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Cozad Lecturer Explains His Entrepreneurial Strategy

During his October 27th V. Dale Cozad Lecture on entrepreneurship, Illinois alumnus and member of the Illini basketball team Mannie Jackson said the first thing he learned when he began his career at Honeywell was that the business world is not strictly business.

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"(A colleague) told me, 'Mannie, you worry too much; you should approach business the same way you did a basketball game,'" Jackson said.Harlem Globetrotters owner, Manny Jackson

Ironically, the combination of his successful career at Honeywell and his interest in buying something that he "could have fun at" culminated in 1993 in his purchase of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters.

Before an audience of approximately 300 student, faculty, staff, and community leaders and friends, Jackson described how learning to enjoy business as much as he did basketball has helped him produce a business career that has been equally successful for the former Big 10 All-American.

In buying the then-struggling franchise for $5.5 million, Jackson, a former Globetrotter himself, said he hoped to "get people to remember that 'feel good' experience of the first time they saw the Harlem Globetrotters."

First, however, he knew it would be necessary to get the people behind the organization to believe in the ideals he thought were necessary in order to regain the organization's spirit and credibility. This meant convincing a host of people, from banks and corporate investors to the players themselves and his friends and family, that he was going to implement the changes necessary to make historic franchise viable again.

"I believe the people who work for this organization ought to be committed to its success," Jackson said, talking about why some re-staffing would be among the first of many necessary changes.

Mannie Jackson stepped into the history books when he purchased the Harlem Globetrotters in 1993, as the first African-American to own a major international sports and entertainment organization.

Prior to taking the reins of the Globetrotters, Jackson served as President and General Manager of Honeywell's Telecommunications Business before retiring as a Corporate Officer and a Senior Vice President of Honeywell, Inc.

A former Globetrotter player himself, Jackson revived the near-bankrupt organization into one of the most admired and publicized teams in the world, while increasing revenue five-fold and rebuilding the fan base to record levels. Under Jackson's leadership, the company has secured Burger King as the title sponsor of the world tour and partnered with FUBU to create a collection of clothes based on the Globetrotters. Additionally, the Globetrotters have created its own merchandising and licensing company landing sponsorship, licensing, and promotion agreements, which will gross over $100 million sales.

Among other changes he wanted to implement was his belief that "an organization that ought to be good and do good." Which is why the Globetrotters organization has contributed more than ten million dollars to charity since 1993.

"We were going to run a responsible organization," said Jackson, "and everyone who came on board knew all about these promises. If they couldn't get in line with what we were doing, they were in the wrong place."

Though this statement makes it sound like Jackson plays no games in running his business, he made a special point to reiterate what he feels is most important in management.

"People don't like to be managed. You have to build relationships and you have to care about people… because the tough guy routine wears thin eventually," Jackson said. "… Teams win, so you've got to build a better team and you've got to grow. (In business) you either grow or die."

Established through the efforts of Peter and Kim Fox and endowed by gifts from the family and friends of Dale Cozad, the annual Cozad lecture series honors the memory of Dale Cozad and the hard work, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit that lead to his great success. The College of Business' Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) was a co-host of the lecture.

--Christopher Boyce
November 2003