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Sports search firm CEO links relationships, success

Bill Sutton & Bob Beaudine

Eastman & Beaudine CEO Bob Beaudine recently told a crowd who came to hear him speak on the business of sports to send a text message to the most important person in their life.

He even gave them the words to write: "Hey, I was just thinking about you! I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your friendship! I love you!"

As phones started buzzing around the Tampa Bay Times Forum with replies, Beaudine, who Sports Illustrated calls "the most influential man in sports you've never heard of," said business people need to reconsider who they consider business associates. The power of friendship – or, as Beaudine's book calls it, "The Power of Who" – has power beyond simply solving personal problems, he said. He reminded the audience that friends and family are the original "network."

"Who will you turn to in a time of crisis – your friends or strangers?" Beaudine asked the group. "You've got to know who your Who are. Who would really help you?"

Beaudine was the opening speaker on Monday evening in the inaugural USF Sport Lecture Series, presented by FOX Sports Florida and hosted by the Sport & Entertainment Management Program. The Sport & Entertainment Management Program is in its second year at USF, offering a path for students to gain their MBAs and gain experience through internships with partner organizations -- including the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is the sponsor of the program.

Beaudine's name is well-known to power players in college sports. As the CEO of Eastman & Beaudine, which The Wall Street Journal named the "top recruiting firm in college sports," Beaudine is the person colleges turn to when they have a corner-office vacancy in the athletics department. He has placed 33 athletic directors at major universities across the country as well as 24 head coaches in football and basketball.

Bob Beaudine speaking

As Beaudine spoke to students and community members at the Forum on Monday, he said his success has been about relationships, and about giving in those relationships without strings attached.

He related the story of one of his first sales experiences selling chili for Carnation (now Nestlé). In trying to get a potential customer to try the chili early in the day, she told him, "It's 6:15 in the morning! Do you like coffee?" Beaudine got a coffee with her and chatted about life. As he turned to leave what he thought had been a failed sales meeting, she called him back and placed a large order.

"She taught me a lesson that I'm in it for people," Beaudine said. "I'm not in it for sales, I'm not in it for the deal, I'm in it for the relationship."

He told the group that in trying to do what he called surface networking with people they don't know, they too may be "selling chili at 6:15."

"Friends help you now," Beaudine said. "A casual acquaintance wishes you well."

After the lecture, Sport & Entertainment Management student Erin Callaghan said she felt she could take what she learned and apply it to her career goals of event management.

"I feel like I can go take on anything," she said. "It's interesting to meet people who are powerful who have very simple theories on life."