Tag Archives: Evan Shirreffs

Real Estate Tech

The State of Technology & Innovation in Real Estate

The integration and adoption of technology into every industry is inevitable, even in industries that are traditionally relatively slower to adopt like real estate. Tech developments are enabling professionals in the space to be able to facilitate easier, faster, efficient, and more secure deals for all parties involved. Below are some of the emerging technology trends that are being integrated into real estate now, and in the coming years, many of which have been accelerated by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality

The AR/VR spaces have seen tremendous growth, and it seems with the onset of COVID-19 the demand and urgency to roll out these capabilities has only increased. With the need for limited contact during the pandemic, restricted travel, and work from home trends, it is only natural that AR/VR trends will continue to surface in the real estate industry.

AR/VR technology increases the efficiency of managing tangible spaces and properties. Buyers and investors can view homes, office spaces, apartment complexes, industrial properties, office buildings, etc. without having to physically visit these properties. This saves time and money. The benefits are plentiful and include:

  • Virtual tours to advance remote property viewing,
  • Increased efficiency of property marketing,
  • Web and mobile applications for easy accessibility (even if a user does not have a headset),
  • Detailed investigation of properties that saves time,
  • Potential to remotely cover all stages of the negotiation process,
  • More dynamic and real-time collaboration with architects, developers, GC’s, and brokers,
  • Ability to build out a space, input secured tenants, and decorate a potential property, and
  • Many other use cases and capabilities are being developed daily.

The increasing popularity of real estate mobile apps and websites to search for properties will only be enhanced by AR/VR technology. People are closing deals and investing in properties/land without even physically seeing properties and are saving time in eliminating those properties that they would otherwise waste view in person.

CRM, Automation, & Business Intelligence

CRM programs are still in an early stage of adoption in the real estate industry despite being around for a while, and regardless of having proven their incredible value to companies in every industry. This industry relies on, and has a heavy emphasis on relationships, so the value to having a great system is immense. In addition, the more a firm and its professionals can automate the sales and marketing process to supplement their activities, the more likely they will be to grow.

Further, not just helping with the management of relationships and sales but tracking and referencing data can really set firms apart as well. For example, “Business intelligence derived from big data is already one of the biggest trends in property management. It can empower a real estate application affecting the process of interaction of property owners, agents, and customers in the app. BI provides various tools for the optimization of decision-making. Business analysis algorithms are applied to get intelligent predictions defining the relationships of app users. Then, it is easier to give an answer to the question about what is going to happen. Reviewing internal data and analyzing business processes, BI is increasing your data-driven real estate business. With business intelligence software solutions, you can optimize your operations leveraging and processing all incoming data.”

Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

AI and ML have a bit longer of a way to go yet compared to the other trends, but they’re likely a lot close to widespread adoption then you’d think. An article from Forbes, highlighted some of their potential use cases:

“Right now, property search sites rely on simple preferences like location and size to display properties for sale; in the near future, however, AI may enable these sites to recommend properties based on additional preferences, personality traits, and values.

AI will also be able to help predict pricing trends more accurately. This type of technology would look at historical trends in the market for an area, but might also take into account area crime, schools, transportation, and marketplace activity.

It may also make the buying experience faster and easier. Companies are already creating ways to digitize the entire homebuying experience — no more reams of paper to read and sign at closing.”

Crowdfunding & Fund Syndication

Purchasing real estate, especially in the commercial/industrial sector, obviously requires a large amount of capital, which creates high barriers to entry. Syndication through crowdfunding, (along with blockchain mentioned below) allows for part-ownership in properties. Similar to how crowdfunding has become popular for those wanting to invest in start-ups without the traditionally large amounts invested by private investment firms and angel investors, you can now crowdfund to invest in properties too. This easier access enhances the trend towards a “sharing economy” where expenses are distributed, yet relationships flourish, through sharing the tangible things that traditionally single people or businesses would own. This is further evident in the business space through the popularity of coworking spaces.

Blockchain

Blockchain is most often associated with cryptocurrency, but it is reshaping business practices in traditionally non-tech industries. Blockchain does not necessarily change how real estate business is done; however, it serves to mitigate many of the challenges that arise in real estate negotiations, creating a safer and more efficient approach for the industry.

Fraud has existed in every industry that uses paper contracts. Why try to develop fraud detecting software or practices instead of just getting rid of the real problem: paper. So-called smart contracts can link digital property ownership to the blockchain, preventing any altering of material terms once they are encrypted. The documents become impossible to forge as the cryptography keeps them safe.

Although records are impossible to forge, they are not impossible to update. Typically, up-to-date, and relevant property information can be difficult to obtain when dealing with real estate paperwork. Also, it often must be paid for. Blockchain, however, provides all the historical data on properties and relevant updates in real time, preventing the need for any intermediaries to provide and verify relevant information.

Real estate deals involve many different individuals: notaries, bankers, real estate brokers, and others. Blockchain allows the buyer and seller to reduce the time needed from some of these respective individuals for their deals.

Drones

Marketing has become less about specific products/capabilities and more about storytelling, creating an emotional attachment to material things. Creating videos using drones can help tell the story of properties while maintaining a cost-effective marketing budget. Different angles give a better big picture look into what a property can offer.

Furthermore, drones can also assist in estimating the value of a property. Not only can you see surrounding properties, but you can get a better feel of the surrounding community. Drones can be used to spot potential risks or maintenance issues, providing a more thorough evaluation of properties.

Conclusion

This article just scratches the surface here, as there are many other technologies rolling out related to construction best practices, architecture, maintenance, materials, marketing, etc. The industry is ripe for further disruption and optimization which presents incredible opportunity for those that embrace it and make the most of these emerging technologies.

 

Written By: Mike Simmons and Evan Shirreffs.

WIMS Consulting Family Office Funds

5 Ways Family Offices Can Optimize for the Present & Future

Over the past 50 years, the amount of family offices has grown to an estimated 3,500-5,000 as ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) investors have increasingly used this approach to leverage and manage their wealth. Whether it be through Single-Family Offices (SFO’s), Multi-Family Offices (MFO’s), or a combination of both through syndication, wealthy families have seen the advantages of customized structures that meet specific needs and go much more in-depth than just financial investments.

With family offices varying in size, scope, purpose, and operation, it’s impossible to define the specific actions family offices should take, but it is possible to highlight key themes and challenges that most family offices face and offer advice on how to deal with common situations that arise. The increased level of sophistication for these investors has created a need for constant communication and transparency to ensure everyone involved in deals is on the same page and held accountable to achieve the desired results.

 

Vision – Clearly Communicate Goals to Foster Alignment

Family offices need to communicate their goals and alignment to all players involved, from their internal teams to management at their portfolio companies and everyone in between. With varying scopes of family offices, the common goals tend to surround income, total assets, and legacy. There is a varying degree to which these topics are discussed and articulated among family offices. Mapping out priorities that articulate the desired purpose and direction for the family’s wealth will encourage proper decision making and the right strategy. The proper structure of the family office can then ensure that governance framework, operating processes, teams, and advisors are set up in a way to support the family office’s purpose and values to achieve specific goals. Further, it will help identify the right KPIs/metrics to track and measure against as well.

 

Operations – Set up the Proper Delegation of Duties

Once everyone knows and embraces their role, family offices can then fill in the gaps where they need help, making the whole process much simpler and clearer. These gaps can be filled through streamlining operations via outsourcing. Outsourcing to specialized agencies not only provides expertise and more eyes on what matters, but it also allows family office executives to focus on the areas they’re passionate about.

 

Deal Flow – The More Opportunities That Come Your Way the Better (if it is manageable)

The best deals typically come through referrals, but there are also plenty of solid opportunities that come in via cold calls, emails, pitch events, or online databases stacked with potential investments. No matter the source, access to these deals is paramount to succeeding in the private investing world. A few sources we have found useful are AngelList, PitchBook, LinkedIn, CrunchBase, etc.

In more of a nontraditional move, family offices can also find deals and collaborate through equity crowdfunding. A capital raise can start as Reg CF and later convert a round to Reg A. Start-ups are increasingly seeing the value in crowdfunding to raise initial capital as it helps to validate their business model and market fit. With less regulation than private equity, investors can also benefit from getting involved and take more ownership of great ideas at an early stage.

 

Syndicate Investments to Reduce Risk, Increase Upside, and Achieve Economies of Scale

Most family offices already co-invest through syndication with other family offices. Yet this only increases the need for transparency from all firms involved: the family offices, their teams, portfolio companies, and any outsourced agencies that are involved in establishing a smoother operation. Syndicating deals allows you to reduce the downside by committing less capital, it increases the amount of relationships/resources that the target company can leverage, and it also enables each family office/fund to be able to split expenses when appropriate.

Finding and deploying the right consulting firm is a key example of this, due to the essential need for trust and objective parties when dealing with a large amount of wealth from a small number of sources. If family offices do choose to outsource certain operational functions (like marketing, sales, finance, etc.), a firm that provides constant communication and quick action to resolve issues is necessary. With the right external agency, family offices can concentrate on the roles that align with their purpose and passion with respect to running a successful operation. Not to mention, they save even more capital by not having to hire full-time positions to do what these outsourced specialists have been doing well for years.

 

Succession Planning – Always Keep an Eye on the Future

Succession is one event that family offices must have even though it can be uncomfortable. Having a contingency plan in place allows for smooth transitions and operational stability across the board when the time comes. This could mean planning for the transition from one generation of principal(s) to the next, or from one family office executive to the next. CEO’s tend to be in their position for an average of approximately 5 years. For family offices, managing directors and executives tend to hold these offices for 10 years as they have established a rapport with the investor families. This means that much more of the operations are in the hands of the family office executives than in traditional businesses.

When succession occurs with these individuals, it can be tough for the family office to stay on course if objectives and procedures have not been communicated. Understanding the role of the family, the family office, the portfolio companies, and any external firms in the event of succession is key in mitigating risks and obstacles that can cause disruption. With less regulation and oversight regarding practices of family offices, a lot more is done on an informal basis, leading to the possibility of overlooking key operations. With a clear and defined plan, it provides an easier transition when any type of succession inevitably occurs.

 

Conclusion

As you look to scale your operations, investments, and grow, there are clearly a variety of routes to take. The key is determining the route that best fits your family office’s vision, the portfolio companies you want to invest in, and then ensuring that all parties involved, whether in-house or external, all understand and are committed to executing it.

Written By: Mike Simmons and Evan Shirreffs.

 

THE PRIMARY MISSION OF WIMS CONSULTING IS TO HELP YOUR FUND AND ITS PORTFOLIO COMPANIES GENERATE A HIGHER ROI NOT ONLY INTERNALLY, BUT ON BEHALF OF YOUR INVESTORS AS WELL. WE CAN ASSIST WITH SCALING YOUR INVESTMENTS TO HELP INCREASE VALUATIONS IN ADVANCE OF ADDITIONAL FUNDING ROUNDS, LIQUIDITY EVENTS, EXITS, OR IPOs. WE CAN PROVIDE A LOT OF DIFFERENT SERVICES, CREATE AND IMPLEMENT A ROBUST STRATEGY, AND EXECUTE EACH TACTIC, BUT EVERYTHING THAT WE DO TRULY BOILS DOWN TO THAT ONE SINGLE OBJECTIVE OF ADDING MORE VALUE TO YOUR FIRM.

3 Ways Restaurants and Breweries Can Boost Marketing During COVID-19

3 Ways Restaurants and Breweries Can Boost Marketing During COVID-19

The restaurant and brewery industries are ones that COVID-19 has hit hardest as customers have literally been ordered to stay away from these establishments for months now. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to find ways to profit. Here are 3 ways to boost your restaurant and brewery marketing during COVID-19.

Update Your Online Assets

Your customers still want to eat your food and by now, they are most likely tired of cooking from home. They’re wondering whether you’re open and how they might benefit from one of your meals. Let your audience know how they can order from you by updating the following assets:

  • Website
  • Social media platforms
  • Google My Business

We have seen various methods of still serving customers, including curbside pickup, carryout, and home delivery. Update your website so it’s immediately clear that you’re open and offering one of these solutions. Provide your new hours and any specials that may be offered to help families in need during the pandemic.

Social media accounts can help highlight any new specials that you may be offering. Provide encouraging stories that point followers to the easiest way to get your food. In the “About” tab, make sure to reflect these added specials, new hours, and delivery methods.

Update these same changes on your Google My Business page so anyone looking you up online or in Google Maps discovers your new ways of doing business.

Be Empathetic About COVID-19

You know where every single one of your customers is right now. You know what each person is thinking because you are going through the same thing. You understand their fears and concerns about the future. Provide them empathy and comfort by personifying your business as much more than a business, but as people too. Marketing is not simply advertising; it is sharing your story with customers about why you are a business they should align themselves with.

You may fear that you’re taking advantage of a negative situation, but if you show value, customers will come. If you do it correctly, then you can become a shining light of hope for you customers.

Help customers understand that it’s acceptable to celebrate even during a pandemic. They simply should do so safely by social distancing. Help them understand that you’re here to provide comfort food and celebratory food to brighten their day a bit.

Offer Something Other Than Food & Beverages

We already know that margins are small in the food and beverage, so focus efforts on developing other avenues for revenue. Get creative and ask yourself what else you can offer. For example, how can you use gift cards or merchandise to increase overall profit during COVID-19?

Offer incentives for customers to purchase gift cards to give away to friends and family. It helps increase your revenue immediately and gets more awareness into the community that you’re open for business. In addition to giftcards, you can sell merchandise via an online store on your website.

There’s no need to see your restaurant or brewery suffer during COVID-19 if you get creative and proactive about your marketing. Don’t go on the defensive. Get on offense and become an inspiration for your local community.  

Private Investment Funds in 2020

Private Investment Funds in 2020: Focus on Optimizing & Streamlining Existing Portfolio Company Investments to Grow amid Volatility

The whirlwind of 2020 has rattled businesses across the country, and it has been no different for the private investment/fund industries. Even prior to this year, trends were moving toward funds (private equity, venture capital, family office, etc.) establishing platforms that focused on a suite of key business functions, such as business development, marketing, finance, PR, etc. to assist their portfolio companies with scaling their operations. Some funds have stood up internally1, while others have engaged external strategic partnerships.

In the first half of the year, a slowdown in new deals was caused partly by valuation discrepancies between buyers and sellers, resulting in a 63% decrease in activity in the Americas region2 after the onset of COVID-19. According to a PitchBook report, U.S. private equity exits dropped by 70% (1st 6 months of 2020 compared to year-ago period) because private equity firms marked down portfolio companies; they chose to hold investments rather than sell them3. Although this may sound alarming, a study by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson showed that despite a drop in exit transactions in the first half of 2020, there is little evidence of forced exits at least3. Furthermore, private equity firms raised $348 billion in the same time frame, which is only 10% shy of what they raised during the first half of 20192.

If funds have the capital raised but are not deploying it because of the risk of an unfavorable valuation or investment, the question must be raised: what have they been doing in the meantime?

In addition to simply boosting investments for current portfolio companies, funds are increasing aid in the strategic side of these businesses as well. “Increasing returns during ongoing fiscal and geopolitical uncertainty pushed top executives from PE firms to maintain focus on value and digitalization, and a commitment to developing the organizational and business models of their portfolio companies.”4 Many Funds have turned to delegating these duties to outside firms.

Outsourcing operations, sales, marketing, and other core functions provides a new perspective for funds. With another set of eyes on current investments, funds can squeeze every penny of revenue out of their portfolio companies to boost chances of success. Outsourcing allows current portfolio companies access to the same professional team as their fund, which consolidates consultants, agencies, people, and expenses for a more efficient operation filtered through a single entity.

Furthermore, with investment funds specializing to extreme degrees these days1, funds can focus on what they have specialized in, while letting the collaborative agency facilitate other aspects of the business. This allows them to keep the main thing the main thing so they can keep investors happy and informed, as well as assist their portfolio companies with more high value activities.

Not only does outsourcing provide more expertise with experienced professionals, but it tends to cost less than hiring someone within the fund or directly at the portfolio companies to manage these responsibilities. VC start-ups are staying private for an average of eight years longer than they would have back in 2000. It only makes sense to provide them with an experienced team for business development, marketing, and more. Without a team, the firm must manage all of this themselves or, for example, hire a business development manager. The average venture capital business development manager salary is nearly $80,000, not to mention additional benefits and expenses. Eight additional years of paying this salary (not including escalators and other contractual advancements) raises that investment to $640,000 allocated towards one person, when a team of experts can be hired to do an even better job.

Over the last decade, the appeal of going public has decreased as companies do not want to deal with inevitable scrutiny after releasing financials and other information. There has actually even been a shift of public companies switching back to private, with 8 out of 10 of the largest buyouts being Public 2 Private (P2P)4. Many companies would rather stay private, or be bought out through M&A, than to receive heat from the public. If a start-up does not go public, having that business development manager can continue as a growing yearly expense (regardless of value), even if the business isn’t in a growth or blitzscaling stage. Similar to the recession from a decade ago, companies are thinning out and hiring more contractors because it is a more manageable and flexible commitment.

Further along this line, “We are starting to see some changes that may signal a strategy shift by private equity to help struggling portfolio companies amid the crisis. Additional stake purchases by private equity investors are up by count and volume compared to same period last year and second- and third-round funding’s are also up from last year. Both are ways to inject cash into companies that need it most now.”5

In volatile times, more of the focus should be on what can be controlled. “Leaders should identify digital innovations such as business intelligence, big data analytics, machine learning, and business processes automation to help companies evolve and gain the skills needed for better performance and outpacing the competitors.”4

While not every business model is 100% perfect, and there are pros and cons to each, there are certainly many advantages both financially and operationally to leveraging a consulting firm to assist funds and their portfolio companies with scaling. Regardless of whether the macro environment is volatile and capital is tougher to come by, or when conditions are great and capital is flowing freely, running a tight ship focused on streamlining, growth, and ROI will always be in style and appreciated.

Written By: Mike Simmons and Evan Shirreffs

References:

1) https://tomtunguz.com/is-venture-capital-worth-the-risk/

2) https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b1mqkqqx3g0k5v/Private-Equity-s-Answer-to-a-Frozen-Deal-Market

3) https://www.pionline.com/private-equity/private-equity-deals-tumble-20-2020s-first-half-pitchbook

4) https://bspeclub.com/2020/04/17/private-equity-2020-outlook-the-start-of-a-new-decade/

5) https://news.bloomberglaw.com/bloomberg-law-analysis/analysis-how-is-private-equity-optimizing-the-downturn

The primary mission of WIMS Consulting is to help your fund and its portfolio companies generate a higher ROI not only internally, but on behalf of your investors as well. We can assist with scaling your investments to help increase valuations in advance of additional funding rounds, liquidity events, exits, or IPOs. We can provide a lot of different services, create and implement a robust strategy, and execute each tactic, but everything that we do truly boils down to that one single objective of adding more value to your firm.
Socializing in a Socially Distanced World

Socializing in a Socially Distanced World by Evan Shirreffs

As young professionals, most of us are getting our careers started, attempting to make new friends outside of work, and networking for possible job opportunities that don’t involve surviving at the bottom of the totem poll at a 9-5. A lot of this socializing would typically come at happy hours and on weekends with visits to our favorite spots, but a huge disruption to the young professional lifestyle came with the onset of COVID-19. Our time to let loose became a time of added stress as we were pent up in our apartments, or even back home with our parents, as we waited for any sign of times returning to normal. One thing became clear as week after week brought new broken promises and spoiled expectations: the end of this mayhem was nowhere in sight, so we decided to make do in the meantime.

At first, this meant getting together with a small number of close friends for what normally would be pre-games. These gatherings still somewhat involved social distancing as our parents warned us that we couldn’t see them when we traveled back home if we were stupid enough to see other people, but the seed of times returning to normal was already planted.

At some point in the terrible reaction to the pandemic, the FOMO took over. Our cravings for those social settings that we so dearly missed slowly outgrew our fear of the pandemic. Naturally, we wanted to meet people and we wanted to try new things. As places began to re-open, we scrolled through social media, witnessing our friends start to go out again. Sparked by distrust of the conflicting news we received day in and day out, we were all soon flooding the doors of any place brave enough to host us. Whatever was open, we ran to with hopes of getting in before they reached capacity. We watched our favorite dance floor at Gin Mill reopen before regulations forced them to do table only seating. We saw an earlier last call at Sycamore with each passing evening, leaving us scrambling for a new place to go. We were devastated by a curfew put on the few thriving spots like Hoppin’ after a promise of brewery and bar re-openings that clearly came too soon.

After hearing news the other day of an additional 5 weeks being added to the Phase 2 protocol in North Carolina, I thought of how everything has unfolded over the past few months and pondered the next moves for some of these affected restaurants, bars, and breweries. In my research, I came across this excerpt regarding the “Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (Restaurants) Act of 2020” that truly puts into perspective what these businesses have been going through and why relief is needed:

“Recent surveys found that COVID-19 has forced operators to lay off 91% of the hourly workforce and 70% of salaried employees. Only one in five restaurant owners subjected to state mandated dine-in shutdowns said they felt confident they could keep their restaurants running. The National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that only 15% of restaurants will be able to stay open if the COVID-19 pandemic lasts six months. All of this in an industry that already runs on extremely thin margins.”

While the circumstances appear dire, there is always hope and opportunities hidden within even the most chaotic of crises. There are strategies business owners and operators in this space can and are taking to make the best of the situation.

Following online research into the subject, I wanted to take things a step further to develop a better approach in which to help these businesses. I decided to reach out to a few business owners (primarily in Charlotte) to see how they maneuvered the past few months, learn how imposed laws have affected their businesses, determine what tactics are working, and hear about their expectations for the future. More to come soon…

Evan Shirreffs, MBA is a Business Analyst with WIMS Consulting a full-service marketing and sales agency operating primarily in Charlotte, NC and Miami, FL. WIMS has a service line dedicated to assisting restaurants, breweries, and bars with growing and scaling called LDR BRD.

A Time of Transition By Evan Shirreffs

A Time of Transition – It’s OK to Take a Break By Evan Shirreffs

There is a reason the United States has the largest economy in the world. We work harder than anyone. There is also a reason we have a mental health crisis that is affecting 1 in 5 adults, nearly 50 million people. One of the contributors is our results-oriented society. Instead of falling in love with how things are done, we fall in love with simply getting things done. Whether it’s studying for a test or reaching a quota set by an employer, the satisfaction is short-lived for the amount of stress put into reaching the end goal. It wears us down because school and work gradually become viewed as a task instead of an opportunity. We look to the future for happiness and build these elaborate plans for our lives that become less realistic as time passes. We work towards a certain degree or job because we expect it to yield a favorable outcome that will in turn make our lives better. What we do not realize is that in doing so, our jobs become our lives. Why then would I even consider following a career path that is destined to become my life if the work involved isn’t something I am prepared to mold my life around?

In December, two major seasons of my life came to an end: school and my football career. Both dominated my life since I was a child, which left me wondering what might fill their voids on my list of priorities. Throughout our schooling and upbringing, we are taught that there is usually one proper way to do things. For me, this would mean searching for and starting a job as soon as possible to guarantee there would be no gaps on my resume and a steady stream of income to begin my business career. At the time, rushing into a job just didn’t feel right.

The truth is, all I was worried about for the last few years was training for football and completing my MBA program. I had no plan for how I would even apply my MBA to a career; I simply knew that having another degree would add to my value in the eyes of potential employers. Many people advised me to secure a job before finishing school. Ironically, much of this advice was coming from people who currently hated their jobs, so why would I listen to them? I was burned out from college football and knew that if I started a job in January, I would work myself into the ground. With employers pressuring me to start work following graduation without any real knowledge of what any of the jobs might entail, I felt a bit trapped.

Instead of accepting a position just to have a job, I decided to buy a one-way ticket halfway across the world. Australia would be my home for the next few months. I worked cash jobs for spending money and stayed in hostels with 10 different people every night. My 15-pound youth backpack was my only companion as I hopped on greyhound buses to get from place to place. For the majority of my life, I had planned my next move before finishing my last, so living day-to-day with no solid plan was a completely foreign idea to me. My world was turned upside down.

I soon found that I had no place in the hierarchy of society. I was no longer a football player or a grad student. I had no standards or expectations established for me by other people, meaning that there was no end result to work towards. I was simply a kid from America trying to find his way. There was something freeing in that.

Don’t get me wrong, it was tough. The time had finally come to think about past experiences, relationships, and mistakes I had made. It was a time of reflection that was long overdue. With everything I had been through over the years, I had bottled up a lot of issues because I just didn’t have the time to deal with them. Looking at myself in the mirror and truly analyzing my actions helped me discover a lot about myself.

Not only did I get to experience life on my own, but I got to hear about other travelers’ stories. I met people from all over the world: New Zealand, Ecuador, the UK, Canada, Germany, Spain, the list goes on. I found that Germans are serious in all aspects of life until they’ve had a few beers. Canadians are in fact the kindest, most agreeable people on this Earth. Australians love life because they don’t spend it indoors aimlessly scrolling through social media; instead, they explore and try new things. Through comparing my experiences and upbringing to others’, I realized that there is no perfect way to do things. There are endless solutions to every problem, it is just our choice to figure out which solution best answers the problem for our specific needs.

Sometimes you have to take a few steps back before a huge leap forward. Whether it is from high school to college, college to a job, or one job to another one, we are wired to rush from opportunity to opportunity without even batting an eye. We refrain from taking time off for no reason other than to save face when people ask us what we are up to. I was a bum for two months and I needed that. I needed to learn how to live on my own and appreciate the blessings I had taken for granted my whole life. Maybe travelling isn’t your thing. Maybe you’d prefer hiking or art or music or reading. Take some time to get out into the world and live on your own terms between these monumental seasons of life. Make those memories for yourself so your only stories for your grandkids aren’t about the time you watched an incredible video that someone else made while you sat on your couch. I’m not promising that this will cure everything you are going through, but I will say that it was a step towards finding joy in my life. It worked for me to clear my mind, realign my priorities, and reignite the passion for my dreams that every worry-free kid is born with. Go be a kid!

Student Athlete tackles MBA Program by Evan Shirreffs

Beginning A New Challenge

It was the spring of my final year at the University of Miami. With graduation looming as a bittersweet moment only a few months away, I was left with two options: start my career in the real world or pursue an MBA with my last two years of eligibility in football. While both choices fostered great upsides, I chose to pursue my MBA as it became apparent that football was too large a part of my life to let go of. Thus, I began my search for the ideal university to meet my needs.

I struck gold when I came across the campus of UNC Charlotte, a school that I knew little about despite being only three hours from home back in Georgia. A quick drive up I-85 told me all that I needed to know; I had found my new home in this not too big, not too small city.

Situated in the Queen City, UNC Charlotte and its subsequent location proved to have everything I was looking for. An up and coming football team with all of the potential to become a nationally-known program, a flexible MBA program that paired well with the demanding hours of football, and a lively Uptown area filled with endless possibilities for young professionals looking to succeed in business.

 

Starting Anew

After committing to Charlotte, questions began to build surrounding my upcoming experience as an MBA student. What would it be like to start all over again in a new city? Would the classes be as taxing as undergrad? What would my classmates be like? As the questions swirled, so did my own answers in the form of expectations. To ease my tensions, I told myself it was just some more school; it would be the same as high school and undergrad. Although I was somewhat right, most of my expectations were far from reality.

As time passed in the MBA program, I realized how it differed from undergrad studies. Classes actually encompassed learning and growing instead of memorization and repetition. I began to soak up information from not just my professors, but other students in my classes. All of my classes were filled with people older than me by 5, 10, and sometimes 20 years. As intimidating as this seemed at first, it could not have been any better for my development.

Despite my lack of traditional professional experience, I was lucky enough to hear the real-life experience of all of my classmates who already had years of experience in various fields: engineering, entrepreneurship, music, healthcare, you name it. Everyone seemed to have a unique story and everyone seemed to think differently. Mixers, guest speaker, and other MBA events soon became regular parts of my schedule to meet people and build friendships.

 

Becoming Situated

Comfort came in accepting the different perspectives of my peers. They enjoyed my young optimism; I enjoyed their experienced pessimism. I was often able to learn what not to do without having to experience some of the rock-bottom stories shared by my peers.

Do not get me wrong, moving to a new place and essentially starting over is one of the hardest things to go through in life, but luckily, I have been able to realize the magnitude of the impact this move has had on my future. As I thought the new school and city could not get any better, an unexpected cherry was placed on top of an already promising experience.

 

Seeing the World

Throughout undergrad, I had dreamed of studying abroad, but with football occupying my time and energy, this merely remained a dream. Charlotte turned this into a reality when I got a random email about a trip to Europe during winter break. It was a two-week seminar course in Lyon, France during the only time of the year that I had off from football. It truly put into perspective the great opportunity I had seized in packing up from a promising future in Miami to move to an up and coming program at Charlotte. The Queen City has proved to have everything I was searching for in a school, football team, social life, business opportunity, and unexpected fruition of my dreams.

Cost Benefit of Being a Student Athlete

The Cost/Benefit of Being a Student Athlete by Evan Shirreffs

Picture walking out of your dorm room at 5am on a Friday morning with a jug of water in one hand and a granola bar in the other. With sleep still in your eyes you’re wondering, “what will the workout be like today? Intense conditioning or a grueling squat day?”

Then, as you reach the door to the parking lot, you encounter a few students stumbling around, standing in their outfits from the evening before. One of them lost their student ID at some point during the night in between shots of liquor and their failed attempt at chasing after that one cute girl from Calculus class. Lucky for them, here you come to the rescue before they pass out in the bushes.

During my first few weeks on campus as a football player at the University of Miami, this moment put into perspective what the following few years would encompass.

Sooner or later, every student-athlete has experienced a similar moment that made them realize the depths of dedication it takes to play a sport in college. To say it is a job is honestly an understatement. Do not even get me started with compensation, but the pure will it even takes to commit to such a rigorous lifestyle is much more demanding than any job could ever be, and that’s coupled with much less reward.

What job is so physically taxing that by the end of an early morning lift session, you need to take a nap before most of your colleagues are even awake? What job gives you twice as much “optional” work as mandatory work, yet expects all of it to still get done despite the repeated statements that, “school comes before football?” If this was truly the case, then why would my only free time to study be after hours in the library with the thought of that early morning practice distracting my efforts to learn the importance of a balance sheet, or developing a business model for a business world that I have only heard of in theory and not yet experienced?

Learning class material was never the issue for me. It’s a bit easier to go into an exam with a general concept of what will be on it, and BS an answer that will satisfy your professor. If you BS your preparation for football however, you will be exposed by your opponent. And he will let you know about it before you even get to the sideline to get ripped by your coaches and teammates as well. As a quarterback, I need to know everything that all the other ten guys on the field are doing. The amount of focus it takes to go through hours of daily practice, meetings, and film is something that is quite difficult to understand until you must do it. No other position is like that; few positions in business are like that either.

Yet with all the challenges involved, the cool thing about committing to something like this lifestyle is the absence of regret, and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from doing everything in your power to succeed, even if the venture results in failure. In a society so focused on perfection, it is hard to see the value in failure. Football has taught me that success is never possible without failure.

I have lost battles for starting jobs, had coaches that did not believe in my style of play, I missed games because of injuries, not performed when my number was called, but none of that is what defines me. Failure not only showed me that I was not as badass as I thought by beating me down during some of the toughest moments of my life, but it gave me the opportunity to overcome obstacles during those times that makes success so much sweeter.

Failure gives you the chance to learn how to respond when things are not going your way. It humbles you when you most need it. This has been the single most impactful lesson learned from football. When you accept that the outcome you are working so hard for may not be attainable, you learn to fall in love with the grind and process of even giving yourself the opportunity to reach the result you are striving for.

As I sit behind my computer screen gathering my thoughts on my final collegiate football season to come, and my eventual “transfer” into the real world of business, I cannot help but smile at the opportunities ahead. I have no idea what the future holds, but I know that nothing I face in life will be as hard as the days of being a student-athlete. I understand that there is so much to still be learned, but there is no doubt in my mind that I will be successful in whatever career path I take. In all honesty, I just fear not finding that one thing in the real world that I am as passionate about as football. But I know that when I find it, I will make a difference in this world.

-Evan Shirreffs