Bobcat Fever

MH3 —  January 18, 2017

All isn’t so bad in America after all.

At least not in Athens, Ohio, where I spent three inspiring days teaching in the MBA/MSA (Sport administration) program at Ohio University. Ohio is the number one graduate sport business program, according to the rankings. A title they proudly claimed in 2012, 2013, and 2015.

But first a word about Athens. It’s one of those small towns that could lure me out of living in a big place like T.O. Its population is approximately 24,000, which makes the fact that it is home to a 24,000 person university all the more intriguing. The downtown core of the community and the university are one. The school was opened in 1804, set high on a hill painted with gorgeous views of rolling terrain. Apparently designed by the same architect who created Harvard, the whole place has a calming buzz.

Athens is also friendly beyond belief. I walked everywhere, and with everywhere I walked people stopped to say “hello” to me. I don’t really know why, but it certainly was nice. If I walk down Yonge Street in Toronto, nobody says hello. Did I look like a professor? An aged foreign exchange student? The father of a new sports recruit? An out-of-work Obama looking for a part-time gig? I don’t know the answer to the question, although I answered every hello with an equally chipper hello back. Then I would slowly turn my head as they went by to make sure they weren’t secretly posting me on Facebook Live Antonio Brown style, nor laughing hysterically at the toilet paper strung out of my backside from my morning ritual. Nope. Nope. Nope. They were being nice.

I guess Athens hasn’t received the memo from the PE yet. Nice isn’t America’s way anymore.

As nice as the people of Athens were, the 28 students in my workshop were amazing. In fact, amazing isn’t a powerful enough word. I just don’t have a stronger one. Let me work on that.

The group were the second year MBA/MSA students, carefully selected from across the country. Each of them were passionate, driven, ambitious and delightfully unique. They told me their stories. Shared with me their dreams. Admitted their weaknesses. Talked about their futures. 

The purpose of my visit was to run a one credit workshop around one of my favourite topics – entrepreneurship in sport. I used to teach it as a semester long course in Laurentian’s SPAD program but changed it up dramatically for this workshop. Time was a clear driver of this change. Taking a sixteen week course down to a couple of days required a reboot to the approach.

The reboot resulted in the design of a workshop that focused on my personal beliefs as the most critical factor in the success of any enterprise. The entrepreneur themselves. As well, that reboot also resulted in a slight adjustment in focus. My objective wasn’t for everyone in the room to run out the door and magically become entrepreneurs. My focus was for the participants to become more entrepreneurial in spirit. Obviously biased but I feel entrepreneurial people are the key to success in any enterprise, regardless of size, mission, structure, or purpose.

I write pieces of this on a wet winter January morning, minutes after meeting an aspiring film maker who has invested thee years and all of his savings of his life into creating a documentary. That’s an entrepreneur. This afternoon I will huddle with the CEO of one of our largest NFP clients, who has rebuilt his organization despite encountering massive funding cuts literally the week he assumed his new title. That’s an entrepreneurial leader. 

There are thee parts to this discussion for any person wanting to understand their inner entrepreneur. 

1. Can you sell yourself to yourself? There are going to be dark moments and ugly hurdles. Do you have the passion, focus, and courage to succeed?

2. Can you sell yourself to others? You can’t do it alone. Who will come to your side for this voyage? Who will pick up arms for this battle? Who will leap off that cliff holding your hand?

3. Can you sell yourself to customers? You are the brand. You are the business. But a business isn’t a business until you make a sale. A sale isn’t made until you get paid. 

These questions made for an engaging discussion with this group of Bobcats. Taking stock of yourself isn’t easy, but it’s a process that can benefit anyone. However taking stock of yourself and sharing it with some strange Canadian is an even more challenging task. These OU kids, however, were more than my match. 

I came home from this trip and blurted out to anyone that there is some incredible talent for hire in this class. There is one young lady I want to sign up tomorrow. Even if it means she would become our entire Athens office. She’s a rockstar. Additionally it would be really nice to work somewhere where total strangers said Good Morning. Something to consider.