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Pathway to Career Success: CRE Alumni Associations, Networking, and Giving Back with Chad Hagle | S3SP19

In this episode of the Adventures in CRE podcast, Chad Hagle, CEO of Aventine Development and founding member of the Stanford Professionals in Real Estate (SPIRE), discusses the importance of CRE alumni associations and networking in launching successful careers. Chad shares his experience in forming SPIRE and overcoming initial resistance, highlighting the power of creating a culture and mission within an organization. He emphasizes the value of relationships and performance in career advancement and encourages students, alumni, and administrators to collaborate and support one another.

Watch, listen, or read below to learn Chad’s insights on how building a community through CRE alumni associations can positively impact careers in real estate and beyond.

Pathway to Career Success: CRE Alumni Associations, Networking, and Giving Back

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Episode Transcript

Announcer (00:01):

Welcome to the Adventures in CRE audio series. Join Michael Belasco and Spencer Burton as they pull back the curtain on everything commercial real estate, and introduce you to some of the top minds in the industry. If you want to take your skills to the next level and be part of a growing community of CRE professionals across the world, this is for you.

Sam Carlson (00:26):

Hello and welcome back to the Adventures in CRE podcast. We have a special guest today, Chad Hagle. Chad, thanks for joining us. And we’re going to be talking about your network. We’re going to be talking about CRE alumni associations. But not just broadly speaking, we’re going to really narrow down and talk about a lot of really neat things that collectively, the group has just had really different experiences with in terms of how they’ve used those relationships and those opportunities. And so Chad, we’re excited to have you. Before we get to you, I’ll dish it over to Spencer and do a quick intro and then we’ll jump into the conversation.

Chad Hagle (01:02):


Spencer Burton (01:03):

Chad, again, thanks for joining. So Chad and I have developed a budding friendship, I hope we can call it, over the last-

Chad Hagle (01:11):


Spencer Burton (01:11):

… few months. Connected through a couple different ways. Met initially through a conference. He was kind to invite me onto his podcast, which I will drop a link to, Dadages. Really fun series on dad and adages and how as we age, we have all sorts of life experience that we can share with the world. So, it was a really fun experience.


But Chad is a special individual, and that’s why we wanted him here. First off, he is CEO of Aventine Development, 22 plus year seasoned history developing across the United States. He has some interesting things he’s doing internationally now that we won’t have time to discuss today. But in particular, as it relates to today’s discussion, he was one of the founding members of the Stanford Professionals in Real Estate SPIRE. And he and I connected on this because I am a board member and one of the members of the team that helped relaunch the Cornell Real Estate Council. And both have a mission to help, call it, the next generation of real estate professionals launch and launch successfully.


And while their university-specific, I think the broader topic here is, if you’re a student listening, if you’re a CRE alumni listening, how do we either help you or how do we help others launch careers, and whether that’s careers into real estate or otherwise? And so Chad, let me kick it to you first. This is clearly a mission that you have. 15 years ago you helped launch SPIRE. To this day, we were talking prior to starting here, how you have this passion of helping, in particular student athletes. What is it that drives you to help the next generation?

Chad Hagle (03:03):

Yeah, Spencer, thanks for the question and thank you gentlemen for having me on your platform to talk about such exciting topics and things, as you said, that I’m very passionate about. As you said, 15 years ago at my 10th reunion, that was really my first moment to reengage actively with my university, Stanford, as an engaged alum. And I look at that last 15 years as my CRE alumni career. I do consider it a career. I’ve devoted sometimes as much, if not more, energy into my engagement at Stanford and other higher education, and particularly when we formed the organization.


And I think this is an important notion about these organizations and the power of them and the importance of them. We were forming it right during the heart of the GFC. And everyone said, “You’re nuts to try to form a real estate organization in the middle of the worst real estate recession that any of us can remember.” But it was actually that problem, that common challenge that we were all facing that created the strongest glue to bring us together in the early days to build this organization.


And organizations are often founded around that. There’s an event, there’s a circumstance, there’s something that happens that brings people together. But really what’s the glue that makes it stick together, is having a mission and creating a culture. And when you look at an individual in any industry, I always say that the two things, and Spencer, you and I talked about this the last time we were together, the two things that really matter and that define success are relationships and performance. And oftentimes, it’s the former that is the strongest and the most powerful force in advancing your career forward.


And when you’re talking about building groups, the performance is in the mission. It’s in, what is the mission that your organization is focused on? What are you trying to accomplish? And then the relationships are built through creating a culture within the institution of support and looking out for your fellow members, your fellow CRE alumni, your fellow colleagues within the industry, and making that a part of your culture. And recognizing, acknowledging, and attaching yourself to that notion that we are better together. We’re stronger together when we work together, and collaborate, and share best practices and ideas. And I think that’s the foundation to any organization. But in particular, when you’re looking at these CRE alumni organizations or affinity based organizations, that’s really the key, is creating that culture.

Spencer Burton (05:50):

So listening right now, undoubtedly there are administrators from universities. There are students that are thinking about their future involvement in the university. And then there are CRE alumni who are going, “I wish I was more involved, or, “I wish I could help be more involved or others be more involved.” And stories often are the best way to learn. Share with us your story of launching SPIRE. Was that like you and three friends sitting around going, “If only we had…”, or how did that come together?

Chad Hagle (06:22):

It sounds like you were there, because that is exactly what the story was. At my reunion, we’re sitting around and there’s about 5, 6, 7, 8 of us. And what’s interesting is if you look back at Stanford, and I’m sure it’s the same at Cornell, and anywhere you look, you can chart the real estate industry based upon what years there are graduates going into the industry. You can see where the real estate industry was in its cycle. When I came out in 1998, the real estate industry was in an upswing. And so, there’s actually a large number of people in my class of 1998 that gravitated toward the real estate industry just organically, not by any design.


And so this group of us that were in the industry, were looking at the names on all of these buildings across Stanford campus. You look at Bing, you look at Arriaga, you look at Burnham. These are royalty within the real estate industry and royalty within Stanford’s ecosystem. But there was no association that existed to bring together people around this topic. And I kind of understand now why that is, because there’s no academic home at Stanford for the real estate industry. Stanford has no real estate major, or concentration, or minor, or program at all. It’s just by virtue of people coming together outside of an educational setting and pursuing a career in real estate that they’ve been so successful.


And we just sat around, as you said, and asked the question over and over. And. “Why hasn’t this happened? Why not, why not, why not?” And finally just got sick of asking why and just decided to do it ourselves. And it’s almost that simple.

Spencer Burton (08:08):

So, describe the challenges of launching. And I’ve shared these challenges in a parallel experience, but for the audience, what are some of the challenges? How did you get over those challenges? I know we’d like to then get to the next step of this, the deeper level of it. But I think there’s some practical knowledge here from your direct experience that is relevant to our listeners [inaudible 00:08:32].

Chad Hagle (08:32):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can go on and on about what it takes to form a nonprofit or organization. And actually I have within my own podcast, Dadages, there’s an episode all about, I don’t believe in charity, I believe in philanthropic investment. And it talks about the process. And I provide a roadmap for how you can build an organization to attack challenges and opportunities in a philanthropic environment.


But to specifically talk about our experience and how it went for SPIRE, I think the biggest thing we had to overcome was if you’re trying to create a culture, by definition, that culture doesn’t exist when you’re trying to create it. And if the culture doesn’t exist, the institutional support for what you’re doing doesn’t exist. And I can tell you, we were absolutely rogue. We were perceived by the Alumni Association, the Office of Development, not just as something that was sort of off the grid, or off their map and off script for them, but in some ways a threat. Because they thought, “Oh gosh, if these guys start building this real estate association, they may divert donations that would be going to support the university away from the university and toward their association and running away with our money.”


And that was the environment that we started in. And I sat down with the president of the Alumni Association, Howard Wolf, a real estate guy with a Cushman & Wakefield background, among others, and pitched him on what we were trying to do. And he explained to me over a half hour meeting in his office, the litany of reasons as to why it was never going to work.


And 10 years later, fast-forward, I was sitting in an auditorium at Stanford with about 200 people. And Howard got up publicly, and to his credit, told that story, and said how wrong he was about every single thing he said. And went on to describe SPIRE as the most successful CRE alumni organization in the history of Stanford University. And the reason why is, all of those fears that the administration had, they could not have been more wrong.


Because what actually ended up happening is by us forming a contextual affinity-based organization with a real mission to engage people who are Stanford alums in the real estate industry and bring them back to the university. There were people who had lost connection with Stanford altogether that we were able to reconnect with Stanford to help students in a career development capacity, to help faculty in providing coursework, case studies, and participation. I’ve guessed lectured about 10 times at Stanford in this time period. And then ultimately they brought money. There are donors who are now donating money to Stanford and its programs that weren’t connected with the university when we formed the organization.


So I’d say the number one thing out of a laundry list of really important steps and approaches to building these organizations is, don’t be afraid of the resistance you’re going to face. And be willing to work your way through cultural change. Never by being in opposition to an institution like a Stanford or a Cornell, but by sidestepping and working in parallel. And then the last piece of it is, be super gracious at the end when things come back together to give the university all the credit.

Spencer Burton (12:11):

Those are the two biggest points. The first is, if you’re an administrator listening, don’t feel threatened by your CRE alumni organizing to create something special and new. Because it will benefit you in the long-term. And if you’re an organizer, recognize that the credit needs to ultimately return to the students, first and foremost.

Chad Hagle (12:35):


Spencer Burton (12:36):

Now, yeah, the benefits should go to the students first and foremost, and the university as an extension of that. And if those two sides understand that, you can get something special. And SPIRE truly is special. And you described it in a way that I hadn’t heard described. But I know looking from the outside in, arguably you’re right up there with the best CRE alumni associations in the world. And that’s a testament to the work that you’ve done and the people who who’ve worked with you to build that to what it is today.

Chad Hagle (13:07):

Well, thank you. I appreciate that.

Sam Carlson (13:12):

As you’re talking here, I’m sitting here listening, nodding my head, and actually just listening with intrigue. But I have two thoughts. One is, we kind of default to that, you’ll take away from me. And not just a university, but people.

Chad Hagle (13:28):

Yeah, the zero-sum game.

Sam Carlson (13:29):

Exactly. And what we learn is, this world doesn’t function that way. Anybody who treats anything like a zero-sum game always ends up on the defense and always ends up just being left in the dust.

Chad Hagle (13:42):

Yeah. They’re playing the wrong game.

Sam Carlson (13:43):

That’s exactly right. So I mean, to your credit, I mean, I just feel that. As I’m hearing you speak, I’m like, “Oh, this guy never plays that game.” And I’m not in the real estate world, I’m a business entrepreneur. And so, this is maybe my first interaction with you. And if people are listening and they don’t know you, just looking at you, if they’re listening, I can tell that’s the vibe that you give.

Chad Hagle (14:05):

Yeah. Yeah.

Sam Carlson (14:06):

And so that’s the first thing. And the second thing is, I wanted to maybe add in a layer of color to… And you tell me Chad, of how close I’m to hitting the mark here. When we talk about building a culture, I think the word that, if I were to describe what that really means, if somebody wants to go out and start giving back the way you have, I look at it more like building a culture, but building a community.


Because wherever people are, whether you go back and say, “We’re tribal.”, whatever you want to, we seek community and we seek like-minded community. And those niches go down very narrow, whether it’s, hey, Stanford, whether we talked a little bit about sports and athletes, which hopefully we’ll get to here in a minute. But I mean, these are all nuanced communities. And the power of a community… Here is what has changed. And I love advertising, I love marketing. We used to just put out really catchy phrases and things like that. And branding was, you have these different brand ideas and colors. Branding is no longer-

Chad Hagle (15:18):

Who had the best catchphrase.

Sam Carlson (15:20):

That’s exactly right. So it’s not what you tell the public about you, that’s your brand. It’s what they tell each other. That’s what the brand is. And so when you’re talking about community and you’re talking about culture, really you’re just building off of a set of ethos. And you’re saying, “These.” And so I’m guessing you and your friends were like, “This is what we want, and we want others to thrive in this environment.”


So I guess just to, as you’re thinking, if you’re listening to this while you’re driving to work, whatever, as I’m listening to Chad, I’m just thinking, “This is what we need more of. We need more people buying into the zero-sum game is not real.” And then, “How can I be a part of a community that gives back in some way?” Because everybody should be. If you’re not doing it for yourself, you should be doing it for others, in some way, shape, or form. And I was just bouncing some ideas around my head as you were talking, like, “Man, this guy makes me want to go out and do some more of that stuff myself.”

Chad Hagle (16:25):

But you guys are already doing it. You’re building your community here with an ACRE. And one of the greatest gifts that you can give to anyone is knowledge. And the fact that you guys are devoting your time, effort, and energy to create a platform to share knowledge with your community, that’s huge.


And I think the next step is, how do you then empower them, encourage them, entice them, drive them to do the same? To pay it back to the community that you guys have built and then even more importantly, pay it forward and to their own communities. And what your listeners and your audience are doing back home in their own community and the things that they’re doing.


And this doesn’t just have to be part of a nonprofit life. For me, this is a big part of my for-profit life. I’ve built my business around the notion of being of service. I don’t consider myself a landlord in the real estate industry. I consider myself a developer. And the distinction in my mind is, a landlord is actually many times, at odds with their tenants. They’re across a table, they’re negotiating, they’re against one another, trying to find a middle ground maybe where they can both be equally dissatisfied with the outcome.


Instead, I try to be of service by helping solve problems for my retail clients, helping national and regional retailers help them grow. I’ve helped them shrink, I’ve helped them convert, I’ve helped them downsize. I’ve helped them exchange an in-house real estate program for an outsourced real estate approach to their business. I’ve done so many different things over the years, but I’ve always been of service. And I’ve always considered myself and considered that one of the foremost values of my organization, both my for-profit development entity and any nonprofit that I’m a part of.

Spencer Burton (18:24):

Michael, where are you at on this?

Michael Belasco (18:26):

Yeah, I’m loving this conversation. We or me personally, learned this quite by accident directly through Adventures in CRE. And you said, Chad, it’s as much a part of your for-profit life as it is of your non-profit life. Well, when Adventures in CRE started, there was no dream of Spencer and I’ for this to become a business. It happened quite by accident because we were of the mindset, “Let’s give everything that we have here in this niche because it isn’t being offered out there, and just offer it.”


Because what we were teaching wasn’t going to make some fund or some company billions of dollars. It was the essential skills that all of us needed to learn, but there was no free resource out there. You had to spend a lot of money doing it. So we just put it out there for free. And then sooner or later, this idea of just giving without the expectation of anything in return, the return came back quite by accident and quite exponentially. And so I always looked at the nonprofit giving world as very different. And that’s just how I grew up. I didn’t have that instilled in me until it happened by accident, Adventures in CRE.


So I find that whole world… It was almost a magical experience, I would have to say, to say we were giving so much, we weren’t asking for anything back. And then all of a sudden, the world’s just sort of opening up. And it’s opening up not just in monetary value, it’s opening up in networking, relationships. This conversation right now is a perfect example of that. It’s a magical sort of thing. It’s the word that I can find for it, because really you just don’t know… It’s not logical sometimes how things sort of come back to you when you give and give without the expectation of anything in return.

Spencer Burton (20:07):

So I’ve come to conclude… We’re getting a bit off track, but I think this is a really fun thing that there is a bank account called, a Goodwill Bank Account. This is a bank account that we bank anytime that you help someone young in the industry grow, every time Chad, you are guest lecturing at Stanford or you’re taking that phone call to help, you’re banking goodwill. And how you spend that goodwill is not quite as cut and clear as it is using your debit card. But it certainly is a bank account that grows over time. And it’s not purely philanthropic, however, it is greatly rewarding.


I spent last week, I mentioned before, we started in this retreat at Sundance with 60 of the most incredible people really I have ever met. And there was no profit motive. And everyone got together, and it wasn’t about networking with one another because we’re all in disparate industries. It was about helping one another think about our problems and think… The theme was, uncommon, think differently. That never would’ve happened if it wasn’t for ACRE. And I can draw the line and I won’t because it’ll bore you, how eventually I ended up in Sundance last week because of ACRE. The point is, you never know how that goodwill will come back and benefit you. And that’s clearly been the case for you and your SPIRE career.

Michael Belasco (21:35):

Yeah. I want to loop this back into SPIRE. And for those, there’s a lot of universities that aren’t as established or have absolutely no association even related to real estate. Walk us through, if you can recall, how you bootstrapped this thing together. Did you guys set KPIs? Did you have goals or was it just, “Hey, let’s get together a group of people for beer?” I mean, how did it form and then come to become such a juggernaut within the Stanford community?

Chad Hagle (22:07):

Yeah, so I’ll focus on a couple of key principles that I think served us well early on. One is something I learned from my former business partner who went on to a career in politics. And he used to say that the larger the audience you’re talking to, the tighter your message needs to be. At the time, he was campaigning for state office in California and he ran his entire political campaign on two sentences, literally two sentences. He would stick to those same two sentences over and over and over again to deliver the same message in the same way consistently to the entire constituency.


Obviously when you’re launching an association or organization like this, it’s not like running a campaign in a state the size of California, but you’re still talking to a pretty broad audience. So you’ve got to be very concise. And I hate the term, elevator pitch, but it that’s the common term we use in our industry. So to relate it to that, your pitch has to be really tight and it’s got to be very brief and understandable and concrete.


And so with SPIRE at Stanford, we formed a three pillars of our mission. And the three pillars were alumni professional networking, student outreach, and university engagement. Those three pillars are still the same. Three pillars of SPIRE 15 years later. We formed those three pillars in the first 15 days of the organization, and we’ve stuck to them the entire time. So that message and being very clear and concise about the message. And what’s important as well is when you look at those pillars, what we learned over time is, it’s the networking component, the common ground, the relationship building that brings people to an organization, it’s the mission that keeps them there.


Because there were many attempts over decades to create real estate associations around the Stanford CRE alumni community. And they were usually networking groups where you get together locally for a cocktail hour or events or whatever it might be. But it’d just kind of tail off and end there because there wasn’t a whole lot of substance to it. But the mission is what keeps it sticky and keeps people coming back over and over and over again, because you’re all looking in the same direction at a set of common goals. And that’s really what I think is fundamental to the longevity of these organizations.


And the other thing I’ll tell you, and this is a little funny, but it’s as serious as it is funny. One of the first things that I invested real money in is coming up with a cool logo. And instead of just having… You know when you go to a dinner party, they’ll give you those cheesy paper name tags that don’t really stick to anything except themselves and they fall off and you find them on the ground? We invested in hard plastic name tags with everyone’s name engraved on them who came to our first event. That was 12 people. We had to pay like 20 bucks a piece, because we weren’t ordering in quantity.


But the impact that something tangible, physical, hard, sustainable, that would last, not a piece of paper that was thrown on the ground, it said something about the organization. Sometimes form is just as important as substance. And it can be these crazy little things that you invest in that pay huge dividends unexpectedly.

Spencer Burton (25:36):

And I bet several of those 12 people still have that.

Chad Hagle (25:39):

I’ve got mine.

Spencer Burton (25:41):


Michael Belasco (25:42):

There’s one.

Spencer Burton (25:42):

So let’s talk about student outreach in, call it the last 10 minutes here. And I think student outreach relates to Alumni Association, so there’s going to be some practical advice for those who are launching or have an association. But also if you’re an individual and you’re saying, “How do I give back in some way?”


I shared this story. I met this individual last week. He is former investor, tech investor who decided to become an adjunct professor, just salt of the earth sort of individual. COVID hit, many of his students were losing internships, and so he thought, “Well, how do I give them some internship experience over the summer?” He launched a summer program that was a phenomenal success, to the point where the administration, I mean the president of the university called him in. He thought he was going to get in trouble for doing something rogue, and ended up he got an award. And now it’s a program that he does every summer to help students get experience that they don’t get in the classroom. What are some things A, you’re doing at SPIRE to help students? And then B, either personally or otherwise, that you think are opportunities for people to give back to the next generation of students?

Chad Hagle (26:50):

I love that story, and I can relate to that story tremendously, from my own experience. As I shared with you gentlemen earlier, the arc of my CRE alumni career over the last 15 years, has had a common theme, which is professional development and career opportunities, particularly for undergraduate students. And I believe from my observations, and it varies from institution to institution, but even at the very top educational institutions across this country, I believe that higher education has abandoned completely within their mission, the notion of preparing students for professional success after school.


And I understand it. I don’t necessarily disagree with it philosophically, because I value tremendously a liberal arts-based education. I serve on the Humanities and Sciences Council at Stanford. We are focused entirely on delivering that comprehensive liberal arts education to undergraduate students at the university. I’ve devoted an entire episode of the Dadages podcast to the only thing we have to learn is learning itself. And it’s all about that space.


All of that being said though, I believe that there is still an obligation in parallel to that, to both give students the fundamental skillset and tools that they need to be successful in any business, whether they’ve narrowed it down or zeroed in on a particular industry, or just are gaining generally transferable professional skills and knowledge. I think that’s essential. And if it’s not being done within the universities, then I think it has to be done outside, and again, in parallel with the universities. And so SPIRE and other organizations like it, are good vehicles for providing this kind of enhanced education and professional setting. And that’s part of what we’re doing through mentorship, internships, career development panels, things like that to help expose students to these basic skills.


But then the other piece that’s missing is the networking piece. In the Stanford culture of late, and I’m talking like the last five to seven years. And it was really, really even hyper pronounced during COVID. The notion of networking, it’s almost like a four letter word. Because by networking, somehow there’s as perception that a student is improperly advantaging themselves versus other students by trying to leverage relationships to succeed professionally. And how perverse is that notion that there’s something wrong with building relationships in an effort to grow a career? That’s the fundamental basis of what careers are about, is engaging with people. So really trying to transform those cultures is part of that aspect of it.


So as I said, there was SPIRE really focused on the real estate industry. Then the next step in my CRE alumni career in this area was very similar to the example that you were talking about, Spencer, during COVID. In the midst of COVID, I was on the Humanities and Sciences Council and there were 200 students, undergrads within humanities and sciences that had internships and job offers erased, completely erased. And so we mobilized, and it was the greatest, most memorable and exciting and invigorating mobilization of CRE alumni that I’ve ever seen at Stanford.


We brought together these CRE alumni to start creating new career opportunities for these students. And we ended up replacing about 120 of those 200 lost professional opportunities through hand-to-hand combat. I mean, trying to insert people into different industries, talking to industry leaders, talking to people who owned and operated companies, finding ways to create pathways for these students. So, that was sort of experience too.


And now where I’m translating it to in my career is focusing on what I think is a highly desirable and highly employable cross-section of undergraduate students. And those are the student athletes. You can probably see on the wall behind me, the [inaudible 00:31:00] Elway jersey. I bleed Stanford Cardinal through and through. And I think that part of what has made Stanford as well as many other higher educational institutions, what they are, is this university concept. University, meaning bringing together all the parts and having that full experience of athletics, academics, community engagement, everything else that goes along with it.


Many people don’t realize how disadvantaged. In an era where we talk so much about the advantages of being student athletes, NIL, the transfer portal, pay for play, endorsement deals, money coming out of every orifice, it seems, going toward student athletes. And that’s really the very, very small minority. It’s the upper crust, the Caleb Williams’s of the world, the quarterback of USC, who have the profile to command the kind of economic benefits that you’re talking about.


The reality of the student athlete experience is they spend so much of their time devoted to their sport and then devoted to their academics, there’s nothing left. So they are disadvantaged versus other students in terms of their ability to create internships and career development pathways for themselves. And again, the institutions, the universities haven’t adequately backstopped for all of this to create those things.


And in some institutions, you have a really ultra-strong CRE alumni community. I’ll look at USC again, San Diego State University, most of the SEC schools, you basically could fall off of the playing field and land in a job because the alumni community is so committed to supporting those student-athletes. But at other institutions like Stanford, that’s not part of the culture. And so one of the things that I’m really working on now through a new nonprofit organization called, SPAN, the Student Athlete Professional Advisory Network, is tapping this group of, as I said, highly desirable, highly motivated, highly skilled, highly dedicated students. And helping them find career development pathways toward their futures. And that’s really one of my key areas of focus now.

Spencer Burton (33:13):

So, how do you do that? And student-athletes are an example of, and I like how you described it. These are people that are disadvantaged in some way. And the disadvantage if you’re a student-athlete that seems, to those of us who don’t have the experience of student-athlete, we go, “Oh, come on.” But you’re right, they’re basically doing two things at once. They’re running a full-time job as an athlete and a full-time job as a student. And there’s just not enough time to do the third. And what we always say to graduate students, “Your full-time job should be getting a job while you’re at school. And they don’t have time for that.

Chad Hagle (33:48):

Definitely not.

Spencer Burton (33:49):

So, what are some ways that we can help, I say we collectively, listeners, viewers, the four of us, help those students that need a bit of help? What are some practical ideas that you’ve found?

Chad Hagle (34:06):

Yeah, so I’m going to present it in the terms of a challenge that I heard from an alum, and then a solution that I offered in response to that. The challenge I heard was, and I think this is a fairly pervasive attitude from what I’ve seen, “Well, these students, athletes, they’ve got all these commitments in the summer. They have very little free time, they’re very rarely available. It’d be a really limited engagement. I don’t know that our company is going to get that much value out of having them come work for us for a summer, because it’s just not going to work out. So, I think it’s just too difficult to try to address these guys’ needs.”


And my response was, “Everything you just pointed out is why we need to, why we need to focus on helping this group of young men and young women who are so committed to what they’re doing and don’t have all this free time. It’s not about how can they fit into a job that we might be able to offer. It’s about how can we as professionals who have some control over our own lives and our own companies, adjust the opportunity to make it fit the candidate? How can we make the opportunities to serve our businesses more compatible with individuals that…”


And going back to the example you gave Spencer of your colleague, creating new types of internships that could be done during COVID in a virtual setting, all of those lessons learned what he took away from that. And the way to create these new kinds of jobs and new kinds of internships, those apply just as well to a student athlete who can’t be on location all the time because they have a rigorous training schedule, even throughout the summer. Those lessons learned can be very easily adapted to helping to meet the needs of this special population, and I would argue many different special populations, that might need this kind of attention to give them a level playing field. And an opportunity to succeed professionally where they might be challenged today.

Michael Belasco (36:11):

Let me just add to this real quickly. Not only is it advantageous to change this sort of thought paradigm for the student, but it’s advantageous for the business. You take this group of students, not only are they athletically gifted, but to get up to the collegiate level of playing sports, there is a tremendous amount of dedication, focus, and effort. And yes, you might need to learn some of the skills to translate to the business, but once you learn that, you learn that. Then all of a sudden, you have the best performing athletes in the world, arguably, if they get to a collegiate level. And now they’re transferring that tenacity and drive into your business.


So, it’s almost a gift. If companies could see that angle, create that new opportunity to transition these folks into these industries, they could have some of the best performing companies in the world. So it’s an interesting perspective and it’s an interesting focus, Chad. It’s really exciting to see that you’re doing this. I think there’s a benefit for everyone. It’s what Sam sort of said with the zero-sum game, and now everybody could benefit from this.

Spencer Burton (37:17):

So let me add to Michael’s point, because I think it’s spot on. And that is just because a candidate doesn’t look the way that you think they should look or doesn’t have a resume exactly the way you think that resume should look, does not mean they’re not a candidate that will add value to your organization. And I would argue that when you bring in candidates that are distinct from what you’re used to, they will add something new and special and make your organization better.


And in the context of a student athlete, it’s someone that they don’t have the schedule that you’re used to. But they have the tenacity and drive like Michael is describing, that make them special and unique and will improve your organization. That’s the pitch now for me. And it relates really to any candidate that doesn’t look the way on paper or in person the way that you expect them to look.

Chad Hagle (38:04):

And I’ll cite an expert who’s a lot smarter than I am, but he is someone I’ve come to know quite well and I really respect him. Professor Glenn Kramon, who teaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and writes for the New York Times, he told me that in his GSB classes, he will admit Stanford University undergraduate seniors. But he will only admit seniors that play NCAA division one sports for exactly the reason you said, Spencer.


They come with a level of performance, a level of commitment, a level of drive, and a level of willingness to put in the hard work that is unequal to any of their peers. It is so vastly superior to their peers that they’re the only ones that he finds that can compete in a graduate school environment. And I think that translates directly to the professional sector as well, exactly to your point.

Sam Carlson (39:01):

I love it.

Spencer Burton (39:01):

Chad, thank you for joining. Let me say to viewers and listeners, go check out Dadages. It’s fun. So first off, it’s a rare pod podcast in the context of, its cerebral. You go an hour real substance, it’s practical. So, Chad brings on individuals that are doing very real things in interesting industries that you can apply to yours. And it’s entertaining. He finishes every one of his episodes with a dad joke. And I actually, I surveyed my kids.

Sam Carlson (39:39):

I think that’s how we should end this one.

Spencer Burton (39:39):

I know, right?

Sam Carlson (39:40):

Have you got anything queued up?

Chad Hagle (39:44):

I’m racking my brain about something that I’ve heard. ‘Cause I’ve, I’ve been with a group that we were telling a lot of jokes, but none of them were appropriate.

Sam Carlson (39:51):

I got one for you.

Chad Hagle (39:54):


Sam Carlson (39:55):

All right. What is the leading cause of dry skin?

Chad Hagle (39:58):

I don’t know. What’s the leading cause of dry skin?

Sam Carlson (40:01):


Chad Hagle (40:03):

There you go.

Chad Hagle (40:05):

Keeping the bad dad joke alive, A.CRE style.

Sam Carlson (40:10):

That’s right.

Spencer Burton (40:10):

That’s right.

Sam Carlson (40:11):

I love it.

Chad Hagle (40:12):

I love it.

Spencer Burton (40:12):

So, Dadages is a great podcast. Check it out. Chad, thanks so much for joining. I’ll give it to Sam to wrap us up.

Sam Carlson (40:18):

Yeah, this was a lot of fun, Chad. And I could listen to that sultry voice forever. You guys, go check out Dadages. And thanks for listening to the pod, and we’ll see you on the next episode.

Announcer (40:29):

Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Adventures in CRE audio series. For show notes and additional resources, head over to www.adventuresincre.com/audioseries.