Global Success Forged by Ingenuity & Work Ethic
Tom Shine, Serial Entrepreneur, Co-Founder Logo Athletic, Executive Leadership Reebok, XIX Entertainment, Angel Investor
By, Chris Dessi
The first time I met my brother-in-law Tom Shine was memorable (for me anyway). We’d both been in San Francisco on business. We knew we would be on the same flight from San Francisco to Florida, but we’d never met in person. Tom (then an executive at Reebok) had invited the family to join him at the annual NFL coaches meeting in Florida. Because the family would all be there, I saw the trip as an ideal time to pop “the question” and make Tom’s sister-in-law, Laura my wife.
Tom was sitting in first class. I recognized him from photos. But his head was down reading as I boarded. I kept walking and didn’t introduce myself. I didn’t want our first meeting to be awkward and in the aisle of an airplane. Instead, I waited until we landed. I needed to make a good first impression.
Stepping off the plane, I extended my hand smiling “Hi Tom, I’m Chris.” Tom replied “What the hell? Were you sitting in the last seat of the plane? I’ve been standing here for 20 minutes.” I chuckled and replied sheepishly “As a matter of fact, I was.”
Great first impression Chris.
It’s a silly story, but I always thought that the metaphor of our first meeting was fitting for my relationship with Tom. In my mind, he’s upfront in first class. Not even aware that he’s in first class because it’s become so normal for him. While I’m in the last seat. Waaaay in the back. When you’re in the last seat all you want to do is sit in first class. Or at least figure out how the guys in the first class got there. So when I get his ear, I grill him:
- How many years did it take you to be successful at Logo Athletic?
- What was it like to sell your business to Reebok?
- Did you take investors at first or did you bootstrap?
I already knew Tom was a huge success before I first met him. He’s not loud, or ostentatious about his success. There is a deep, deep center of confidence and knowing about him. That special “something” only the most influential in our culture have. He commands your respect and attention. The type of guy that chats up a garage mechanic with the same aplomb and enthusiasm as a billionaire NFL owner. A rare breed for sure.
Tom’s a serial entrepreneur, whose inner circle includes Hall of Fame football players, and entertainment icons. He’s also one of the most generous and down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. He’d kill for his family & friends. Because of Tom, I’ve been on the field during Indianapolis Colts games, and I’ve been to a Super Bowl. He’s been known to fly family members to Mexico and Hawaii without flinching.
Like others I’ve interviewed here, he’s been around the world three times over. He does so with contagious energy and enthusiasm. He’s functioning on an almost super-human level. Able to shun jet lag, and attend his daughter Morgan’s soccer game an hour after landing from Europe.
The last time I was at his home in Indiana, he offered me some amazing advice about business. We were having a compelling conversation about entrepreneurial life when he did something that stuck with me.
While heading home from an event with the whole family, he took an abrupt detour. Driving past a run-down building in downtown Indianapolis, he pointed. He said, “that was the first office of Logo Athletic” (the company Tom later sold to Reebok). He assured me that if he succeeded as an entrepreneur I could too. Wow.
Tom is a self-made man. A person I admire and respect. While some of his peers are retiring. Tom Shine is just getting started.
Chris Dessi: How do you define success?
Tom Shine: Defining success is extremely difficult because what is successful for one individual may well not be successful for another individual. Success has many different tentacles to it – financial, emotional, reputation, credibility, etc. An outside force might look at a person who has had financial success and believe that individual is successful while many of the characteristics of how they would define it for themselves have not been met. Success is relative to where you have set your goals and what you want to accomplish in life.
Chris Dessi: I speak with many successful executives that question the value of college. What do you say to those detractors of education?
Tom Shine: I absolutely do not believe that college is for everybody. I think barring a profession that requires a college degree (i.e. medical, law, etc.), one can very easily make a case that the time and the money spent in college could be better spent in an entrepreneurial or career-building direction.
Chris Dessi: You have one of the vastest and most impressive networks of business people I know. Was that intentional, or has that network just grown organically? How important has this network been to your success?
Tom Shine: One of my initial goals from the very beginning was to build as strong a Rolodex as possible. I have worked and networked those relationships every day that I have been in business, believing that one relationship leads to another. I don’t think that there is anything more important than building up those connections and at the same time, working and maturing those connections so that they can be utilized when called upon.
Chris Dessi: Can you explain the impact, if any, that social networking/digital media has made on your business/career and/or you personally?
Tom Shine: I can honestly say that I am from a generation, which is one step removed from the social media explosion, which in many cases, is greatly overstated. It has had little to no effect on my business, with the exception of allowing me more flexibility and accelerating communications.
Chris Dessi: How much of your success was due to luck? Or are you of the mindset that you create your own luck?
Tom Shine: I am of the mindset that you create your own luck. Certainly, there are instances where luck has prevailed, but I think those are the exception, not the rule. In general, hard work, preparation, commitment, focus, and perseverance are the underlying factors.
Chris Dessi: Did you have a mentor? How important do you think mentorship is for all executives?
Tom Shine: I had several mentors and I can’t emphasize enough how important mentors are. Mentors allow you to avoid costly financial and time-consuming errors, and have an important voice in important decisions. I have found that in the last several years, the upcoming generations do not embrace mentors, and hence, they are going to go through life taking the longer and more difficult route.
Chris Dessi: When did you first think of yourself as a success?
Tom Shine: Unfortunately, I first thought of myself as a success when I was able to purchase items that I had long desired. I found out shortly after, that the items were meaningless and the goal had been set way too low.
Chris Dessi: You have three amazing daughters and a wonderful marriage. Many young executives struggle with work-life/balance – myself included. What advice do you give them? How did you strike a balance?
Tom Shine: I think one of the things that entrepreneurs do is convince themselves that they are doing this for their family, when in truth, they are actually doing it for themselves first and their family second. That type of thinking causes some difficult decisions and some difficult priorities to be made; oftentimes at the expense or priority of the family. One of the difficulties that happen in a first marriage is that the individual has a tendency to grow in business and success, while at the same time; his wife and family are growing and achieving success in their own theatre. It is extremely difficult to try and keep those connections and you can find that the two can grow apart very quickly. There is a very good chance that if there is a second marriage, the individual has most likely reached a level of success and a life pattern, which is not emerging but set. It is easier to strike a balance between work and family in the second relationship because the first is almost always building and changing and less in control of your personal time.
Chris Dessi: On paper, your resume reads like success, after success. Can you tell us about your biggest failure? How did it change you or shift your approach moving forward?
Tom Shine: I would say my biggest failure in life was my first marriage. I was always under the impression that you got married and life just followed a normal path. What I didn’t realize was that marriage is like everything else, something you have to work at. The failure of a marriage has a significant effect on many important people in your life. I think it taught me a lot of lessons in life and taught me how to address my future relationships in a more involved and considerate manner.
Chris Dessi: Who has been the greatest positive influence on your life? Tell us about that person.
Tom Shine: I don’t have one person – I have several people. One is my grandfather, Morris Kaye, who taught me the value of hard work. My father taught me the value of relationships. Earl Harris, of Paul Harris retail stores, because he challenged me to the point I felt like you were in graduate school every day. Mel Simon taught me the importance of being a visionary and risk-taker. Herb Simon, who taught me the combination of all the above.
Chris Dessi: What do you think is the one characteristic that all the successful people you know share?
Tom Shine: A significant work ethic.
Chris Dessi: You have 20 minutes to sit alone in a room with the 21-year-old Tom Shine. He’s about to embark on a career that will take him around the world. What advice do you give him?
Tom Shine: Identify whether you want to have your signature on the front of the check or the back of the check. After you have made that decision and assuming it’s the name on the front of the check, you will need to determine that you are willing to pay the price that’s to come with the pursuit of entrepreneurship.
Chris Dessi: For someone who has seen great monetary success – what do you think is dangerous about that type of success?
Tom Shine: The only risk I see is losing the perspective of who you are as a person.
Chris Dessi: How important are habits and routines to your success? What is your Rhythm? What time do you go to bed? Do you exercise? Do you meditate?
Tom Shine: I am not sure if a routine is a right word, but there are certain habits that are extremely important. Keeping yourself in mental and physical balance is important and exercise is paramount. Everybody is different – I prefer to operate on 5-6 hours of sleep a night knowing that I can physically outwork anybody.
Chris Dessi: How has your childhood (the way you were raised, your birth order) affected your career success? Did it at all?
Tom Shine: I think I was raised in an entrepreneurial family from my grandfather on down. The work order and work ethic were very clear. I don’t think the birth order had any effect on success.
Chris Dessi: You’re Jewish and you were raised in Indiana – have you ever had to overcome discrimination?
Tom Shine: Absolutely. There are several examples, but I don’t think it has anything to do with Indiana, it has to do with being Jewish. Ignorance doesn’t know state boundaries.
Chris Dessi: I know you as a very humble person, but here is your chance to brag a bit – what has been your greatest career success to date?
Tom Shine: My greatest career success was starting a company and the # of people I was able to employ for significant lengths of time. In other words, at the 30th anniversary of our company, I had 22 people that had been employed since the inception of the company and a very large number of employees at 25 years of employment. One of the best ways to judge the success of your company is how you treat your employees.
Chris Dessi: My daughters know that I hate witches – what’s one thing that scares the hell out of you?
Tom Shine: Snakes!
Chris Dessi: Best day of your life?
Tom Shine: Everyday
Chris Dessi: Worst day of your life?
Tom Shine: The day it ends
Chris Dessi: You have access to a time machine, but you can never come back to the present day. You can go into the future, or into the past. Where do you go in time?
Tom Shine: In the future – the unknown intrigues me.
Chris Dessi: Name someone who knows more about you than anyone else in the world.
Tom Shine: My middle child, Lindsi Shine.
Chris Dessi: Most powerful book you’ve ever read that you recommend to everyone.
Tom Shine: Steve Jobs book.
Chris Dessi: The worst city you ever visited?
Tom Shine: New Delhi, India