A consistent conversation with the majority of young men and women I come across addresses their uncertain futures, their inarticulable desires, and all too often an aggrandized sense of self which is shocked that the world has not greeted them with arms wide-open. To be fair, it is a hard reality to face the indifference (at best) of the real world and our self-affirming culture has/is failed/failing them miserably.
We talk about things like what is success? and what does it take to succeed? I usually suggest they read some biographies. A primary reason that I suggest this is that biographies offer a picture of some kind of “success” (from starring in movies to leading men and women into battle to serving the least and most “insignificant” in far flung places around the globe in the name of Christ). A good biography will not pull punches or look at their subjects with rose-colored glasses. And, one of my greatest discoveries from there biographies is that men and women who have attained significant success often have significant failures and just as frequently, significant ongoing character issues (sometimes almost as notable as their admirable traits). In that vein, and although it is only an article, the following is a very good article on the new owner, and major UT booster, Jimmy Haslam, and the very hard work that accompanies any measure of success:
The Haslams count U.S. presidents and Peyton Manning as friends. They occupy seats on corporate and academic boards as well as the one in the governor’s mansion. They work hard, play hard and die hard for their beloved University of Tennessee athletic programs.
Now that passion will extend to another orange-clad team.
“We’re going to devote whatever time necessary it takes to get things right in Cleveland,” Haslam said. “I believe we’re on the right path now. We’re going to take whatever steps necessary to bring winning football back to Cleveland.”
Those who know Jimmy Haslam said his $1 billion acquisition of the Browns was a logical step for a sports lover and deal maker who has held a minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2008. Haslam, who took control of Pilot from his father, may have been born on second base, but he’s rounded third and headed for home with the determination of Pete Rose bearing down on Ray Fosse.
He has turned a successful filling station business into America’s 11th largest privately owned company with revenues of $17.8 billion last year, according to Forbes. He has a reputation for doing his research, hiring quality management and making it accountable.
Even in love Haslam has found a partner who works ceaselessly at her craft. Susan “Dee” Bagwell Haslam is co-owner of RIVR Media, which has produced programming for 17 cable networks and is responsible for shows such as “Whale Wars,” “Trading Spaces,” and “The World Series of Poker.”
Haslam said he will pour himself completely into the Browns’ cause, a promise that many fans found lacking in former majority owner Randy Lerner.
Former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, whose sons Peyton and Eli are Super Bowl champions, sees this venture as a great deal for the Browns as well as Haslams.
“The league will be excited to have a family like this on board and they will be great partners for Cleveland,” said Manning, who has spoken at corporate events for Pilot Flying J. “The Haslams are some of the finest people I know” . . . .
A word of caution to Browns coaches and players: Beware the Jimmy Haslam handshake. It’s firm and sometimes is accompanied by an invasion of personal space. The new majority owner will draw a recipient close to him so as to almost go nose to nose.
“I think it’s his way of checking you out,” said USC football coach Lane Kiffin, who coached the Volunteers in 2009. “He wants to see what you’re made of.”
There is an unmistakable intensity to this 6-foot-3, 210-pound man built more like a drill sergeant than a captain of industry. Everything is a competition, whether its negotiating a petroleum deal, racing his brother on a bike, or playing a game. He’s a fitness fiend who is known to take business calls while jogging.
Just read Peter King’s (of Sports Illustrated) comments on Jimmy Haslan’s purchase of the Browns. Listen to how he echoes the same leadership traits the above article notes:
Jimmy Haslam has the right idea on running the Browns. I spoke to Haslam for 30 minutes Sunday and was impressed. Three things I liked:
1. He knows what he doesn’t know. I counted four times in our conversation that he said some version of, “I just don’t know the answer to that yet,” or, “I might know better in two months. I just don’t know now.” He’s a CEO of a truck stop company with more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada, but he’s smart enough to know he’s about to enter a business in which smart men get their heads handed to them in competition every year, and no one’s a genius.
2. He was schooled in, and took valuable lessons from, one of the best football laboratories in the league — Pittsburgh’s. As a 12 percent owner of the Steelers for the last three seasons, he’s seen the benefit of the Steeler way. “One thing I took from the Steelers,” he said, “is if you’ve got a great leader, GM and coach — which they do — you’ve filled the three most important boxes, and you’re off to a great start.” Add the quarterback, and he’s right. The solid, consistent competence of the Rooney family, general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin give the Steelers a chance every year.
3. He’s going to be much more involved day-to-day with the Browns than Randy Lerner was, from the sound of things. He’ll buy a home in Cleveland and be around the team at least one day a week during the season, while continuing to run his business in Tennessee. Even though his presence guarantees nothing, Haslam wants to sit in the stands at a game or two, and he wants to go into the community to thank the fans for being so loyal.
“It’s very important to thank your customers for their loyalty,” he said. “In my business, I go to the stores unannounced fairly often to talk to my employees. It’s important to assess your business often, and to ask the people out in the field for ideas. I ask, ‘What are we doing wrong?’ Ninety-five percent of our new ideas come from our employees.”
Football’s a different business; the fans in the Dawg Pound can’t tell him who to draft. But his idea about contact with the people who have supported the team for so long is laudable.
One thing Haslam has judged — critically — very early is the Browns’ coaching merry-go-round. “They’ve averaged a new coach once every 2.8 years [since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999],” Haslam told me, “and that’s just not a good recipe.” Do the math: Excluding interim coach Terry Robiskie in relief of Butch Davis in 2004, Cleveland’s had five head coach in the 14 seasons between 1999 and 2012 — 2.8 seasons per coach. “One thing I learned from watching the Steelers is the importance of consistency in coaching, and how much it sets you back when you’re always making a change. When you change coaches, it can be a three- or four-year deal to get back.”
Haslam won’t talk about his plans with any employee until his ownership bid is approved — which from all indications is imminent. But he’ll find out soon enough that finding a quarterback is the biggest predictor of future success. And everyone in the organization’s going to be a lot smarter if Brandon Weeden can play.