While working for a collegiate athletic department at a public university, I had a conversation with our athletic director that changed something in me.

Our campus had a unique opportunity to host the first game of the WNBA 🏀 Western Conference Finals. This was a nationally televised, sell out event that would have generated very significant income and exposure for our department.

As is the case with post- season planning, the wheels start turning long before the teams punch their ticket to the next round. For more than a month, I had worked closely with the team to prepare for the possibility of a game. It was a big undertaking to create a whole new game management plan. We were ready and excited!

The WNBA semi- finals is a best of three series. In the decisive game three, our team lost by one point on a last second shot. Heartbreaker! 💔

The next day, the AD stopped by my office to casually opine,

I bet you were happy they lost… Now you don’t have to work.

This was devastating for me.

I thought he was excited for the opportunity. I thought I was doing something really good for our department. Instead, it felt like he didn’t care. I felt unappreciated and that my contributions were minimized. In that instance it felt like my entire career at that university was worthless.

From my disappointment, emerged three insights:

  • Public and institutional event venues reject too many events because of subjective, ​laissez faire​ venue booking philosophies.
  • Hosting world- class sporting events is a monumental endeavor. Even really talented event managers and professional organizations are challenged to keep up with all of the moving parts.
  • My entrepreneurial engine influenced the way I managed my space. This drive, my personal contribution, differentiated our venue from other comparable facilities and created significant value for our clients.

These insights became opportunity. I recognized that the services I provided were incredibly valuable and that I could offer even more powerful solutions outside of my institutional venue. I was uniquely positioned to:

  • Leverage my relationship with venues and service providers to act as a connector and that I could operate at scale.
  • Accept complete accountability for the success of my clients’ events as an event coordination expert.
  • Deliver exceptional, personal service to event clients and event attendees.
  • Develop incredible event operation teams.
  • Facilitate a process- driven management system that employs the use of powerful organization and automation tools to streamline the planning process and improve communications.

I’m sure the athletic director has no recollection of that chat, but I am thankful for it. It was one conversation. A spark💥. A seemingly inconsequential comment that torched my previous reality and ignited a new mission.