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  • Casey Shaw

Entrepreneurship: Coach Prime and My Boss

In the news, last week we learned a lot about Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders;” Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) like his former employer, Jackson State University; and the rancor over his moving to a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) school, the University of Colorado.

Truly, everybody deserves an upwardly mobile shot at a bigger paycheck. The process of getting HBCUs back in the spotlight they long enjoyed during the heydays of Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and scores of NFLers is one that will take many helping hands ten or more years. Yet there is a quote by the positive-thinking clergyman and author, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, “Enthusiasm spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment,” that gives me the sense that anything is possible. Coach Prime certainly began that process of achieving greater exposure at Jackson State and in the fabled Southwestern Athletic Conference as a whole.

Because the school’s football team had gone 27-5 in three seasons under his leadership and infectious enthusiasm, it opened the door for Coach Prime to move to CU. Let’s face it, the Buffs haven’t fielded a team who could close down a game in what seems like decades; and it’s the perfect place for Coach Prime to be a catalyst for change. He seems to be one of those people for whom the bigger the challenge, the better the opportunity. I have siblings and dear friends who attended the school in Boulder, so I’m sensitive to the chaos their wonderful fans have had to endure and relish the idea that Prime will bring them some joy.

If not more important is the enthusiastic spirit that drives American business enterprises of all sizes. Enthusiasm is that special sauce that propels everyday people to do extraordinary feats as leaders in their fields.

I work for such a leader and an accidental entrepreneur. As a creative professional, he first cut his teeth as a student publisher of the UNC-Asheville school newspaper. He’s been a retailer and banker before starting a writing, video direction, content strategy, marketing, podcasting, and public relations shop.

What I find in his pied piper approach to business development, is his innate savvy for better listening to clients and their needs, beyond just the topical. He genuinely has a passion for getting to know his customers. He’s built up a stable of larger advertising and digital marketing agencies to collaborate with, along with a bevy of direct portfolio clients who are flat out world beaters in both the for profit and nonprofit spaces.

Perhaps more importantly, his focus on positivity and purpose, just like Coach Prime, allows him to recruit a pretty unbeatable team of people, just like Coach Prime’s teams. When you put your belief in people, they believe in you, too. And belief goes a long way to getting any job done, on any field of play, and in any business arena.

I believe he has the enthusiasm factor in spades and watching him play his hand in myriad fashions, gives me the sense that each and every one of us, can rise, no matter how far down the scale we have gone. So even though we may not have a Coach Prime in our immediate vicinity, we can still take it upon ourselves, to seek out those coaches and mentors along our career paths, to propel us to the next level and possibly start something ourselves. When we lose our interest in selfish things, we’re finally able to embrace all walks of life and the much larger world of possibilities.

Risk-taking and entrepreneurship in its design, simply comes from being a better listener, asking focused questions, and following our hearts to do the next right thing. It’s not a bad way to make a living.

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