When Groups Become Teams: Learning from Hollywood “Titans”


One of my all-time favorite movies is the Disney classic, Remember the Titans, which came out in 2000.  Sure, I am a huge sports fan, and I played a little football in high school, so it doesn’t hurt that this movie takes place in my generation, and is based on a high school football team that is dealing with racial issues and prejudice.   At my high school in the late 70’s and early 80’s (when I played), we had a predominantly white team, with a few minorities.  The big difference between the Titans of T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, and Indians of Fullerton High School here in Southern California, was that we were mostly unified from the beginning.  Another difference is that we weren’t that good, at least not in the two years that I played.

Remember the Titans is centered on the theme of integration.  T.C. Williams High School, like so many schools in the early 70’s, faced tension and violence, as two cultures were combined into one school.

On the football field, the integration eventually worked, as the Titans went a perfect 13-0, and won the Virginia state championship.  The Titans held their opponents scoreless in 9 of those 13 victories.

While there are so many more details to this story, the real reason I love this movie is because of the roles of various leaders throughout the movie.

Prior to integration, the head football coach was Bill Yoast.  He was a legendary high school coach in Virginia in the 1960’s.  As the movie accurately depicts, the Titans were led in 1971 by Coach Herman Boone, portrayed in the movie by Hollywood legend Denzel Washington.  The tension and prejudice between Coaches Yoast and Boone was real, and was a microcosm of the issues between the players, and on the school campus.

I teach a Sports Management and Leadership course at UC Riverside, and this month will begin my 5th year doing so.  I have students from all over the world each year.  On the first night of class, I ask my students to define, in their opinion, the difference between a group, and a team.  I also ask them to discuss the difference between managing and leading.   It is always fascinating to me to hear their opinions and definitions, and then I ask them for examples of great managers and leaders from their own lives.

Regardless of their culture (I have had students from all over Europe, Asia, South America, North America, and even Russia), their understanding and examples of leadership are usually very similar.

In week two, I show them the movie Remember the Titans.  Sure, it is a sports leadership class, so it makes sense to show a classic sports movie, but sports is simply the backdrop for this great movie.  It is really about so much more.

I ask the class to identify the various leadership styles, methods, strengths, and weaknesses of each leader.  I also ask them to identify at least 10 different leaders in the movie.  This is tough, as there are two obvious leaders in the movie, the two coaches.  However, as they watch the movie, they invariably identify several of the players taking on leadership roles, as well as Coach Yoast’s 10 year old daughter Sheryl, played by actress Hayden Panettiere.  It is inspiring to see the players and this outspoken little girl step into leadership roles, and it teaches a profound lesson to the students…that leadership is not a title, but a responsibility of everyone, at different times, throughout the organization.

I also ask the class to identify the point when they believe the group of players, and the group of coaches, eventually become a team.

Our textbook identifies three types of leaders:  Autocratic (one decision maker, his or her way or the highway), Democratic (one leader makes the decision after input is received from his or her people), and Laissez faire (what will be, will be…letting things take their own course, without interfering).  There are several examples of each style throughout the movie.  In our own lives, there is a time and a place for each style.  For example, many of us might not respond very well to an autocratic leader, but if I am in a burning building, I don’t want the leader in our office to be democratic or laissez faire.  He or she needs to step up and take charge…now!

Any business leader, HR department, or recruiter, can assemble a group of people, but only a great leader can transform that group into a team.

As you watch this classic movie again, pay close attention to the leadership roles (I’ll bet you will come up with a lot more than 10 leaders) throughout, and also notice when the group of individuals eventually becomes a team.   Can you pinpoint moments in the film when this happens?  How about in your own company, family, or team?

I would love to hear from you about the various leaders in your business, and moments when you saw groups of people evolve into unified teams.

Share your stories with me, and let’s have some fun with this by sharing one another’s stories with everyone else.  Sometimes the greatest lessons we can learn come through the experiences of others.

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What Kind of Leader Are You?

The NFL season is upon us, which for many of you is the best time of year. I am not a huge NFL fan, but I will still watch some games, as I recover from my College Football Saturday hangover.   Each year, every team heads into the season hopeful that they will raise the Lombardi Trophy as the winner of the championship.

The Super Bowl trophy is named after one of the all-time great NFL coaches, Vince Lombardi.   He is famous for being a strong, tough, and fearless leader.   He said once, “We never lost a game; we just ran out of time.” He hated losing more than he loved winning. Excellence was all he accepted from his players. He would not tolerate less than 100% at all times from his teams.

In a sports leadership class that I was recently teaching, I asked my students to watch short videos on about 20 different past NFL coaches, and then write down characteristics that they admired, and that they did not, in each coach.   Coach Lombardi was one of the coaches in the videos, along with former coaches such as Bill Parcells, Bill Walsh, Tony Dungy, Don Shula, Mike Ditka, John Madden, George Halas, and Tom Landry, to name a few.

Each coach had his own unique style for leading his team, and the videos showed interviews with former players, assistant coaches, and others who knew these men very well.

They all had tremendous success; many won multiple championships, coached Hall of Fame players, and developed outstanding successors.   But each had a very unique style.

Two that come to mind immediately for me are Bill Parcells and Tony Dungy.   Both have won it all, have coached legendary players, and developed a long line of successful assistant coaches.   Yet their styles could not be more dramatically opposite.

Parcells and Dungy have both won over 140 games as a coach, and they have 3 Super Bowl wins combined as coaches, as well.   (Parcells 2, and Dungy 1, although he also won once as a player)

Parcells was known for being tough, demonstrative on the sidelines, in the face of his players constantly, always yelling at his guys, often belittling them in front of others, and sometimes grabbing them and shoving them to the bench. In other words, Parcells was the stereotypical head football coach. He was tough, he was vocal, and he always expressed his feelings, many times on camera!

Dungy was much more soft spoken, led more by example than by words, could be seen putting his arms around players on the sideline just about every week, and smiled more than just about any coach on game days. Dungy, a devoted family man and strong Christian, never swore on the sidelines, and rarely screamed at the officials.

An old boss of mine was an NFL referee, and worked several games coached by both Parcells and Dungy. “The difference in their styles was as different as night and day”, he told me once. “But the one common denominator in both coaches was that it was clear that each loved his team, and would step in front of a bus for any one of his players, from the star quarterback, to the 3rd string kicker!”

As you can see, their styles were completely different, yet their results were very similar.

I have heard dozens of players who played for these two coaches say very similar things. “He loved coaching, he loved his players, and I always knew he was in my corner. “ “He was fair, and he was tough, but I knew he was dedicated to teaching us the game, and to winning.”   “Coach was loyal to everyone who wore our uniform, and always treated us like we were his own sons.   All of us knew he had our backs, no matter what.” “We won because he was passionate, he was smart, and he brought out the best in us, in games, but especially in practice, and he always expected great things from us on and off the field.”

These are just a few quotes from former players who played for either Parcells or Dungy. It really doesn’t matter who said what about whom. What matters is this: There is not a leadership style that is one size fits all.   The important thing is to lead from your own experiences, be true to your style, and most importantly, be committed to your people, be fiercely loyal to them, and be a resource to them in all things, at all times, and in all places. You are not there to be their friend. You are there to be their ally, their mentor, their beacon, and their defender.   They can trust you to guide them where they cannot go without you.

We can read thousands of leadership books about how to lead, but the books about great leaders are so much more powerful. Find leaders you admire, and study their lives, their behaviors, and their styles. Emulate the ones that you think are, or were, great. Perhaps it was a famous world leader.   Maybe you most admire an old coach, or your parents.   Some of my greatest leadership examples have come from my parents, my high school baseball coach, a few teachers, and coaches, and many of you who demonstrate great leadership qualities as you lead your companies, your families, or other groups and teams.

Each of us has our own unique personality, which ultimately determines the way we treat people, lead people, and interact with those around us. Our leadership and communication style will be determined by our personalities.

Do not try to be what you are not.   Lead from your life, from your experiences, and from what is true and authentic to you.   This is the only style that works across every situation.

So what kind of leader is the best? Simple. You.   Be you.   Emulate others, but lead from your heart.

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What Am I Going to Do?

By Ed Hart, Director, Center for Family Business, Cal State Fullerton Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, and President, Hart Professional Services

A colleague here at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at Cal State Fullerton is retiring in the next couple of weeks. The other day, she popped into our office, and in our conversation, I asked the question that everyone gets asked when they are about to retire, and that is

“So what are you going to do once you retire?”

I loved her response, and it is the reason I felt inspired to write this. Sure, her response might have been sarcastic, but as we talked about it, it was more profound than she realized. It is the answer I hope to give when that time comes for me.

Her answer was simple, and it contained just three words.   She has planned this out for quite some time, and has been preparing for years for this time in her life.   She has the next chapter in her life all mapped out and, in fact, she already started writing that chapter, most likely, years ago.

Her answer taught me a lot. It helped me realize the reason why so many CEOs, family business owners, and other leaders hesitate to retire, and have trouble giving up control in their jobs, of their companies, or departments.

“What am I going to do with myself”

is a question that many ask themselves, or give as their answer when they get asked the question above. I hear this regularly as I work and consult with CEOs who are closing in on that “magic number”, whatever that number may be. They have worked so hard, put so much time, effort and energy into their business or job that they just have not prepared or planned for their eventual free time in retirement. Quite honestly, they are afraid of not being busy, of not adding value or contributing, or not having the type of purpose that they had while in their career.

Others have become strangers in their homes, and their spouses dread the day when retirement approaches because of the routine and free time that might be sacrificed when the other is home every day. It is a centuries-old joke that the wife wants the husband “out of the house” when he retires, so he ends up at the country club every day, or fishing, or sitting at the local coffee shop reading the paper and doing crossword puzzles.   Not that golf, fishing, or crossword puzzles are bad (I plan to do a lot of the former, and perhaps some of the other two, when my day comes), but many take up or return to these hobbies because they don’t know what else to do. Then their relationships with loved ones often deteriorate, and they feel less and less valued and important.

Okay, you’ve waited long enough for my colleague’s somewhat sarcastic, yet profound, three word response. Again, the question I asked was “So what are you going to do once you retire?”

Her response?

“Not come here.”

I laughed, at first, but then realized that this can be extremely powerful when we think about it.

In other words, she will continue to do the things she is already doing in her free time – visiting grandkids, traveling, gardening, spending time with her spouse, her friends, writing, working on little side businesses, etc. I don’t know if she does most of these things, but I do, and hope to do them a lot more when I retire.

The “a-ha” that came to me from this simple answer was that we all (regardless of our age, or target retirement date) need to be doing things now on the weekend, at night, in our spare time, that we hope to do more of when we retire.

Spend time with your spouse now.   Visit your kids and grandkids now. Golf now. Travel now. Read more now. See more movies now. Plant that garden now.   Learn to play the piano now.   Have lunch with your friends now.   Go to a ballgame now. Even if you work 60 hours a week (many say they do – most don’t), and sleep 8 hours a night (not many of us get that much sleep), that still leaves you with 52 hours a week when you are not working or sleeping.   If you commute one hour each way to and from work, then you still have 42 hours left.   You can easily fit some of these things into 42 hours a week!

Retire Now, So to Speak

The point is this.   Begin doing the things today that you would like to do more once you retire. You will find that retirement will be more fulfilling. Your spouse will be more excited to spend time with you if you are already spending some of those 42 hours each week together. Your grandkids won’t wonder who that stranger that smells funny is when you go visit after missing their first 10 (or more) birthdays.   Your golf game will thank you, and you will win some money from your friends if you have been playing before retirement and they haven’t. And we all know retirement income is at a premium, so why not take some of your friends’ hard-earned cash on the golf course because you have been playing over the years and they haven’t! J

The only thing that should change when you retire is that you will “not come here”.   This will give you more time to do the things you already are doing when you are not “here” at work.

Seems simple. It isn’t.

So here is your mission, should you choose to accept it.

Find one thing that you miss doing, or plan to put off until retirement, and start doing it today.   Your future self, and your loved ones, will thank you.   Also, your employees will thank you now because leaders with balance in their lives are happier, more effective, and have proven to be stronger, better, and more fair leaders and bosses.   Their companies are thriving, as well.

If you have any stories or examples of what you do now that you plan to do more when you retire, or questions about how to prepare your company, your family, or your employees for taking over when you retire, call me at 657-278-7431, or send me an email at edhart@fullerton.edu. Visit www.csuffamilybusiness.com for more information about the Center for Family Business, and how we have been assisting family leaders since 1995.

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Center for Family Business, City National Bank, Co-Presenting Inaugural Family Business Hall of Fame Event

Fullerton, Calif., September 24, 2014 – The Center for Family Business (CFB), part of CSUF Mihaylo College of Business and Economics (MCBE), today announced that it is partnering with Southern California-based City National Bank to launch the inaugural Family Business Hall of Fame. This dinner event will take place from 4:30 – 7:30 PM on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, at the Richard M. Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA. Honorees will be inducted into the CSUF MCBE Hall of Fame, which will be established in the Center for Family Business on campus at Cal State Fullerton. Winners will also receive a beautiful trophy recognizing this prestigious award.

For 14 years, the Center for Family Business partnered with the Orange County Business Journal to honor 5 family businesses each year. In 2015, the CFB at CSUF will host their first Hall of Fame event. City National Bank, already a sponsoring partner of the Center for Family Business, will be the presenting sponsor, and CFB partner McGladrey will also be a sponsor for this pioneer event.

“This historic event and ceremony will permanently honor 4 family businesses in the area, not restricted to just Orange County”, CFB Director Ed Hart stated. “We are striving to create the most prestigious award that a family firm can receive. This event is all about honoring 4 elite family businesses. Our relationship over the years with City National Bank will help make this event everything we hope it will become…a way to recognize family businesses for their efforts over the years.”

The award categories will be: The Excellence in Community Award, The Strength in Succession Award, The Founder’s Vision Award, and The Commitment to Education Award. Anyone can nominate a family business for one of these specific awards, and the Advisory Board and Sponsors of the Center for Family Business will be the selection committee. Winners will be announced at the January event.

“City National is proud to be the presenting sponsor of the inaugural hall of fame dinner for the Center for Family Business at Cal-State Fullerton,” said Kevin Dunigan, executive vice president and Orange County regional executive for City National. “The Center for Family Business is an important part of our community and a valuable resource for family businesses in our region. City National has been proudly serving the banking needs of family-owned businesses in Orange County for nearly 40 years.”

For more information about purchasing tickets, a table, donating to the event/Center, or nominating family businesses, please contact Ed Hart at edhart@fullerton.edu, or call 657-278-7431. Individual dinner tickets are $50 for Center members, and $75 for non-Center members. Tables of 8 can be purchased for $300 for Center members, and $500 for non-Center members.


The Center for Family Business (CFB) is an educational forum under the direction of the nationally recognized and accredited business school, Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University, Fullerton. Center members are given the opportunity to learn from experts in an academic atmosphere, integrating classroom education with best business practices. During each academic year, the Center for Family Business offers eight workshops on topics of special interest to family business owners, confidential discussion groups, and informative and entertaining events—all of which help to educate and facilitate success for family businesses. For information on joining the Center, contact Robbin Bretzing at (657) 278-4182 or visit http://www.csuffamilybusiness.com


Mihaylo College of Business and Economics is a nationally recognized and accredited business school. It offers a full range of business courses delivered by faculty members who integrate classroom education with best business practices, technology, award-winning research, functional applications and real-world experience. The largest business college in California, Mihaylo College is among just 28 percent of business schools nationwide to be accredited by the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International. Mihaylo College is included in the Princeton Review’s 2012 list of “Best 296 Business Schools,” a ranking based on each school’s students, physical environment, admissions requirements, teaching ratios and programs. It is also among the top 150 part-time MBA programs recognized by U.S. News & World Report.


City National Corporation (NYSE: CYN) has $30.8 billion in assets. The company’s wholly owned subsidiary, City National Bank, provides banking, investment and trust services through 77 offices, including 16 full-service regional centers, in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, Nevada, New York City, Nashville and Atlanta. City National and its investment affiliates manage or administer $65.8 billion in client investment assets, including $47.1 billion under direct management.
For more information about City National, visit the company’s Website at cnb.com.

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Is He or She the Right One for You?

(Please keep in mind that I am not a relationship expert, nor am I professionally educated or trained to give any advice on relationships or marriage. I have shared these thoughts with a lot of people over the years, and finally, at the urging of a couple of friends, have decided to write all of this down. Take it all for what it is worth…)

Back in 1993, I was about to marry my best friend.   She and I had each been married once before, and had been through prenuptial counseling together to find out all the reasons why, after a failed marriage for each of us, and with the thought of merging two past failures, along with 4 kids, we should not get married.   We had a great counselor, and she helped us work through a lot of potential issues, different parenting styles, letting go of past hurts, baggage, issues, etc.   Fortunately, we had a 10 year friendship that was at the foundation of our marriage, but not everyone is so lucky.

This is not an article about the benefits of therapy, although I could certainly write that article, too, as I am a big fan, assuming the therapist is a good one, and the patient is honestly seeking to make changes in his or her life.

This is about an article we were given by our therapist back then, which outlined 4 steps to determining if the person you are considering for a long-term relationship is, indeed, the right person for you.

There, of course, are no guarantees, and this article certainly does not claim to be a “crystal ball” in any way, but these four questions (well, now there are 7 – over the years, I have added 3 of my own that seem to apply, and that I have shared with hundreds of young couples over the years) are, in my opinion, good ones to consider as you and your chosen partner move forward.

For the sake of consistency in this blog, I am going to assume you are male, and considering marrying your current girlfriend. Feel free to substitute the “her” and “she” with “he” and “him”, if applicable.

Here are the original 4 questions, followed by my additional 3:

First, “Would you like to have kids with her?”   Not that you definitely will and in my case, we haven’t had any together, but already had four (she had three, I had one) when we married.   Certainly, I would have loved to have had additional kids with her, but 4 was a good number for us.   Does the thought of having children together sound appealing, or “right”?

Second, “Would you like it if your kids turned out like her?” Because, guess what? They will!   Sure, they will be a lot like you, as well (which may scare the hell out of you…or her!), but knowing that your kids will have a lot of the characteristics of your spouse should be a good thing, as you consider this person for a lifetime (or longer, depending on your beliefs) commitment.

Third, “Would you like to be like her?” Are there traits in her personality and character that you admire, and you would like to implement into your own life?   Do you admire her?   Do you watch the way she interacts with others, treats her parents, talks to strangers, or sings to herself in the kitchen, and think to yourself, “I want to be more like her”?

The final question of the original 4 was, “If she were never to change anything about her character or personality, would you still want to be with her anyway?”   Most people do not change much, especially as we get older.  

I have heard it said, however, that we change the most in our 20’s than in any other decade, as we form our political views, religious beliefs, and overall perspective of the world around us. It is our first decade as an adult, making our own decisions for the first time, and we form most of our lifelong habits between the ages 18 – 30.  

You and your chosen spouse or significant other will change tremendously in these years, so keep that in mind as you move into a relationship, as well.   Not all changes will be good, or to your liking, so make sure you are okay with the changes she is making, and that you love the way she is, as well, because many of the important traits she has will not change.   Does she love kids? Is she kind to people? How does she interact with her parents, siblings, friends? These things probably won’t change much, so make sure there are not significant red flags in these areas.

Over the years, as I have gone through my own relationship, and watched countless others in successful, or failed relationships, I have added the following three questions, that I think are very important.

Fifth, “Are you and she best friends?”   Are you genuinely in “like” with one another? Do you celebrate her success, or are you threatened or jealous when she has a big day or event?   If you are truly friends, you would rather be with her than anyone else most of the time. I love to play golf, and get a chance to play with family, colleagues, clients, and others, but I always wish I was playing with my wife above anyone else.   We have a history of golfing together – I started teaching her how to play when we were first dating back in 1992 and, not to knock any of my friends or colleagues, but I simply would rather be on the course with her!

Sixth, “Is there a romantic spark between the two of you?”   Questions 1 through 5 could apply to a lot of people, but if there is not a mutual chemistry, or spark, in the relationship now, when it is still relatively new, you are headed for problems down the road.   Mix in careers, kids, mortgages, stress of illness with parents and kids, the day-to-day annoyances that occur in every relationship, and that spark can be extinguished pretty easily.   This takes work – making sure you do everything in your power to keep that spark alive – and is one of the toughest parts of any marriage. If the spark is low now, that could be a sign of tougher days ahead.

Finally, and I just added this one recently, “When you are apart, what kind of thoughts do you have about her?” When you think about her, are your thoughts happy ones, do you get warm feelings in your heart and in your mind, do you look forward with eagerness to when you get to see her again, or are you glad to be apart, on a break, or getting some “time to yourself”?   Not to say time alone, or with friends, and apart isn’t mandatory for any solid relationship, because some independence and individuality is crucial, but when you are away from each other, there should be mutual excitement to be back together again.

Again, please keep in mind that these seven questions are not a magic potion or pixie dust that will guarantee happiness in any relationship, or unhappiness if the answers are “no” to a few of these. I just have found over the years in my own life, and in observing countless other couples, these questions are very good barometers for the future success of committed relationships.

There are many other questions, and I could easily create a Top 10 by simply adding, and perhaps these are the most important, questions like “Do you trust each other?”, “Can you laugh together?”, or “Do you have the same values and beliefs?”   All of these are important, as well.  

Years ago, I created an acronym for the word LOVE, which I believe is also critical in any relationship.

L = can you Laugh together?   O = Oneness, or unity. Are you unified in the important stuff?   V = Values – are the important things to you important to her, and vice versa? And E = Enthusiasm – are you genuinely happy for the other person, are you enthused about your relationship, and celebrate the successes of the other person?

Again, no magic potions here…just common sense things to consider before making that long term commitment, and keeping you on the right side of the relationship statistics!

If you have other questions, or suggestions, please let me know, as the list could go on forever, but I think this is a good start.   Identify which of the 7 to 10 categories is most important to you, and then take an honest look at your answers.   I have several friends who do not want to have kids, so questions 1 and 2 are less relevant to them.   Which questions are most relevant to you?

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Simplifying My Life – It Doesn’t Look At All How I Had Imagined

“Are we there yet?” – Every Kid, in Every Back Seat in America!

My goal coming into 2014, the year I turn 50, was to simplify my life, to remove some things from my calendar that ate up so much time over the past couple of years, and to find new ways to earn money, advance my career, and get ahead.   If you were to take a peek at my calendar in Outlook, you would think I have accomplished just the opposite, as my days (and nights) have been filled with teaching, speaking engagements, lots of Church activities, and many other events and meetings.   I am actually busier than I have ever been.

However, my focus for the past several years has completely shifted, which has had a profound effect on my attitude about all this “busy-ness”.  

For years, my attention has been on “How can I make more money?”   “How can I manage my expenses better?”  “How can stress less, and find more peace of mind?”  

Peace of mind was always the be all, end all, goal that I had in mind.  I even had the words “Peace of Mind” written on a few sticky notes around my home, car, and office, as a constant reminder of what I was seeking.

Then, within the last couple of months, I had, perhaps, the greatest epiphany of my life.   Making more money and finding peace of mind, while nice “destinations”, were not descriptive of the journey.   I had spent so much time with the wrong goal, the wrong focus, that I had become frustrated that I had not accomplished either.   I was not any closer to financial freedom, or the peace of mind that I envisioned that came along with it, that I felt overwhelmed and extremely discouraged.

For over 20 years, when asked what my dream career looked like, I always had the same answer.   I have wanted to write, consult, teach, and do speaking engagements.   I love to teach, I love to be in front of people, and I love to write.   “When my life settles down”, I would convince myself, “I will find more time to write, and once I have a couple of books published, I will then have more credibility to go out and land speaking gigs, teaching opportunities, and consulting projects.”

Yup, I had it all figured out.   I knew my destination, and was so focused on all the things I needed to accomplish before realizing my dream, that the dream continued to slip further and further out of sight.

Then, literally like a bolt of lightning, came the breakthrough.

What if I focused on the journey, and had the confidence to start doing what I love doing now, rather than waiting for some date and some amount of money in my bank account that would probably never come?   What if I stopped thinking about money, and simply just started focusing on doing what I love?

In October of 2013, I was asked to teach a two-day sales class to juniors and seniors here at Cal State Fullerton.   It was a nice, paid teaching gig.    I loved it, and by all accounts, it went very well.    So well, in fact, that I just taught part two of the class last weekend, and will most likely have this opportunity every semester.

Through a connection, in January, I was asked if I would be interested in teaching a Sports Finance class at UC Riverside.   I would have my own class, teach once a week for 12 weeks, and there would be a decent paycheck at the end of the quarter.    Tonight, I give the final exam, and have absolutely fallen in love with teaching, and have the greatest students.   It has been a lot of hard work, and a lot of late nights studying as I prepared to teach each week, but it has been so worth it.

Next quarter, I hope to teach again.   In fact, we are now looking at launching a Sports Management program here at Fullerton, and I could have the chance to lead that project, and teach in the program.

Last month, I had a chance to speak at an executive retreat for a local family business here in Southern California, and the experience was life changing for me, and people in the session later commented on how well it went.  The paycheck at the end was pretty remarkable, as well, and has led to several more opportunities with other companies.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to join a group of elite speakers around the country.   They now represent me, and I will have the privilege of speaking to groups potentially all over the country.

I am not sharing these recent successes and opportunities to brag at all.   Quite the opposite, actually.  I simply hope the lesson that took me nearly 50 years to learn will come to you much sooner.   Once we stop looking so far out into the future at a goal we really cannot even see, start looking at simply doing what we love, develop whatever talents we have been given, and focus on our passions, that goal we couldn’t see out in the distance will, somehow, miraculously, come to us!   It really does work that easily.  

I am feeling inspired to write again, which had not happened for a long time, as I was so wrapped up in making money, and achieving peace of mind, that my creativity was completely blocked.

As soon as I altered my focus from making money and finding peace of mind, and began to focus on simply doing what I love, and magnifying my talents, the floodgates of opportunity have opened up to me and, you know what, the money is coming in, and I have never felt so much peace.   I know that , as I simply focus on doing what I love, and loving what I do, that I am, indeed, finding peace of mind, and that the money (if that is the goal), the opportunities, and true happiness just naturally follows. 

This is not rocket science, and has been taught by some of the greatest philosophers, teachers, leaders, and spiritualists for centuries, yet until I applied it in my life, I didn’t really understand the concept.   I hope and pray that each of you has already learned this lesson by firsthand experience, or that you learn it very soon.  

While I probably have more on my calendar now than I have ever before, my goal of simplifying in 2014 is being fulfilled because I am doing what I truly believe is my calling in life.   Every day, I get to write, prepare, teach, and speak, and to me, that is my personal success, and my life is much simpler now.

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Best Advice to a Family Business? Seek Outside Advice!

“In the multitude of counselors (Advisors) there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

There is safety in numbers. We have all heard this before. However, it is not entirely true. The safety comes from being with the right people, those who can lift us up, teach us, guide us, and lead us. When we trust the people around us, and they trust us, that is where the safety is found.

In your family business, you have had success because you know your business, your customers, your industry, and you have established values and procedures that work for you and your customers.

However, there comes a time for each of us when we realize that we do not know everything, and that we determine that reaching out to others will be the best way to gain the knowledge and expertise that we lack. We seek trusted advisors in all aspects of our lives, so why wouldn’t we do the same in the area that creates our livelihood?

Over 70% of businesses in the United States are family owned and operated. Of these family businesses, close to 75% do not successfully pass from the founding generation to the next. The percentages are even more alarming as we look at companies successfully making it to generation 3, and beyond.

One reason why family businesses do not successfully pass from one generation to the next is that there simply are not members of the next generation, for whatever reason, who are available or interested in running the business. Sometimes, the lack of expertise or industry knowledge prevents the existing leadership to have confidence in the next generation, as well.

In just about all cases, it is suggested that family businesses consider finding resources outside of the family to assist in the leadership of the company. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should bring in a non-family CEO, but you should always be willing and open to bringing in someone from the outside to work in key positions where the family may not have the right education and experience.

The most successful family businesses in the world have a lot in common, but one thing you will find consistent in every world class family business is that they know that they do not know everything, and that there is experience out there beyond their family that can make a tremendous impact on the business.

There are organizations, consultants, associations, and service providers who specialize in working with family-owned enterprises, who have years of experience in working with the best family companies in the world. These trusted advisors can be found at your bank, CPA firm, law firm, Vistage, Family Business Centers like ours at Cal State Fullerton, The Family Business Consulting Group, etc. They can even be found in other companies, as well.

Again the safety that can be found in working with people, and experts, you can trust could be the turning point for your family, and your business.

Another major point to consider is when to reach outside of your family for expertise on a day-to-day basis in your company. In all likelihood, your family does not have all of the experience necessary to take your company to the next level.

“The turning point in our business”, states Anna’s Linens founder and CEO Alan Gladstone, “was when we realized that we did not know everything there was to know about our industry, about retail, and about our marketplace. About 10 years ago, we began bringing in experts in retail, and in the geographic areas where we do business.” Anna’s Linens, a wildly successful family business headquartered in Costa Mesa, CA, has 312 stores scattered around the United States, including stores in Puerto Rico. “When we came to the conclusion that there was more expertise outside of our family, and began to tap into that knowledge, we grew faster and healthier than at any time in our company’s 36 year history.”

Anna’s Linens was the 2007 Orange County Family Business of the Year, just 3 years after turning to experts outside of their family.

Giving up any control in your company is very tough. However, one of the greatest strengths of any leader is humility. Being able to not only see where needs are not being met by the current family leadership, but then stepping outside of the family to find the talent needed to take your company to the next level, is a great demonstration of this humility.

In addition to bringing in outside experts to work in the company, as Gladstone has done with Anna’s Linens, the most successful family companies in the world also reach out to experts to sit on their advisory boards, as consultants, or as previously mentioned, they join with other family businesses in organizations such as Vistage, their local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary, or find a university or organization with a Center for Family Business, where owners of family companies come together to share ideas, issues, and consult with one another.

The bottom line is to recognize that you do not know everything there is to know about your industry, and that there are experts, even in other industries, who have a wealth of knowledge who can be a great resource to you. For years, I have worked with companies in a variety of industries, and time after time, I hear stories from leaders of family organizations tell me that the best ideas they have received to make the biggest impact on their company came from someone not only outside of their company, but from a completely different industry, as well.

Remember, there is safety in numbers, as long as the numbers consist of people we trust, and who trust us.

For assistance in finding trusted resources, whether it is to set up an advisory board, join a peer group, or meet with other family businesses, feel free to reach out to me at 657-278-4182, edhart@fullerton.edu, or visit us at http://www.csuffamilybusiness.com.

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