C.E.O. the Culture: My Fireside Chat with Maverick Carter

The Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Conference is an event centered around advancing the agenda for Black Americans through a deep reflection of where we have been, where we are and a call to actively engage in shaping the future. One of my personal highlights was having the opportunity to sit down and have a candid discussion on what it means to Create, Elevate and Own (C.E.O) our culture with Maverick Carter, CEO of Springhill Entertainment.

Like any other fanatical Wharton MBA, I obviously prepared for this chat by coming up with a number of questions, charting a roadmap for where I wanted to take the conversation and developing ways to engage the audience. After all, this was Maverick Carter, the man who I deemed the businessman and architect of LeBron James’ dealings off the court. But as soon as I walked into the waiting area to greet Carter, I recognized that if I wanted to really have an authentic conversation on stage, we would have to build mutual energy through commonalities. Although we share very similar upbringings in the Midwest and similar views in sports, I realized as he spoke that I had quite that a lot that I could learn from him.

If I could share all of the insights that I got from Carter, I would. Instead, I’ll just share some key lessons, some of which are new and others I simply needed to be reminded of.

Investing today does not necessarily have to revolve around tech plays

Carter was very frank. He likes to invest in companies that have simple and easy to understand business models that can deliver above-average long-term returns. He and his associates are not typical venture investors and don’t have much interest in typical tech plays. The example he gave was the decision to invest in Blaze Pizza. Although it may seem like a run of the mill investment, it’s a business that has thrived. Carter shared that the most valuable asset he had in the company was Mr. Rick Wetzel. Wetzel had sold his stake in 2007 of Wetzel’s Pretzels but was later contrite about his decision.  As such Wetzel became committed to starting up Blaze Pizza and building this business for the long term.

Do not be afraid to own and tell your story

Carter began his career post-undergrad at Nike, whom he credits for his incredible marketing prowess. But even before his formal training at Nike, he spoke about how he leverages his family life and upbringing as tools to create stories. Just when he was starting out on his career path, he wasn’t afraid to say that he and his team were just “poor black kids from Akron, Ohio” and he had to own and be proud of that narrative. Storytelling has been the centerpiece of the media business empire that he is building – UNINTERRUPTED, Kneading Dough and The Shop.

I AM MORE THAN

When I asked Carter what he would title his book if given a deal, he said: “I AM MORE THAN”. And when I asked why he explained how past life experiences tend to follow you and how people will try to define you by those same past experiences if you allow them to. These experiences can be careers, relationships or even mindsets. But Carter takes a different view; that an individual can be multidimensional. One of Carter’s endeavors is creating media content around the notion that Athletes can be more than just basketball or football players, they can also investors, thought leaders, political activists, artists, and business leaders. Carter himself mentioned that he is more than just the right hand to LeBron James and how he is running companies independently. I honestly really felt this statement because I am an MBA student who is completely changing industries. As such, I constantly remind myself that I am more than my previous work experience and that I am capable of putting in the work to do something completely new with my career path.

 

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