Hornets owner offers his 5 tenets of success

Carroll P. Matherne
November 25, 2008
RoseMary Smith Giron
November 28, 2008
Carroll P. Matherne
November 25, 2008
RoseMary Smith Giron
November 28, 2008

Be positive. Put mistakes behind you. Set goals. Believe in others and yourself. Have faith in yourself and God.

Those are the five tenets New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn shared at business ceremonies in Larose and Gray.

Shinn spoke first Nov. 20 at the Chamber of Lafourche and the Bayou Region’s Awards Ceremony. He returned to the Tri-parishes last Tuesday to address South Central Industrial Association members at their annual awards banquet.

Shinn, a motivational speaker before he became the Hornet’s owner, told stories of his life, his dreams and how he was able to achieve them. At both forums, when the 45-minute speech ended, Shinn was met with a standing ovation.

A native of Kannapolis, N.C., Shinn worked in a textile mill, at a car wash and as a janitor at a school he would later buy. He developed the Rutledge Education System and its chain of proprietary business schools, forming the cornerstone of his future real estate developments, auto dealerships, publishing ventures and professional sports franchises.

In addition to owning the Hornet, Shinn’s empire includes the Charlotte Knights AAA minor league baseball team, the Charlotte Checkers and the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the East Coast Hockey League.

At age 34, Shinn was the youngest person ever to be awarded the Horatio Alger Award, which honors “rags-to-riches” business leaders who maintain values in patriotism, faith and civic involvement. The five-time author was one of 12 people to receive an American Success Award from President George W. Bush.

His success, Shinn told local chamber and SCIA members, is attributed to one person. “All of us can remember someone who touched our lives,” he said. “That person was my mom. In her eyes, I could accomplish any goal if I just believed.”

Shinn explained that even as a child, he believed he would own a sports franchise one day. He credits his “points to success” for helping him achieve his dream.

Be Positive

Shinn said it is important to stay positive.

“If you look for positive things, you’ll find positive things,” he said. “But if you look for negative things, then that’s what you’ll get.”

As a youngster in North Carolina, Shinn said he never was the most athletic, the brightest or the wittiest, but he didn’t let that stop him.

Out of 232 graduates of his high school, Shinn was last. Even as the odds were stacked against him, he stayed positive.

“My mom looked at me and said, ‘I am so proud of you,'” he noted. “I looked at her and said ‘How can you be proud of me? I’m last.’ She looked back at me and said, ‘because you are the foundation of your graduating class.'”

At that point, Shinn said he knew he would be something in life.

When he tried to locate the Hornets franchise in Charlotte, there were 11 other cities vying for teams. Shinn explained how every newspaper ranked Charlotte as the last possible city to get an NBA franchise.

Everyone expected Minneapolis to get the team because they had the Vikings and the Twins. They said Charlotte had no chance, Shinn explained.

But just as in high school, Shinn stayed positive.

“I’ve been last before,” he said. “I was used to it. I stayed up all night working on my presentation for the NBA. The next night, I got a phone call from David Stern. I wasn’t home, but I was afraid to call him back. When I finally did, he told me Charlotte was awarded the NBA’s next franchise.”

Put mistakes behind you

To succeed, it is essential to remember that no one is perfect, Shinn said.

“We all make mistakes,” he said. “It’s going to happen. We can’t worry about it. We have to focus forward.”

Shinn admitted he has made his fair share of mistakes, but he has been able to look past them.

“When we stumble, we just have to get back up,” he explained. “It’s the same in the business world.”

Set goals

“What’s basketball without a goal,” Shinn said. “The same thing as life without goals. You must have a target to shoot for.”

It is important for businesses to focus on the goal at hand, he added, noting it is often easy to get sidetracked and lose focus.

Shinn said nothing in life should be taken for granted – people face many obstacles. Continuing to strive ahead in the face of problems is important, he said, using the Hornets as an example of his theory.

“It wasn’t easy to move an entire franchise from one place to another,” Shinn said. “Once we realized things weren’t working out in Charlotte, we set a goal to find the best possible location. We’ve done that, and now we call New Orleans home.”

Believe in yourself/others

“If we give up, we sink,” Shinn said. “No matter our political views, we have a new president and it is our responsibility as Americans to believe in him and support him. This is the only country in the world where a guy can graduate last, dream of being the owner of a sports franchise and accomplish that dream. We just have to believe.”

Shinn said believing is essential to succeeding. Whether it is in life or the business world, it is important for everyone to have just as much belief in others as they do in themselves, Shinn explained.

He credited his mom and his wife Denise for believing in him even when his dreams seemed far out.

“The way to accomplish goals is not on our own abilities. It’s the support of others,” he said.

Faith in God

Shinn emphasized in good and hard times, it is important to maintain a faith in God.

“Faith is the strongest source of strength,” he said. “When a human being gets down on his knees and prays to ask God for guidance, that says a lot about a person.”

“As we get older, we’ll all have problems, but if we remember to keep God in our lives, we can and we will overcome them,” Shinn added.

He attributed everything he has achieved in life to his faith, including the decision to bring the Hornets back to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

“My wife and I prayed about it,” he said. “After all the hell they went through in New Orleans, we realized it was the right thing to do to come back. It’s because we kept our faith that we were doing the right thing. It worked out well, didn’t it?”