Spending some of my formative years in a University Athletic Department taught me tons. One of the lessons, though, keeps resonating.
I was once Sports Information Director at Chicago State University. It was a great experience for me – I was 22, new to Chicago, and got the reins of what was (and still is) one of the smallest, lowest-budget, NCAA Division 1 programs in the country.
The phrase “in over your head” may have been uttered a couple times.
We didn’t have a ton to work with, facilities back then would not have impressed most high school athletes, attendance to basketball games (the bread and butter program) was sparse.
One of my cohorts – the SID at another Midwestern school that was in our conference – had worked as an intern for the Kansas City Royals, and he and I were shooting the breeze one day, lamenting the dearth of attendance. And he then told me the theory that the early 1990s Royals had about attendance:
“Only two things bring out the crowds. Fireworks and Nolan Ryan.”
Fireworks speak for themselves. Go to the ballpark on a Saturday night, stay to the finish, watch the show.
And Nolan Ryan was, in the 70s, 80s and into the 90s, a machine. A freak of nature (and I mean that in the nicest way, Mr. Ryan) who soaked his arm in pickle brine and threw fastballs, struck out thousands of batters, and guaranteed a show.
How Do You Guarantee Traffic?
Our expectations at Chicago State were pretty low. Win more than 10 games? Not a given. Get a crowd to show up? Not a given. (One year, we had a home game with the University of Utah and 258 people showed up.)
We were also lacking a Value Proposition. Inexpensive family entertainment? Great basketball? $2 Polish Sausage? A band who plays while its own team is shooting free throws?
What are your Fireworks? Who’s your Nolan Ryan?
You have to find this element in whatever it is you’re doing. The essence of what makes you, well, you. This is why some people seem to have that Law Of Attraction stuff working for them, and others are still languishing. This is why some businesses can immediately get you to say yes – and others strike out.
Our value proposition at Chicago State was non-existent. When I write my memoir, we can dissect it blow-by-blow; but it’s awfully tough to come up with a value proposition when a team goes 4-23 one year, 6-20 the next.
But you – your business, your organization, your department – have to have one. Right?
Find it. Write it down. Figure out what value you provide.
Find your Fireworks. Channel your Nolan Ryan.