From NBA baller to business master: Iconic all-time NBA player and former U.S. Olympian, Charles Smith, parlaying pro-sport paradigms to help transitioning athletes become elite-level professionals and Corporate America achieve world-class team-driven yields; Now serving as Certified Master Facilitator for global leadership development and training company, Fierce Conversations, Inc.
By Merilee Kern, MBA
When 10-year NBA alum Charles Smith was in the league playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks, he claimed fame as being a top rebounder, shot blocker and scorer, averaging 14.4 points per game. Still today, Smith ranks in the NBA’s top one percent of all-time shot blockers. Little did he then know that his knack for “disruption” would extend well beyond his athletic career and help not just himself, but also other pro sports retirees, realize professional success outside of the game.
Since his playing days in the NBA, Smith—who pursued coursework in Seton Hall’s MBA program and currently holds three patents (bio below)—has uniquely positioned himself at the intersection of sports, business, events and technology. After a highly pedigreed career both on and off the hardwood, including marquee engagements with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and serving as Head of Sports & Entertainment for media giant MediaCom, Smith launched Lifestyle Services Group—a company helping athletes and entertainers aptly transition from sports to the business world from prospect to professional to executive. There he held conferences for athletes, investors and corporate executives on four continents at esteemed locations like the NASDAQ.
Today, Smith is a Certified Master Facilitator for global leadership development and training powerhouse Fierce Conversations, Inc. With a client roster rife with preeminent global brands like Apple, T.Rowe Price, Coca Cola, HBO and Turner Broadcasting Systems, Fierce has partnered with Smith to drive specially-designed training programs that not only help athletes better transition into Corporate America, but also help businesses understand and leverage pro-sports team mentalities and teamwork dynamics to build a high performing groups and organizations at large.
In addition to working with athletes, themselves, via programs and exercises helping them better understand how to be successful business professionals and leaders, Smith is concurrently developing one-of-a-kind Fierce Conversations initiatives to help corporate executives at companies understand what great teamwork looks like—and how those best practices can be implemented into result-oriented action. By blending conversation techniques from successful sports and executive teams, these programs serve to enhance the overall growth and development of a company and drive results. This includes deep dives into “what it really means” to develop a high performing team, how to create the rhythmic movement of a unit and strategies for fostering the kind of connectivity amongst unit members that is required to achieve greatness.
“The sports industry only focuses on how much money athletes make and never talks about their business acumen or education, but I’m certain this collaboration with Fierce Conversations will manifest in potent programs that help change that narrative,” Smith said. “ Athletes have certain skill sets, however, they often don’t have the necessary corporate experience to acquire and sustain an executive job position post-retirement. So, a multi-level corporate experience program like those we’re developing at Fierce is invaluable to athletes no matter where in the world they seek employment. I chose to partner with Fierce as, not only are they are a top performer in their market, the company’s leadership style is both strategic and tactical, and executive management allows its team to thrive.”
“We believe what gets talked about in a company, how it gets talked about and who is invited to the conversation determines what will happen ... and what won’t happen,” said Ed Beltran, CEO of Fierce Conversations , a company founded by the legendary leadership development architect Susan Scott—best-selling author of the iconic books “Fierce Conversations” and “Fierce Leadership,” which collectively are Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today best sellers. “This is ever so true in the post-sports career journey of an athlete and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with Smith to provide key time-tested approaches for athletes in all stages and also businesses of every kind worldwide. In fact, e ven those companies that have instituted concerted ‘athlete hiring programs’ are often not fully utilizing those key human resources, so our highly specialized conversation techniques, training and support can readily fill those gaps.”
“With respect Smith, he is a ‘unicorn’ based on his specialized experience and knowledge of both sports and business and the transitions related thereto,” Beltran continued. “He fits perfectly with the growth and development of our new AI and 3D simulation-based training modules, the team-based concepts of which are particularly well-suited for athletes and executives.”
Smith’s prolific, impressive and decidedly uncommon post-NBA business success has many parallels with his athletic career. While playing in the league, Smith was a versatile and highly adept player allowing him to play all three front court positions. Even today, this aptitude for turning the tide to his (or his client’s) advantage and shifting momentum is helping his and other companies differentiate themselves from the competition, grow at a quicker clip and outpace the opposition.
Relative to his own ongoing quest for success, Smith certainly doesn’t rest on his credentials gleaned on the basketball court. Rather, he’s fruitfully transformed from being a highly venerated team player on the hardwood to being a top-growth power player businessman helping other pro athletes and executives achieve just the same.
For its part, corporate training innovation is nothing new for Fierce. Ever revolutionizing within their industry, the company recently launched its interactive microlearning 3D simulation technology helping executives and employees master uncomfortable workplace conversations. This groundbreaking immersive virtual training program instructs participants on how to effectively address and resolve critical and angst-inducing issues via interactive real-world scenarios—all in just 15 minutes or less. With CEO Ed Beltran at the helm, Fierce Conversations has trained conversationalists from blue-chip companies to non-profit organizations around the world.
Forbes Business Council Member Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally-regarded brand analyst, strategist and futurist who reports on noteworthy industry change makers, movers, shakers and innovators across all B2B and B2C categories. This includes field experts and thought leaders, brands, products, services, destinations and events. Merilee is Founder, Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List” as well as Host of the nationally-syndicated “Savvy Living” TV show. As a prolific business and consumer trends, lifestyle and leisure industry voice of authority and tastemaker, she keeps her finger on the pulse of the marketplace in search of new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points, from the affordable to the extreme—also delving into the minds behind the brands. Her work reaches multi-millions worldwide via broadcast TV (her own shows and copious others on which she appears) as well as a myriad of print and online publications. Connect with her at www.TheLuxeList.com and www.SavvyLiving.tv / Instagram www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReports / Twitter www.Twitter.com/LuxeListReports / Facebook www.Facebook.com/LuxeListReports / LinkedIN www.LinkedIn.com/in/MerileeKern.