective in examining their trajectories, to reality check whether or not their careers are ascending.”

Carr’s reach includes youth. “We identify problems that players have by talking to younger athletes, educating the next generation. We teach that you can use the platform of sports as a means to a greater end. You can leave a high profile career and leverage what you have to create an even bigger impact on you communities. Magic Johnson is an ultimate example. We suggest to young people that they can be their own version of Magic Johnson.”

He anticipates that the NBA will eventually push for players to be more well-rounded. Carr is an advocate of the Association fostering lifetime relationships with athletes and offering opportunities to connect back to the game both locally and internationally, suggesting, “Every player will say that the NBA was a special relationship, and that being a player will have value your entire life. There is synergy and a lot more can be done with this relationship to strengthen the NBA as a global leader. Former athletes can model post NBA life to demonstrate that their careers are just beginning, and when you exit one career you don’t need to fall off the map. Everyone can find his or her “it,” their next “arrival”. It’s a mix of coming to it yourself and through others, and just like your time in sports, if you don’t grab it and it may not come back around.”

In considering his learning curve as an entrepreneur, Carr talks about the importance of aligning your thinking to envision positive outcomes. “Believe more in the side of you that wants to succeed than in the fearful side of you. Entrepreneurs do a lot of talking in the ‘what if it doesn’t work’ space, focusing on deficits. Switch your mindset to “what if I find great people with whom I can partner,’ ‘what if I use this money and it enables me to get my business off the ground.’ Spend more time believing in your vision than in clinging to “what if my vision doesn’t work.’ Break out of the grind of fear. Confidence is one of the nine medallions that we teach in our leadership training at PRO2CEO, the ability to go into the unknown with the self-assurance that it will be okay, ‘I’m a lot more than what I or others can see.’ Give to a higher power what you can’t totally understand. Prayer and faith are a part of my success DNA. You are constantly in a position as an athlete in which you don’t know if you’ll get there and you can draw on the wisdom of where you’ve been.”