As many know from a previous article, I am big believer that athletic directors must be inclusive with successful and respected business leaders in keeping their programs competitive on a national scale. The reason is simple: every athletic program must be attractive to elite athletes, and athletic directors work with coaches constantly on ways to enhance the student-athlete experience on their campuses. Each of these enhancements require additional financial investment from external sources.
I want to devote this article to what attracts high-level business leaders to be part of helping athletic programs.
I recently had conversations with two self-made business icons (who I worked with closely during my career) whose involvement with athletic programs have received national attention; I want to share a few of their comments.
1) “My business is not about the money, it is about the vision! And involving individuals who are excited and driven toward reaching it, a true team experience.”
2) “There are two types of people, those who take risks and those who do not.”
Both of these comments were similar to those shared by various business leaders in the book “Built to Last;” a book one of these gentlemen had given me some years ago and referred to it as his “business bible.” It is a great book.
In my conversations, they both exhibited a level of enthusiasm and excitement when discussing “vision” and achieving success as a team. It was clear that the athletic programs they helped had clearly stated visions that attracted their involvement. Both programs clearly stated their visions of being among the nation’s best (“BHAGS”) and steps they were taking to “get there.”
“BHAGS” is another reference to “Built to Last,” Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Here is my take on why individuals of their professional accomplishment were involved:
1) They are “wired” to be connected with excellence.
Both programs were thorough in proving that they (and their university leaders) were totally committed to being the best and attracting the nation’s most elite student-athletes.
Anything less would not have attracted their involvement.
2) They enjoy being part of taking risks, overcoming what most say “can’t be done.”
Both programs were reaching for heights many saw as “laughable.” When the commitment (vision) and detailed plan were in place, they became vested in achieving success and enjoyed being part of a winning team.
While there are certainly more “eloquent” ways to describe why highly successful and respected business leaders become involved with athletic programs, I am simply stating what I have experienced first hand and have heard from them directly.
Ken Winstead is a 30-year veteran of collegiate athletics, most recently serving the Seattle University athletics department as Associate Athletic Director/Senior Fundraiser. During previous stints at UL-Lafayette, Colorado State, Washington, Houston, Oregon, Georgia Southern, and even USA Wrestling, Ken developed a reputation as a successful fundraiser who inspires action by bringing people together and building consensus around a bold vision.