Sunday, October 13, 2002

Get psyched up

Coach class is first class for
businesses looking for inspiration

Coaches love to lead. Business people love effective leaders. It seems natural then, that business people would love to hear coaches' stories about leadership.

Current University of Hawaii football coach June Jones, viewed as a "turnaround guy," and predecessors Dick Tomey and Larry Price are well-known speakers among Hawaii businesses and business groups.

Tomey is branching out for mainland engagements as he turns his 24 years of public speaking into his most recent career move.

Price may be most widely known at present for his on-air partnership with Michael W. Perry at KSSK AM/FM radio but he is also a professor in Chaminade University's MBA program.

The parallels between the challenges faced by businesses and athletic teams are rather clear according to Capt. Gerald Coffee, retired U.S. Navy pilot, former prisoner of war and one of America's top-10 requested speakers.

"Team work and building teams, developing loyalty, developing commitment, I think those would be the primary reasons business leaders see coaches as being able to make valuable input pertinent to their problems with a fair amount of humor," he said.

Coffee was in the audience as Tomey, formerly of UH and the University of Arizona, spoke to a group of First Hawaiian Bank executives recently.

"I loved it," Coffee said, "he did a good job of tying (his coaching experiences) into First Hawaiian issues."

"Dick's strong point is 'the human equation,' " Coffee said.

He was an economics major, but Tomey gained speaking experience coaching football teams. In reporting on Tomey's November 2000 resignation from the Arizona program, described him as having the most victories of any coach at either Arizona or Hawaii.

The story also described the strong "human equation" connection Tomey had made with his players, who were in tears the night he announced his intention to resign.

Tony Guerrero, executive vice president for retail banking at First Hawaiian, was in the audience that day. Tomey mentioned that his Arizona team got its "okole beaten," but emphasized and detailed the good that came from it, Guerrero said.

He also remembers a key point Jones made in a speech two years ago.

"In order to be a good manager, you have to care for your people and it has to be genuine or it's not going to work," Guerrero said. "I've got to be able to relate to my tellers. They see more customers in one day than I see in one year. This is what speakers like June and Dick bring to the table."

Guerrero said Price has a long track record as a great motivator, recalling that his teams were so pumped up by their coach that they were beating out All-Americans.

Price would never call himself a motivational speaker. "A speaker can't do that. It has to come from within yourself. It's like finding out about Christianity or something, it's like a light goes on. "You might talk about being inspirational," he said.

Another key, said Price, is passion for the topic.

His first speaking engagement was in 1967 when Kenji Miyashiro at Kuhio Grill asked him to speak to the Kapamoi Lions Club meeting at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel. They wanted to know about his experience trying out for an NFL team, specifically, the Rams.

"Within a couple months I'd given 38 speeches on the same topic." Demand grew for Price to the extent he was speaking "a couple hundred times every year" up to a record of 327 times in 1974, while he was coaching.

"I had a lot of energy back then," he chuckled.

"The most I ever did was on Kauai. I spoke eight times in a day, starting up with breakfast and ending up with dinner."

He averages about two engagements a week now and says "I don't take it very seriously." He limits his speaking to 30 to 45 minutes and declines engagements if he's asked to speak on a topic with which he's unfamiliar or about which he doesn't care.

"I started speaking to try and get people to buy season tickets, and to push the Legislature to build a stadium at the university," he said. "I think when you get in trouble as a speaker is when you don't have a great passion for what you're talking about." If you speak passionately, "then you don't see 'em falling asleep in their papayas, and talking at their tables."

Speakers who are not likely to put people to sleep can fetch between $2,500 for a beginning speaker and $100,000 for someone like Colin Powell or perhaps $200,000 for former President Bill Clinton, according to Coffee.

Without divulging amounts, Price said payments for his speaking engagements are deposited into the MBA scholarship at Chaminade, which bears his name.

"I can't take that kind of money," he said. If it weren't for his visibility in the media, Price said, "they wouldn't even let me cross the street."

He recommends groups wait to pay until after he speaks. "That way it's painless. If you don't like it, you don't pay. If you did like it, it's tax deductible."

His scholarship fund stands at $100,000.

Guerrero described conferences he's attended where speakers have talked "Xs and Os and ratios and all this jazz," while the coaches "talk about people."

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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