Tanner Simkins is the founder and CEO of Complete SET agency, a hybrid and entertainment firm that works with multinational brands, world-class athletes, platinum entertainers, and more. Simkins has agreed to sit down and weigh in on what he calls his innovative agency model a think tank of sports and entertainment representation.
What inspired you to get into sports representation?
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and played sports my whole life. My dad was a star three athlete, and I still hear stories about his glory days. My mom was the lead majorette for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The influence of sports was there from an early age for me. Growing up, my brother was always the better basketball player, so the plan was for him to go pro, and for me to be his agent.
Fast forward a bit – my brother is now a super successful real estate finance exec, and I’m just trying to keep the dream alive! I am so proud of what I’ve built with Complete SET Agency. We go head to head with some of the biggest companies in the world and, despite being out-funded and outsourced, we continue to win clients in sports representation and consulting.
What experiences early in your career helped to shape your focus on becoming a sports agent?
While I am a certified sports agent, I prefer the entrepreneur description because I am the CEO of the company and I do so much more in business. Everyone wants to work in sports, and being an athlete or a fan is no qualification; you have got to bring value to the table. For me, the hustle needed to make it to the top echelon of this industry was appealing.
I was told early on by a mentor that to be an elite sports exec, you have to be “the 1% of 1%”. I embraced the challenge and each of my educational or career steps since has been intentional and strategic. I lean into the unconventional, which this career path very much is.
How does an agency like Complete SET help athletes and brands?
I lead Complete SET Agency like a think tank. I always want to be at the frontier of new trends and developments. If there is a way I can disrupt the marketplace or innovate somewhere, that’s the route I take. Many competitor agencies operate with what I believe is an antiquated model – so doing things differently and boldly is my comparative advantage.
It’s part expertise, part sweat equity, part authenticity, part charisma – and I package that up into a suite of services which looks one way for athletes and differently for our brand clients. It’s about pushing the envelope on cutting edge technologies and trends. My commitment to this type of mentality usually gets the meeting, and after that, it’s time to deliver.
How did some previous experience like with the Miami Heat and elsewhere help shape your future career?
I am an interdisciplinarian. It’s just my curious nature to develop a lot of skills and juggle a lot of things. I was at University of Miami wrapping up my dual undergraduate degree when I was working full time for the Miami Heat. Technically I was an intern, but I was doing it all, and I loved that. We ended up winning the NBA Championship that year, so I like to joke that I have a perfect winning record, because that was my one season with the club.
Then I went to Columbia University for my grad degree and I utilized my position as an Ivy League student to my advantage. I was freelancing, doing contracted sports projects for big time companies like Bloomberg and Time Magazine. I was doing some sports finance and venture capital work about this time as well. I was lucky enough to work for legend Joe Favorito and he introduced me to heavy hitters, like Harvey Schiller for example and many others.
It was doing good and reliable work for these types of people and companies that allowed me to build a book of consulting business, which I eventually rolled up to create Complete SET Agency. I got certified in all the pro basketball and football leagues shortly thereafter to add in the athlete representation dynamic to my agency. We have been rolling ever since!
How have you seen Complete SET change the course of your clients’ careers?
I know what it is like to chase a dream, to put your heart and soul into a goal like being a pro athlete. So it is very rewarding to be able to help my clients. I have terrific client testimonials crediting my support and good work to their career success, which is always very special to hear. We don’t stop there, though; we work with our clients throughout their post-playing career to pursue business opportunities and philanthropic efforts.
What is something you’re excited about for the future of Complete SET Agency?
Onward and upward! We are going to continue to scale. I have already been approached with some acquisition offers so I imagine the bigger agencies will continue to be interested in the work I am doing. As for now, no exit plans are in place. My focus is on increasing dealflow, creating disruptive innovation, and bringing bold ideas to the solutions I provide to clients.