Chris Carneal is the founder of Boosterthon, a company of 180 people, helping to raise funds for elementary schools, and at the same time, developing students’ character. He joined us yesterday morning to talk about what it takes to build a a great team, and scale a business.
Booster started with Chris working with kids teaching baseball lessons. Within a month of the lessons, Chris learned that the kids probably weren’t going to go on to play baseball. They were instead learning self-confidence, work ethic, and good attitudes. He started teaching them character and baseball. He learned they could have a for-profit business with a positive lasting effect.
He thought he had to choose between a positive mission and a bottom-line, but he learned by doing it, that he didn’t have to choose. He could do both. Within 6 months of starting, he was doing lessons with coaches, teaching them to challenge their kids in a positive way, and encourage their players. One day, Chris had a kid bring him a fundraising catalogue asking Chris to help raise money for his school. Chris took a look at it and realized that it’s an exclusive fundraising model that doesn’t help develop the students. It takes away from the educational process, because a teacher is now counting pennies from wrapping paper sales instead of focusing on the education of a student. Chris remembered a fun run his dad led with the Booster club when Chris was in elementary school, and started pursuing the business model.
With his idea, he walked into 50 schools and asked the faculty to trust him with their kids and money. He finally convinced 1 Alabama school to try his idea. They wanted to receive $3000, and when it was all said and done, they raised $21,000. First the first 2-3 years, Chris considered the business a “gig.” But after seeing the success of the program, he started really being able to benefit schools and came to terms that he had created a sustainable business.
Booster incorporated “The Character Campaign.” They have a daily theme where they are promoting the character of the kids. Who’s teaching character to 3-5th graders? They want to get to be the people teaching kids about character.
Boosterthon Fun Runs are in 700 schools right now, but they’re still having to tell schools no, because you can only grow so fast. Right now they’re having to say no to 7 of the 8 schools contacting them. They refuse to water down the program. They are careful in the growing process, to ensure they can sustain over time.
When asked about making strategic hiring decisions and building the team of people around him, Chris said he needed someone who is skeptical, who’s primary answer is no, and who is systematized. He said he had just described his opposite. Hiring his opposite made him better at what he was doing.
In 7 years, Chris scaled his company, so that his staff grew from 1 person to 180. He shared some valuable tips in promoting the culture of an organizations within a team.
- You have to focus some percentage of your time in understanding yourself.
- And then help your team understand themselves. Create an organization’s culture by aligning team member’s strengths and assets with the organization’s needs.
- Ask your team members regularly: “Rate your satisfaction.” And then listen well to how they respond.
- You have to step away from work. It’s important to prioritize life outside of work and make room for it.
- Ask: Are you working in your strengths? Am I doing what only I can do? “My job is to keep everyone’s chin up, helping my team see problems and initiate solutions.”
- Because you’re good working IN the business does not mean you’re going to be good at working ON the business. Always have an internal pie chart determining if you should be working IN or ON. Leaders cannot lose touch with being IN the business. When you start an organization, you’re always IN, but as it grows, you have to be ON the business, but stay connected with the day-to-day process.
- Part of the role Chris believes everyone should have in the organization, is training up the person who would replace them. Ask, If you’re not in your current role this time next year, who would take your place? Are you helping preserve the core? Everything you do is reproduced. You have to be pouring into someone intentionally. Explain why you do what you did.
When thinking through the idea of scalability, Chris said for him, it was important to always be asking, “What’s the next step?” You can be futuristic, but you HAVE to ask, what is the next best decision. You can’t be paralized by fears of what if, but you also can’t think so far ahead that you’re not taking the next step.
Chris helps promote the culture of his organization, by providing some incredible perks to his teams. They spend more time internally than externally. If you drew 3 circles-offense -defense -special teams, this is how they view their team members. Chris wants a finger on the pulse of a team member. For every team member they give Birthday/Anniversary/Spouses’ Birthday gifts. Team 4 day cruise, team members get iPads, and they have an annual Booster University. DNA infusion. During Booster U., they are Painting a picture of the impact of their job. It’s a week of understanding the significance of your job. You can have the greatest vision in the world, but if your special teams doesn’t work, you can’t win. It’s important to build into the culture of your team. Chris quote, ”People grow in the conversations you create around them.” This is what he wants to do with his teams. He wants them moving and growing at all times.
Jeff Shinabarger asked Chris how he balances family and work, and Chris explained that he didn’t believe balance was the right word. He challenged us to Live Intentionally. Balance is not possible, instead proactively think about the needs of your family and meet those needs. If you’re having to travel 4 out of 7 days, that’s not balanced, because you are away more than you are home, BUT if you intentionally structure the time when you are home to build into your family, you’re having an impact and being who you are supposed to be for your family.
We could go on and on about the other things Chris shared, but hopefully this will give you some things to think about. Next month we won’t be having a Plywood Morning, but we WILL be having Plywood Presents, so if you haven’t registered, now is the time to do it. We’d love to have you!