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Archive for November, 2010

 

Nov 11 2010

GU SIM Sports Leadership and Management Course Guest Lecturer: Ted Leonsis

by at 4:15 pm


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By Jeff Doyle

The sports industry is a field filled with champions, elite athletes, leaders, entrepreneurs and business tycoons.  On Monday night, students from GU SIM’s Sports Leadership and Management course were treated to over an hour of insight from one of the best and brightest in the business, Ted Leonsis.  The majority owner of three Washington, DC-based sports franchises – the Capitals, Wizards and Mystics, along with the building they call home, the Verizon Center –  Leonsis is quite simply a star amongst stars in the sports business.  Leonsis has dedicated himself to finding ways to stay ahead of the curve.  His transparent style and willingness to engage with his teams’ rabid fan base is a rarity amongst owners.  Unlike countless other CEOs and leaders, he does not subscribe to the concept of winning at all costs.  Leonsis believes there is a better way to pursue success, or as he puts it, “doing well by doing good.”

 During his speech to graduate students Leonsis, a Georgetown University alum (C’77) himself, emphasized the great social responsibility that coincides with being a team owner.  He described the enormous role sports has in being one of the five main pillars that help shape and hold together the fabric of a community.  The ability of sports to evoke positive social change is something that Leonsis takes seriously on a personal level.  He admitted he spends a great deal of time thinking about how his teams can best utilize their position in society. 

Leonsis believes the elevated platform his teams enjoy should be used for giving back.  “The footprint left in the community through sports dwarfs any of the other businesses I’m in.”  And Leonsis has his hands in quite a few different endeavors.

But Leonsis doesn’t jump to invest in every hot new idea.  When a student posed the question as to how he decides his new business partners, Leonsis went on to describe the concept of a “double bottom line.”  Leonsis believes that a new business venture must not only have the potential to meet the conventional bottom line of financial profits, but must also seek a second bottom line that measures success in terms of positive social impact.  Leonsis then pointed to the double bottom line success of two companies in which he holds a stake in and a strong passion for – Groupon and SnagFilms.

With all of Leonsis’s unique experience and success across multiple industries, it was interesting to learn that he believes winning a championship is the hardest thing to achieve in business.  Factors such as player health, officiating and flat out luck make winning a major title in sports near impossible.  To overcome these obstacles, Leonsis stated his goal is to have his teams become consistently great, so that eventually luck would be on his teams’ side and they would be their turn to reach the pinnacle.

So how does an owner stay motivated to continue to reach for an elusive championship?  Leonsis shared a story with students about how recently while working out on a treadmill he saw a video clip of his favorite childhood baseball team.  Leonsis was immediately taken back in time, brought to a special memory he has never forgotten that he shared with his late father.  So moved by this moment, Leonsis had to sit down.  He then realized, “This is the business I’m in.”  The business of creating memories for fans.  The business of building special teams that do great things so fans can share unique moments that last a lifetime with family and friends.

Leonsis offered some words of advice during his closing to the Georgetown students in the audience:  work in a responsible way because we are working in a transparent field.  Sports has a unique place in our society and people watch closely.  As future leaders in the industry we have a responsibility to do the right thing.  That should now be just a little bit easier for us thanks to the powerful message from our fellow Hoya and sports industry icon, Ted Leonsis.

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