Don’t try to make everyone happy at any cost. We want everyone to play cornhole with us that want to play. We want everyone to use our software to run more organized cornhole events. Obviously, it is impossible to make everyone happy, but how you handle those unhappy people can positively or negatively impact the business. We have had a few players that just complained about everything along the way no matter what we did. I was so focused on trying to be nice and accommodating to them that I just completely ignored the fact that they simply did not want to respect our efforts to turn cornhole into a legitimate sport. Finally, I told them that if they can do it better they should just go do it somewhere else and not play with us. I have learned to do that much sooner these days and it has been a positive change for us.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Stacey Moore, the commissioner and founder of the American Cornhole League. He has successfully developed the casual game of cornhole into a sport that is broadcast on ESPN. Stacey is aggressively bringing organized cornhole to all ages and all skill levels in the United States. He believes that cornhole will grow internationally and into an Olympic sport. Stacey was named to the 40 under 40 list published by the Charlotte Business Journal and served on the Advisory Board to the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. He received his MBA in International Business from the University of South Carolina and Bas in Business Management and Economics from North Carolina State University.
About two weeks before one of my first big cornhole events I broke my ankle. I had to have surgery. It was certainly not a good situation. Cancelling an event is not in my DNA and I knew a lot of players already had their travel plans locked in to come play. Fortunately my family and a few people in the local market where we were having the event really stepped up to help me out so that we could have a successful event. I ran the event from a wheelchair and was in quite a bit of pain. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I found out before I left for the event that the doctor didn’t set my ankle right the first time. I had to have a second surgery when I returned.
The major event that really made the ACL stand out was getting a live event on ESPN 2 in July 2017 along with the sponsorship support from Johnsonville. That July broadcast was really hectic. We were planning on doing an ESPN 3 broadcast for that event and got approached to make the jump to the live linear spot on ESPN 2 within 6 weeks of our event. We had to change our entire plan and budget in a very short period of time. I knew this was probably either going to go really good or really bad. About an hour into the broadcast the producer came out of the truck and said to me, “Do you have any idea what is going on right now?” I said I have absolutely no idea, I am just trying to keep the matches on schedule and trying to make everything run smoothly. He said, “you have gone viral on twitter.” We ended up with a great rating with absolutely zero advanced promotion.
The most exciting current project is developing cornhole as a sport in other countries. Each country is really its own individual project. We are hoping to get the level of play up in other countries so that we can take a shot at making this an Olympic Sport as fast as possible. Another project I am excited about is a research partnership with NC State University. I believe we are going to create some exciting new products and evolve the sport with this research.
I like to give people responsibility and empower them early on to see what they can accomplish. This helps them figure out if they are cut out to work in a bootstrapping entrepreneurial environment or if they need to stick to their “day job”. I like to ask them to do different types of tasks as well to see where they might fit in with a more formalized organizational structure as the company evolves. There are several sink or swim moments along the way. Seeing if someone can swim in the critical moments defines whether or not the partner / employee can thrive in the long haul with this venture or if they are best going down a different career path.
There have been several people that have helped me out during key moments along the way. I could easily list 6 that I feel have been critical contributors. If I have to choose one, it would have to be my tech team, AppDesignGeeks. Sean and Madan worked tirelessly to develop and re-develop the platform needed to power event management, scores and statistics to take cornhole from a game to a sport. I found out about them online and saw that they were developing some tools specific to cornhole and reached out to them about my vision and working with me. We hit it off pretty quickly over the phone and have become great friends in addition to partners. The first time they came to meet me in Charlotte, I picked them up at the airport in a RV and they love telling that story. Sean was recovering from knee surgery and had to crutch his way on the stairs of the RV…not the easiest thing to do at the airport. The were a big help at that particular event and it was a great timing to make future plans. They have been absolutely awesome to work with and critical part of the success.
The attributes of cornhole create a vibrant community that brings a general goodness to the world. We are in the early stages of making a major push with ACL Charity — Cornhole for a Cause. We have done some charity events and given back when we can. Our platform enables charities to run organized events and market to potential participants. We have done events with ACL Pros and Pro Football Legends to benefit the NFL Legends charity of choice, NFL star Jimmy Graham did an event with us in Green Bay to benefit his charities of choice and interact with the community of his new team, and we have done several benefits for cancer related charities. believe that cornhole can rival golf as being the top charity sporting event. In addition to our charitable activities, we have started a research project with NC State University with an eye on becoming more environmentally friendly with the plastic resin that currently fills our cornhole bags.
1) Make your first hire someone more organized that you. When I started this business I felt like sales and business development was the more important piece for me to get right. My strengths are strategy, relationship development and high level execution. Sales is not something that I enjoy initiating. I made the decision to hire a sales firm rather than operations help and when the sales guys did nothing, I was left with no revenue outside of what I generated and an operations gap that I had to scramble to fill. I believe if I had forced myself to be more proactive on the sales side and hired the right operations person initially, we would have been a lot more balanced and our rapid development would have been a bit smoother.
2) Don’t take your failures too personally. I hate disappointing people or falling short of expectations. While I certainly had the expectation that there would be bumps along the way and I would fall short from time to time, the first large national event I did that failed shook me to a degree I never anticipated because it fell ridiculously short of expectations. I did not handle it well and accepted responsibility for several things that were beyond my control. Fortunately, I was able to shake it off and survive. I learned how to process my failures in a healthier way and move on faster from from them. Currently we crushing any expectations we are setting which feels much much better.
3) How to Embrace Change. I have always liked the phrase “embrace change” but nobody ever really explained to me how to do it. I think for some it can be described as a glass half full vs a glass half empty perspective, but I have found it to be different depending on the specific change that needs embracing. This past season our first national had a structure that simply did not work well for the players. We had a well executed broadcast but the tournament structure created a chaos that made me think we were going to be part of a Lord of the Flies kinda movie. A mid-season change is not something we want to do but in this case we just had to make a change after this event for the rest of season. We did it quickly and made up for it by giving those players that were impacted a free money event at our Championships on us. Our remaining national broadcast events went a lot more smoothly and the players ended up embracing the changes we made with us.
4) Don’t try to make everyone happy at any cost. We want everyone to play cornhole with us that want to play. We want everyone to use our software to run more organized cornhole events. Obviously, it is impossible to make everyone happy, but how you handle those unhappy people can positively or negatively impact the business. We have had a few players that just complained about everything along the way no matter what we did. I was so focused on trying to be nice and accommodating to them that I just completely ignored the fact that they simply did not want to respect our efforts to turn cornhole into a legitimate sport. Finally, I told them that if they can do it better they should just go do it somewhere else and not play with us. I have learned to do that much sooner these days and it has been a positive change for us.
5) Be aware of the impact you will have on others. I never anticipated the potential impact the ACL could have on others lives outside of the experience of playing, competing and socializing. Early on I was running a tournament and one of the players came over to chat with me a little bit. He explained that he had been going through some really rough personal times and that playing with this group for the last six months had saved and changed his life. Since then it has felt good to hear and see that we have impacted others in a similar way. With that recognition comes greater responsibility but one that we welcome.
While my dad had several quotes and one liners that have stuck with me, my favorite one is “People jump funny when it comes to money” Not only is it an extremely valuable life lesson, since it rhymes, it appeals to my rapping persona.
Warren Buffet and Mark Cuban would be the immediate obvious choices for me and probably just about anyone else that answers this question. A person that might not be as obvious is Sean Parker. Being the co-founder of Napster and then being involved intimately with Facebook, Spotify had to create unique experiences and a perspective that not many people share. To be able to ask questions and get information that I can apply to the social and entertainment aspects of our growing international sport would be epic.