Back in May, I had a conversation with an old Greek man who entered America via Ellis Island. I asked him, “Papou (an endearing term in Greek), if you could give me one piece of advice, what would it be?” Without hesitation, he said to me, “When I came to this country, I always wanted to surround myself with smart people. I wanted to learn from them. I would tell myself, ‘George, if you’re the smartest man in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.’ This is the greatest advice that I can give you.” He went on to tell me that this is how he became a successful businessman. When I look around the room at all my fellow MSBAers, I say to myself, “Welcome to your room.” This is the room where you will learn from each and every person. This is the room where, just by listening, you will receive the step-by-step guide to sport industry success. This is the room Papou George would never want to leave.
My predecessors have already bragged about the incredible offices we’ve visited and the inspiring Speakers we’ve heard from, so I’ll spare you the potential FOMO – but in case you were wondering, this program has been nothing short of superb. The advice we receive, the locations we visit, and the connections/friendships we make along the way are simply priceless.
“When I look around the room at all my fellow MSBAers, I say to myself, ‘Welcome to your room.’ This is the room where you will learn from each and every person. This is the room where, just by listening, you will receive the step-by-step guide to sport industry success.”
Tonight, Ed O’Hara, President & Chief Creative Officer of SME, Inc., has set a new bar for Speakers and I gotta say, I don’t know if it will be able to be surpassed in my personal opinion. He taught us about branding, but beyond that he presented his branding tagline, “Win the Heart,” which has been validated through SME’s various successful campaigns. Wow, reaching for people’s emotions instead of their wallets? That’s something you don’t hear about anymore, but an honorable concept that needs to be applied more often. Mr. O’Hara is what I would call The Godfather of Branding. Humble, passionate, and genuine: the secret ingredients to the delicious recipe of success and the attributes that every person in the room tonight felt emanating from our wonderful Speaker.
I have never been more honored to be standing in a room. We all come from different places – small towns, big cities, even different countries – but this thing called MSBA has molded us into a small family. I don’t know how Lorne and Bailey did it, but somehow they found a group of kids that are the best of the best, not in the sense of knowledge or status but, more importantly, genuinely good human beings. My dad has always told me, “If you wake up every morning and think about how you can make someone else happy, you win the game of life.” I can honestly say these 24 individuals are winning, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of this summer and hopefully years to come with my new friends.