After 16 years in the talent management and PR world, I’ve learned that success can be achieved only when you realize the potential of the talent you manage. Experience after experience—from launching the career of male supermodel Lucky Blue Smith to helping influencer Chriselle Lim expand her business—has taught me that elevating talent is an ongoing process. That is to say, there is no proverbial “end game.” Rather, I have one unwavering goal in everything I do: to combine meaningful work with meaningful relationships. The realization of potential—in your talent, and in yourself—is key to both.
How I help my talent maximize their potential
This is the three-step strategy I use to bring out the best in my talent.
1. Identify their potential—and their limitations
When you’re scouting talent to work with, you have to be honest with yourself and that person in what I call the “identification” process. It’s vitally important to identify a person’s potential as well as their realistic limitations. There’s a famous quote from Albert Einstein: “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.” When I first heard this quote, it made me realize that everyone should be catered to differently. You cannot expect salmon to climb a tree, but you can count on it to swim upstream.
For example, I know talent who are exceptional at public speaking and charming an audience. Those are the ones I pitch for editorials, interviews, and conventions, allowing their innate strengths to brilliantly shine. Some talent may be painfully shy but incredibly gifted in their art. Those are the ones I accompany to big client meetings, so that I can facilitate the conversation and allow the talent to simply speak from their soul about their art.
2. Be transparent in your communication
At the start of a professional relationship, guidelines, expectations, and agreements should always be addressed in a verbal conversation, and then put in writing. As a manager, you must prioritize being transparent with your talent over being liked. In my career, I’ve encountered difficult situations with talent that I had to maneuver delicately and transparently.
Once someone I managed called to say they couldn’t make it to a photo shoot because they were sick in bed with the flu. I called their bluff immediately; the night before, their Instagram Stories showed them fully engaged and thriving at a nightclub, and that very morning their Stories revealed the horrible hangover they had. I could have chosen the easy path of being “liked” and saying I would handle it with the client and for them not to worry. Instead, I explained that I knew they weren’t being honest with me and that not only was lying unacceptable, but so was the lack of respect by not showing up to set. Because I was honest and transparent, the talent ended up getting out of bed, going to the eight-hour shoot, and doing a stellar job for the client. This was a monumental lesson for my talent, and one that made them grow as a professional and as a human being.
3. Push them to continually evolve
Perfection does not exist, nor should it be something any of us strive for. But we cannot, on the flip side, become complacent—we all have to push ourselves to constantly evolve. When you and your talent find that steady stream of evolution, you begin to live your truth. Both you and your talent have to be resilient and understand that in order to achieve what you envision, you must be stronger than the hardest circumstances that come your way.
Dealing with rejection—continuous, repeated rejection—is a crucial aspect of the realization stage, and how you deal with it is a key factor in your ability to evolve. For example, I’ve worked with talent in the fashion industry who were “kindly turned down” from attending prestigious shows at Fashion Week, year after year. Where their reaction might be to take offense, I insisted that they release their ego and realize that fashion is a long-term game. I then leverage my relationships with said fashion houses to get feedback on why my talent wasn’t invited, which I can share with them to help them work toward a potential seat in the future. When they finally break through, they know that they earned it.
As Ray Dalio, a top American investor and author, writes in his book Principles, “No matter what you want out of life, your ability to adapt and move quickly and efficiently through the process of personal evolution will determine your success and your happiness.” At the end of the day, bringing out your best will bring out their best. So be kind to yourself—and realize your own potential as well.
Idalia Salsamendi is CEO of Idalia Salsamendi Inc., an industry-leading business strategy company with a roster of luxury brands such as Chopard and Valentino as well as top influencers like Chriselle Lim and Brittany Xavier. Prior to starting her own company, Salsamendi was the director of talent at Next Models in New York.