Transition game

Dr. Miles Davis, dean of Shenandoah University's School of Business, speaks during the school's seventh annual Business Symposium. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — More than 100 local business leaders, students and faculty members gathered in the Stimpson Auditorium at Shenandoah University to hear a former NBA player and entrepreneur share the fundamentals of business on Thursday morning.

The lecture, delivered by former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Norman Nixon, was the keynote address for the university’s seventh annual Business Symposium. This year’s theme was “Passport to Success: A Global Perspective.”

Nixon, who retired from the NBA in 1989, is an entertainment and athletic agent and former realtor. He said he is a life long learner and tried to keep himself fit in “mind, body and soul.”

“At a young age, whenever I traveled to a different city, a different country or a different state, I read about the people, the culture, the art, because when I got off the plane and hit the ground, I knew a little bit about them, so I could learn from the people,” Nixon said.

Nixon added, “In my house, we say you never stop trying to develop yourself … you have to continue to read, you have to continue to study, learn a different language.”

Former NBA basketball player Norman Nixon was keynote speaker Thursday during the Shenandoah University Business Symposium. Rich Cooley/Daily

Nixon said, “When you look at the business world, it has adopted many sports metaphors.”

“What I want to do today is use my experience and share that with you,” he said. “What I’m going to do today is give you all an assist, which is when you give a player the ball in order for them to score.”

Nixon added, “The business environment is the game, your colleagues and employees are your teammates, the opposition is your competition. Your goal is to win in the championships, but we always had a saying in sports: ‘All champions are made in the off-season.'”

Business leaders need to understand the needs and problems of their industry in order to “make the right call,” Nixon said. After evaluating the market’s condition, a business leader needs to review the “strengths and weaknesses of their teammates.”

“When you look at the workforce today, most workers are individualized,” he said. “You need to know their skill sets, their knowledge base and their personality … if you understand your employees, it not only builds rapport with them, but it will allow you to employ their skills more effectively.”

Former NBA basketball player Norman Nixon, left, is greeted Dr. Miles Davis, dean of Shenandoah University's Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business. Rich Cooley/Daily

After maximizing employees’ strengths, business leaders need to look at the assets and liabilities of “the team,” Nixon said, which is the business itself. He said the most important qualities for a business are responsibility, work ethic and rewarding effort.

“You must encourage your players, your employees,” he said. “Rewarding effort not only encourages one person, it sets an example for your whole organization.”

Nixon said before going into business, people need to be willing to borrow some of the best businesses practices from competitors.

“You have to study and know your competition in order to position yourself as the choice in your industry,” he said. “You have to be willing to steal their best practices. There’s nothing wrong with copying success.”

Finally, Nixon said, “at some point you got to play.”

Former NBA basketball player Norman Nixon, right, stands outside of Shenandoah University's Stimpson Auditorium with Dr. Miles Davis, dean of the university's Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business. Nixon was keynote speaker Thursday during the university's annual business symposium. Rich Cooley/Daily

“You got to take all that information and in real time, you need to make the choices to win,” he said. “You need to condition yourself to win … when you look [at] those late, long, long hours, that is where you condition yourself.”

Nixon said “sacrifice is the key to success” and failure shouldn’t be measured by the failure itself but “how you handle the failure and how you get up and respond to the failure.”

Kevin Slaton, 19, a freshman at Shenandoah University, said the sports analogies helped him understand the world of business better.

“The one thing I took away was you need to have focus to achieve your goals,” he said. “I play football, so we have to have the focus and the work ethic to succeed on the field and try to apply that to everyday life.”

After the lecture, Nixon participated in a brief news conference with local media. He said despite the changes in the global economy, the fundamentals of business still apply.

Former NBA basketball player Norman Nixon speaks during the annual Shenandoah University Business Symposium held Thursday inside Stimpson Auditorium at Halpin-Harrison Hall. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Knowing your marketplaces, no matter what the changes, the fundamentals will always apply,” he said. “Besides, there are businesses that will always be around, like real estate, food. People need somewhere to live and something to eat.”

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com

Former NBA basketball player Norman Nixon speaks during the annual Shenandoah University Business Symposium held Thursday inside Stimpson Auditorium at Halpin-Harrison Hall. Rich Cooley/Daily