I love a challenge. One of my favorite challenges was during the early days of my time with ESPN when the invention of the 24-hour sports cycle came to be. I was asked, “Do you really think people are going to watch a 24 hour sports network?” from the leadership team. I remember responding with, “Why not? We will not know until we put it out there so let’s put it out there.” That was my first step into the entrepreneurial corporate world of telecommunications with ESPN. The challenge required a leap of faith based on little knowledge. And as they say, look where ESPN is now.
Spending over a dozen years in a corporate career with new and emerging cable networks, I immersed myself in the passion for bringing athletics (ESPN and The Golf Channel), breaking news (Satellite News Channel), country music (The Nashville Network and Country Music Television), and more many genres into the living rooms of hundreds of thousands of people. There was much research to be done, focus groups to be had, spreadsheets to be created, budgets to be monitored and strategic plans to follow step by step to bring these viewers to the screen. While passionate about the mission, in corporate settings, the mind has to rule the heart with professional wisdom, accountability and proof before, during and after the launch of an idea. In order to take the next step oftentimes in a corporate entity, data and analysis has to be presented to obtain financial and leadership backing. When rolling out the new 24-hour sports cycle for ESPN, we were always counting and reporting the subscriber numbers to encourage advertisers to support our network and prove that people were indeed watching to continue with our efforts.
Now, when working in the non-profit sector, I suggested an idea to bring foster kids to camp each year to be with their siblings. I was told, “I have never heard of that, but it’s a great idea!” I then remember thinking to myself, “Well okay then, let’s do this.” There was not much research to be done, no time for focus groups, the spreadsheets would invent themselves, who knew what the budget was, and the only strategic plan was to take the first step to bring campers to CampToBelong. While passionate about the mission, in non-profits, the heart often has to rule in what is perceived as common sense, responsibility and outcomes before, during and after the launch of an idea. In order to take the next step oftentimes in a non-profit entity, you have to present the outcomes and impacts on society. For our new camp, we presented the love letters from past participants and the concept that if we help just one, we have made a difference. And as they say, look where CampToBelong is now.
In both cases, it is the entrepreneurial spirit that is needed to take an idea into a movement….we think, we feel, we act. The foundation for corporate settings and non- profit programs are both truly steeped in the optimism and positive attitude that something can be different. Strategy before or strategy after – subscriber numbers or love letters – mind or heart leadership – the risk is often the same. The main difference is the key performance indicators that are presented to move forward with a vision.