Back to the fundamentals

Have you practiced tying your tie lately? How about pouring that perfect cup of coffee? If you did, perhaps it would help you perform like a champion athlete in your business. 

OK, that’s probably a stretch. 

But I do want to highlight an interesting thought from Sandy Hatfield-Clubb, Drake University’s director of athletics, who moderated our latest Power Breakfast exploring some lessons from sports that can be carried over to business. 

Hatfield-Clubb, along with former Iowa State football center Ben Bruns of The Weitz Co. and former Simpson College basketball player Michael Sadler of CenturyLink Inc., joined me for a quick pre-event meeting in advance of the breakfast. It might sound a bit cliched, jock-speak perhaps, but Hatfield-Clubb highlighted the importance of focusing on fundamentals in both sports and business. 

She pointed to legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who each season began the first practice by having his players practice tying their shoes. Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, after a particularly tough loss, gathered his team and began by holding up a football and proclaiming, “Gentleman, this is a football.” 

These championship coaches were fanatical about the fundamentals, and it trickled down to their players. The fundamentals are the one thing you can control, and if players are obsessed with fundamentals and preparation, it allows them to perform at their peak under pressure. 

After the discussion, I sat down and identified the fundamentals our newsroom could focus on, and what I could focus on individually. Every business has fundamentals. Identify yours and make them a priority. And when the going gets rough, come back to them. It’s a fundamental trait of great leaders. Reporter Kyle Oppenhuizen has some additional takeaways from the event. Read them here:

Catching up with Jim Swift

In advance of the event, I met separately with Jim Swift, currently the director of development opportunities at Holmes Murphy & Associates Inc. and the company’s former chairman and CEO, who was also a panelist at our Power Breakfast. Swift transitioned from chairman to his current position at the beginning of the year, so he said he’s been enjoying the extra time that accompanies the new phase of his career. In fact, he couldn’t make the pre-event meeting with the rest of the panelists because he was in Naples, Fla. Rough, right? It wasn’t a fun trip, though. He and his wife are in the process of packing up their old condo. But don’t worry; he’s got a new one there, so he’ll be spending a bit more time than usual in the Sunshine State.

Got an itch?

Swift shared a neat saying that his former football coach, Hayden Fry, often used during the time Swift played for the University of Iowa. “Scratch where it itches,” Fry would say. This was his way of saying they were going to find an opponent’s weakness and exploit it. Swift said he uses that phrase all the time with the Holmes Murphy’s sales team. He tells them to find a potential sales target’s itch - a problem the business has - then find a way to scratch it.

The search for Drake’s next president

If you’re feeling an itch for more details about Drake’s presidential search, allow me to scratch it. The search for David Maxwell’s replacement should be completed before the end of the year. 

Dave Miles, chairman and CEO of Miles Capital Inc., will chair the nominating committee of Drake’s board of trustees, which ultimately will recommend a president to the full board of trustees. Miles, a Drake graduate and a former president of the Iowa Board of Regents, will lead an eight-member committee of: Larry Zimpleman, Jim Hubbell, Jim Bruner, David Golder, Gretchen Bataille, Cathy Lacy and Johnnie Carson.

Jamie Ferrare, senior vice president of the Association of Governing Boards and principal of AGB Search, is presidential search consultant. 

A separate university campus committee, chaired by Rahul Parsa and made up primarily of faculty and student leaders, will submit qualified candidates to be vetted by the nominating committee.

A letter to alumni indicated that the search for candidates would begin in June, and the board of trustees has directed the committee to complete work in time to make a final decision before the end of the year.

An $800 million stimulus

Jim Clark, national president and CEO for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, made a stop in Des Moines on June 5. That reminded me of an interesting nugget shared with me by Tony Dickinson, vice president and marketing manager at Wells Fargo Bank. 

Dickinson, president-elect of the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa, passed along one measurement of the economic loss the region incurs when its high school students don’t graduate. Here’s the breakdown: 

The difference in potential life earnings between a high school dropout and a person with a bachelor’s degree is $1.32 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and $272,000 between a dropout and a high school graduate.
Des Moines Public Schools’ class of 2010-11 dropout rate was 7.2 percent - that’s 624 students. The projected total loss in earnings to those 624 dropouts is a cumulative $170 million.

Add to that $826 million if they don’t get a bachelor’s degree. That’s just the Des Moines public schools and that’s just earnings. 

That doesn’t count potential loss in productivity or other costs as a community. 

The good news: Des Moines public schools 2012-13 dropout rate fell to 6.3 percent.