My career in college athletics has focused on fundraising and being inclusive with highly respected business leaders. Today’s message will touch on what I have found helpful in attracting such individuals to a college athletic program
In addition to enjoying great fundraising results because of their involvement, my athletic colleagues and I always learn invaluable “real world” business lessons.
Following advisory board meetings with these esteemed individuals, I leave energized and more confident about reaching our fundraising goals. Watching them digest the various department challenges presented, and then working with us in building consensus on solutions along with a “plan” is an amazing experience.
As my relationships with these individuals grow, we will often compare business models existing in college athletics compared to their companies. These conversations would always lead to my asking how they would approach managing an athletic department if they became an athletic director. Fabulous discussions!
In a previous article, I focused on talks I had with two iconic business leaders regarding the importance of an organization having a bold vision. One highlighted BHAG’s (big hairy audacious goals) as detailed in the amazing book “Built to Last,” the other spoke on the importance of the athletic director being a risk taker. They both agreed that a bold vision with a defined business plan attracts individuals such as themselves.
In addition to presenting a bold vision, what I found to be even more important in attracting successful business leaders was sharing the athletic department’s core ideologies. In their world, a company’s core ideologies are the basis for all business decisions, so I thought it a good idea to share an example of “core ideologies” from “their” world.
Again, I will refer to the book “Built to Last,” it lists the core ideologies of the company Johnson and Johnson in priority order:
Johnson and Johnson began in 1886 with an idealistic aim “to alleviate pain and disease,” which remains today.
I highly recommend athletic directors who are looking at shaping or updating their department’s core ideologies read “Built to Last.”
As you can see from the Johnson and Johnson example, service to stockholders ranks below service to customers, employees, management and community.
In the private sector, companies begin with a core group of investors; similar to athletic programs reliance on major donors. In most cases, these investors and donors are individuals who get involved before the company or athletic department becomes attractive to the general public. As the organization becomes successful, stockholders get involved when a company goes public; ticket buyers, seat related donors and corporate sponsors are the equivalents within a college athletic program.
Therefore, it is clear to me why service to stockholders has a lower rank at Johnson and Johnson. Stockholders usually get involved only when they see an outstanding product in existence; similar to ticket buyers, seat related donors and corporate sponsors in athletics.
If I were creating a ranking of core ideologies for an athletic department, I would list the following:
My ranking is based on the premise that an athletic department’s operations and/or enhancement projects must be “self-generating.”
Every athletic program centers around helping their student-athletes fulfill their academic and championship dreams; and remaining attractive to prospective elite athletes and coaches.
The constant reinvestment in people and facilities required to keep that “competitive edge” is a bold vision that attracts elite business leaders; something vital to it’s success.
With limited time available to assist outside organizations, they obviously must be selective. When introduced to an organization’s core ideologies (from which BHAG’s are created), something commonplace in “their world,” they tend to have a greater comfort level in choosing that organization.
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.