Episode 26 : Using the Great Game of Business in Education

Posted by Dr. Kelley Still Nichols on Feb 9, 2021 2:16:34 PM

Dr. Kelley Still Nichols, trainer and coach support at The Great Game of Business, talks about using the Great Game of Business in education to build young entrepreneurs and teach the philosophy and impact of money.

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Episode with guest: Dr. Kelley Still Nichols

Trainer and Coach Support - Great Game of Business 

(This episode was recorded in January of 2021)


Key Episode Take-Aways:

1. Education and funding has struggled for years for many reasons. (click to jump to this topic below)  I mean, education has struggled, funding has struggled for many, many years for several reasons. One is that academic institution costs have escalated faster than the cost of living, they're very similar to health care. And it's because of technology. And it's because of changing standards of living.

2. Don't start a business to give yourself a job. (click to jump to this topic below)  In economics, we do an exercise with the kids where we explain that don't start a business to give yourself a job, because off in owner managed businesses, which are not the publicly traded companies, but that's why Inc. Magazine was so needed and was so successful is because we got the stories from the people that owned and ran their businesses.

3. Bringing the Great Game of Business/Education can be met with disconnect between what academics and staff believe their business is. (click to jump to this topic below) But on college campuses, there is a big disconnect between what academics think their business is, and what the staff thinks their business is. And the academics are going to be the problem when we start trying to play the Great Game of Business on a college campus, because they will say that is not in the job description.

4. To sustain the Great Game in universities, people need relationships. (click to jump to this topic below)  People need relationships. It's like diversity, you're never going to get rid of people's biases, until they have personal relationships. And then it dissipates. Same thing, we got to have staff and faculty mixed up in task forces to develop mini games or, you know, study issues.

Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.

Announcer 0:00

Welcome to the "Change the Game" Podcast, where we share stories of open-book management and highlight capitalism at its best. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the "Change the Game" Podcast with special guests, Dr. Kelley Still Nichols. In this episode, Steve and Kelley discuss using the Great Game of Business and education, to build young entrepreneurs, and teach the philosophy and impact of money. Here's your hosts, Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.

Steve Baker 0:28

Welcome to the "Change the Game" Podcast where we are changing the game by doing business differently and highlighting stories of capitalism at its best. I'm Steve Baker, and I'm thrilled to be with you here today. And I'm really excited about our very special guest, Dr. Kelley Still Nichols. She is a trainer and a coach support for us here at the Great Game of Business. She's recently retired from the world of academia where she was an associate professor at Drury University's Breech School of Business Administration. Kelley, welcome. How you doing?

Kelley Still Nichols 1:02

Well, I'm doing very well. And I'm very happy to be here with you today.

Steve Baker 1:06

Well, I'm super happy to have you here. I'm so excited because I'm thinking that we must be the spectrum of financial literacy. You're a professor of business and I am the art major, as everyone knows, and I think that's going to influence part of our conversation today. What's great about having you on this show and having you on the team is that you bring a level of professionalism and, and authority that I think sometimes people look at the Great Game as being sort of flippant or it downplays or dumbed down dumbs down business. You've been around the Great Game for a long time now. And just before the recording, you were telling me a story about working very closely with Jack Stack, would you take us in the Wayback Machine and go back to when he was involved in the Entrepreneurship Center at Drury and that sort of thing and talk about what the challenges were?

Kelley Still Nichols 2:01

Right. Um, one thing that Jack helped me with a lot is when I became the director of the Entrepreneurship Center, Jack and our then President Todd Parnell, and myself, we went to visit George Gendron, a good friend of Jack's from Inc. Magazine days and he was running a center at a school that was not, you know, it was a smaller school like Drury, what we call it a teaching school where, you know, the focus is not on research, the focus is on students. And anyway, that just started us off on a long conversation about what the center needed to look like. The frustration is that it was important to me that the center did not belong to the business school, the center needed to belong to the entire campus, for example, two of our most successful events where we did a self-employment in the arts conference that was started at another school. And that served our art, music, and theatre majors. And we had kids in from 20 different colleges to go to that conference. And we also did a, an environmental science entrepreneurship conference where we had kids and so they were brainstorming, you know, how to fix the world, so to speak, and how we could build businesses around those, you know,

Steve Baker 3:30

Make environmentalism sustainable, yea I love it.

Kelley Still Nichols 3:32

frustration is I had to personally go in and sit in people's offices and explain that entrepreneurship was not a bad word.

Steve Baker 3:41

Yeah, so go into that a little bit talking to Well, let's say scientists, artists, creatives of any kind, you know, you could even say engineers, whatever you use come in, and you're having to sell them on the idea of business. That's kind of a weird thing.

Kelley Still Nichols 3:57

Well, because the word entrepreneurship to a lot of people. And of course, I guess when you go into its actual, whatever, Latin or Greek or whatever derivation, everybody just hears opportunist, you know, like an exploiting person. Yes. Yes. Okay. And so, we're above that. We're above that in academia, we do things for the right reasons. We don't do things to make money. So, what we spent a whole lot of time doing and we did a lot of good was explain how the Invisible Hand of capitalism works that if you can get people to get excited about making money, you can get people excited about fixing the world to simultaneously.

Steve Baker 4:42

And I love how Jack always brings it back to the most simple commonalities that we have the common denominator of the financials, because, you know, whether it's a small community theater, or an environmental, you know, startup, we all have the same balance sheet, we all kind of look the same. When you look at it from that perspective, and that's hard for some people to take because Rob, I've been studying science I've been studying art I, you know, I, you know me, I've been running from numbers my whole life and I didn't know why. But I love what you said about you ran toward him I love it.

Kelley Still Nichols 5:18

You ran with your art right toward them.

Steve Baker 5:21

Wow, you are, is this a therapy session because I feel like that's what I'm getting here. You said something really interesting about entrepreneurship and having people here exploit. And that is an interesting word to look at too, because Jeff Hildebrand the billionaire owner of Hilcorp Energy, and one of our old-time clients taught me that word. And I'd always thought exploit meant, you know, you keep somebody else down, but in the energy business, it was taught to me that exploiting meant, you know, Hilcorp, specialized and going into areas that were, you know, oil fields that were abandoned or going to be abandoned by, you know, an Exxon or a BP still doing it today. And then exploiting the resources that would have otherwise been left in those fields and that sort of thing. And I actually ran across a guy's name, I won't be able to find it right now. But a fellow that, you know, real big wig recently died, who wrote a book called saving environmentalism, from the environmentalists. And he said, "we will not run out of energy on this planet, it will only be limited by the ways we seek it and find it and exploit." Meaning, you know, we don't have to destroy the planet to look at look at what we've done with natural gas. I know I'm getting off topic, but I think it's powerful. Because exploiting does not mean something bad, necessarily. It may mean using something to its fullest. We need to exploit our talents and our intellects. Right, that should take us back to college. Right? So, let's go back again, down. So, you know your time in Drury, not only as, as an educator, an instructor, a researcher, all the different things that you've done in your life. And now you have an opportunity to direct an Entrepreneurship Center. So now you're selling the idea of entrepreneurship. If you had to go in and say, is there one thing that you could have done differently? Because Jack's big question is always, how come everybody isn't doing this? What did you run into? What's the one thing you think you could do differently? Or is there one?

Kelley Still Nichols 7:26

Well, the first thing I should have done differently is been a little more pointed about our resources and where they were going to come from, you know, because they got constrained really quickly.

Steve Baker 7:38

Kelley Still Nichols 7:39

But we had a change in leadership at the President and the Provost level that stagnated the Entrepreneurship Center, because I had given a five-year commitment to be the director, but I needed to go back to the business school because it was damaging our faculty, what our faculty could provide to have loaned me out for the time that I was with the Entrepreneurship Center. And we had a wonderful succession plan in place when leadership changed. We didn't get to do that. And so, it had a few years where they haven't done the stuff that we used to do you know what I mean, they haven't been able to. And so, what's exciting is that Drury is getting ready to build a new business building and the Entrepreneurship Center will be revived, and it will have a home. Well, it's not a business school, it's an Entrepreneurship Center. And it's going to house some different things, the Entrepreneurship Center at the business school political science, because that's a social science, like businesses. And anyway, so I'm excited about that. But you know, it's always about resources.

Steve Baker 8:49

It is about resources, but you touched on something else that we think is step number one, you have to have the right leadership, and you pointed out something that a lot of the listeners deal with, which is, "maybe I don't feel like I have the support from the top" or "maybe I am at the top and I don't know if I'm going to have the ongoing support." And so, it's very interesting to see that happen. And I know that you are well aware of the great game of education because you've been such an integral part of, of that concept, the idea of taking the great game of business and really finding ways to apply it in education. You happen to know that we've seen successes and failures through the years. And a lot of it boils down to do we have the leadership backing on this thing. Do you want to talk about the Great Game of Education at all, you know what it is, you know, through the years and where it is today?

Kelley Still Nichols 9:42

Yes. So, when you all started, the Great Game of Education is really a subset of the Great Game of social sector, right? Because most educational institutions are nonprofit. Okay. So, It's a subset of that. But it is a little different. Because of all the moving parts, the different groups that that make up the Great Game of Education. So, our hope is that we can take that same Great Game concept of improving financials and having lasting cultural change and apply it in the educational setting. And I know that it's been hard to take off, even though it sounds so obvious on paper, especially now.

1. Education and funding has struggled for years for many reasons.

I mean, education has struggled, funding has struggled for many, many years for several reasons. One is that academic institution costs have escalated faster than the cost of living, they're very similar to health care. And it's because of technology. And it's because of changing standards of living, like used to, if you went to college, if you went to visit a campus, and you were 18 years old, and you walked into a dorm room, and there were four beds lined up, and the bathroom was down the hall, fine, you know, no big deal. Now, baby boomer parents, we, we created this, we think our kids shouldn't sleep in that kind of environment, and they need their own bathroom. And so, our housing and then our technology, having to have everything wired up everywhere classrooms, the dorms that has made, it's like, it's like health care, you know, the latest greatest X ray, X ray machine is not going to pay for itself for a long time, etc., etc. So, we've struggled for a long time, but then the pandemic where people weren't going to come to campus, and they weren't going to pay your tuition to go online when there are cheap online alternatives here, I made it. Absolutely. We're all we're all in the boat. And there's no more important time for basic financial literacy from everything from the president of the university to the custodians.

Steve Baker 12:15

Now as a leader in an academic setting. Let me ask you, you know, if we didn't take this as far as you're comfortable with, through the years, you probably were presented with the chore of not only preparing a curriculum and leading other instructors and that sort of thing, but also preparing a budget for your department, I would imagine, or was it provided to you as this is how much you have for the business school?

Kelley Still Nichols 12:40

Okay, so we can, this is kind of leading into a good discussion of why it's hard for the great game of education to get a grip on it, organization. Education comes from that background of here's your budget, figure out how to make it work. And if you don't spend it all, then we will know that you didn't really need that much money. And so, we will cut your budget for next year.

Steve Baker 13:09

Use it or lose it.

Kelley Still Nichols 13:11

Yes. Little bit like government and other institutions of that nature. Okay. It becomes a battle for scarce resources. So, every department head and every Dean and, you know, everybody puts in a budget, bigger, much bigger than what they know they're going to get because they know they're only going to get a certain percentage of it. And then we got to live with that. And then I literally have heard people say the words. "Well, I wish we could carry some of this over so that we could really buy this piece of equipment we need. But since we don't get to do any carry overs, we don't really need another printer right now. But we got 400 bucks. So, somebody order a printer."

Steve Baker 13:56

Wow. Yeah, yeah, I totally get it. You were actually trained to do this by the system, instead of zero-based budgeting and saying, Hey, I think I can make a case for the latest x ray machine or this new, whatever. I just think that's so amazing. Because think of all the wasted intellect just gaming the system so that we go well, I know they're going to cut me 20%. So, I'll pan in that out, but I got to sound credible. So, I better get some really good data here, etc.

Kelley Still Nichols 14:24

Well, when Jack was on our board of trustees, and he basically told our then president that we better start opening the books or, you know, he didn't want to be involved anymore, right? We try to institute zero based budgeting. We did it for a couple years. The problem is that is a lot more time consuming than taking last year's budget and adding 10% or taking last, you know, and people because it was so new people couldn't wrap their head around it. They didn't, you know, new skills got to do a lot of training with things like that.

Steve Baker 15:01

Thank you for straightening me out on that because I, I'm used to it after 15 years at SRC. But before that I've got to be honest, it was a use it or lose it thing. They're like, hey, Steve, we need this much sales and I would go make something up in a spreadsheet without any input. And then I learned from what happened last year, and this is how many trade shows and whatever, honestly, you're right. It is a learning experience. And it does take smarts and street savvy and everything all you learn as you know that person creating that budget, you know, you got it. You got to tap it, it probably is easier to just go bad 10% turn it in, see what happens. Huh? Wow. Well, you continue to make me think too hard. So obviously you're a professor. So, let's, let's go to this one. If we if we think about other institutions. Now we know that there are people that we've seen in the past you mentioned George Gendron. I think he's a great guy, he if y'all are listening, and you want to look him up, he was editor in chief of Inc. Magazine when Jack was first featured in the magazine. And he was also Bo Burlingham's Boss, I think, at the time, but George always brought to mind a much bigger picture than just the entrepreneur side, I thought and he's always, you know, tried to continue to build, you know, a bigger awareness, he said something that was quite interesting to me one time, and that is, the business news is actually it should be called the investor news, meaning that only what 16 or 17,000 companies are written about, because they're publicly traded, I'm not sure about that number. But his point was very well taken, I thought, I think of the millions of companies and entrepreneurs that are out there that may not even consider themselves to be entrepreneurs, but there, you know, they've got a little store, or they've got a service. So, they started something on Etsy, or whatever it may be. Do you feel like when you open things up to the, to the arts and to the sciences, did you see any lights come on, where people said, "Oh, you know, I'm doing something on the side anyway," or any, any stories about that?

Kelley Still Nichols 17:06

Yes, so the most exciting thing about working with the art community, and then later the science community was that people finally got it, that they have to be a brand. And they have to run their life, like a business, or else they're going to have to teach and paint on the side or, you know, dig ditches and paint on the side. So that was the most exciting thing. And then suddenly, everybody wants to talk to the Entrepreneurship Center. Because we were teaching people to do business plans. We were teaching people to do marketing, we were teaching people to build the relationships that would get their get their artwork in on the walls at a restaurant where people that have money go, you know,

Steve Baker 17:56

Yeah, I love that. That's to me true entrepreneurship, where people put it together and they go, Hey, we can make this work. And it's like we say, in the not-for-profit sector anyway. No money, no mission, mo money mo mission. So, get out there and make it happen. I love that.

Kelley Still Nichols 18:13

Well, lots of great conversation, because sometimes when we invited people to come in for the self-employment in the arts conference, you know, we would invite stage managers who made it to Broadway and how they marketed themselves to get there. So sometimes they were actually more just talking about a career. But like we if we would bring in artists who were financially successful, then sometimes our art profs, who are some of my very best friends on campus, would talk about the sellout factor of making art that is pretty as opposed to art that makes people think,

Steve Baker 18:59

Mm hmm.

Kelley Still Nichols 19:00

So, but see, those are good conversations to have. Because if you are going to run yourself like a business, you will have to make compromises and you will have to figure out how to be true to yourself, and still make money no differently than at the great game of business. We have to figure out how to be true to ourselves, but yet, meet a client's needs.

Steve Baker 19:26

Yeah. And same in the sciences, right? It doesn't matter if you're pharmaceuticals or space, there's still that invisible hand, Adam Smith's invisible hand still tips the scales. I think that's really fascinating because I love that you have that relationship with the art professors and things like that, you know, these dear friends and you still have these deep disconnects about well the sellout and I just like to delve into that a little bit because it doesn't matter what you're in. And again, this is art, sciences, whatever. And it could even be business, you know where people if you if I do that, I'll sell out If I'm going to grow this much, and, you know, I don't want to, I want to stay authentic. And I think it comes down to you know what is right for you. And through the years, you know, you've taught on the full spectrum of people who want to go out and make it big and people who are, you know, they're getting a business degree so they can take over the family business or something. Is there a big difference between them? Really? Or is it just a level of understanding?

Kelley Still Nichols 20:25

Okay, so Jack Stack, when he spoke to my students, when he would talk about what it means to be an entrepreneur, he would say, if you're truly an entrepreneur, you create jobs, you are not just self-employed.

Steve Baker 20:41


Kelley Still Nichols 20:42

Okay. So once people kind of got that idea, then you start talking about how the right it can be the right thing to do to grow that business. For the good of the opportunity, you can afford other people.

Steve Baker 21:01

That's amazing. And that is his heart, that's for sure.

Kelley Still Nichols 21:04


2. Don't start a business to give yourself a job.

And then, you know, in economics, we do an exercise with the kids where we explain that don't start a business to give yourself a job, because off in owner managed businesses, which are not the publicly traded companies, but that's why Inc. Magazine was so needed and was so successful is because we got the stories from the people that owned and ran their businesses. We do this exercise where we say, don't forget that you work there every day, and you need to draw a fair wage, like your employees. And then you need to get a return on your investment and the fact that everything's at risk for you. risk and reward. Sure, right. Now, that doesn't mean that some people don't start their own business for their job, because they've got other reasons that have value to them. I mean, sure, do CPAs leave a big firm where they would make a whole lot of money and open, you know, a one CPA shop. Yeah, if they want to work six hours a day, you know what I mean? I mean, they

Steve Baker 22:13

Lifestyle versus growth. Yeah.

Kelley Still Nichols 22:15

Right. So, there are lifestyle reasons to start a business. But the thing is, what people don't realize is that we all have a utility, for our leisure time, or our hobbies. And if your utility for your leisure time in your hobbies is high enough, you're adding that on to your salary. And you're saying that your one-man shop is successful.

Steve Baker 22:39

You're looking at that holistic benefit. And I think you're right, I think you quoted Jack, exactly in his spirit, which is, he never intended to have to buy himself a job. He was trying to save jobs in the beginning. And we really learned the language of business, it was like, wait a minute, we're here to not only save jobs, but create jobs and create wealth, and share the wealth with the people who created it. And that has set him apart. For sure, from a lot of a lot of his contemporaries. So, let's look at it another way. You have such far reaching relationships, and we've been kind of fun. I've been focused on academics and you know, college and university kinds of level teaching. Do you think that, like, how early Can you teach kids the value of business? Is it an age? Or is it really a consciousness that they achieve?

Kelley Still Nichols 23:35

Well, I think that programs like Junior Achievement,

Steve Baker 23:40

Mm hmm.

Kelley Still Nichols 23:41

You know, have been very effective at working with younger and younger people who get the idea things like selling Girl Scout cookies.

Steve Baker 23:49


Kelley Still Nichols 23:49

You know, if you're, if your troop leader is savvy enough to walk through and show you, here's what the cookie company, you know, they're $5 a box, here's what the national office paid for the cookies. We're going to sell them for this, we're going to keep $1 box, we're going to send X dollars to national, and here's how the money is spent, you know, even being involved in things like that spark, the, you know, they spark it or like, there's an awesome thing. Well, when we were doing when we had the Entrepreneurship Center, we did some, some youth days where we had him come in and do a startup plan, or we had them compete in some kind of simulation. There's another really cool national program called lemonade day, which is kind of like Junior Achievement in that somebody starts it in their community, and maybe you've seen it, it's really cool. On the same day, every year. 1000s of kids, groups of kids have lemonade stands across the nation, and then they have a charity that they're going to support. But they learned they have to work up what they're going to charge per glass. How much of the supplies are they get, you know, they have to build the whole pro forma income statement. And then they have to report their results at the end. So, I think and then talking about it see the reason it's so important for all of us to be financially literate is because you need to be having these conversations at home, around the dinner table. And one of the things I love to talk about because I'm actually doing a unit, I'm teaching as an adjunct for Drury, and I'm doing a unit right now with some young people on personal financial literacy. And we talk about the psychology of why people have different relationships with money and why some people just seem to be good with money, and some people are terrible. And, you know, a lot of it is what was going on at your house? Where your parent, you know, did you feel like you were on the edge of going down your whole childhood? Or did your parents talk about how much they were putting in your college fund and how much they were putting into the vacation fund each month? And did they talk like that at the table. 

Steve Baker 26:08

But if you don't mind, let's delve into that a bit. Because I think that there's a third home that you didn't mention. So, you mentioned that we're on the edge of disaster. And we're saving, and here's how we're doing it. And I was raised in a household where it was not my job to know that I was supposed to get good grades and to keep out of trouble. And you know, are we rich or poor? I didn't know, honestly, because I didn't want for anything, but I knew we ate macaroni and cheese every Friday. You know, the thing was, I had a great childhood, but came out. I left home very young at 17. Because I was always the youngest in my class, who explore the world. And I was out of money in six months, my life savings. And I was dumbfounded. It was like, wait, I didn't put that together. So, I don't think that that's a great way to teach kids either. So, let me ask this if I may your students now, what's the split? Are? You know, is it even? Are there more people that are on the let's say the negative? How can I put it the underserved side of financial literacy versus the financially aware? How does that work?

Kelley Still Nichols 27:15

All the students I taught last night, were shockingly flabbergasted by everything we did last night, figuring interest, they were like, okay, now what we actually walked through a credit card at 14%. You know, make,

Steve Baker 27:35

Which would be a great deal right now.

Kelley Still Nichols 27:37

You know, and they were like, in tears because I'm working right now, I'm working with non-traditional students who normally are working full time. And I made them do we did personal financial statements, I actually asked them before class to bring all their balances with them. And we did personal financial statements. And we weren't sharing. I said, this is private, we walked through a hypothetical case study of Joe and Susie who'd been married five years. And then I had them do it. And I mean, some of them were just like, Oh, my God, I can't believe this. I didn't know I owe this much. Because you don't want to add it up. Because then you know, and then you just feel bad.

Steve Baker 28:22

Yeah, yeah, just avoidance behavior, right? Because it's like, I don't even want to if I don't know, I'll be able to sleep tonight. But think of the service that you're doing. This is amazing. Honestly, for everybody listening, I didn't know that Kelley was doing this work. And yet, this is actually what I have got such a passion for because I had to learn the hard way. And my kids will not be that way. I will teach them everything I can possibly teach them and have been for years. But yet, there's this nagging thing in the back of my head of like, you shouldn't talk about that stuff. Right? It's my inner child going No, it's okay. Let him you know, I forbade them to study art, but two of them already have degrees. It's like they better learn about money now.

Kelley Still Nichols 29:02

Well, you know, I grew up in a time when it was impolite to talk about money.

Steve Baker 29:07

There you go. And that's, that's the right yeah, it's just you don't talk about money, politics, or religion. That's right. That's right. And now everybody talks about everything. So, when you say I like the non-traditional student thing, and they've asked for this class, right, this is something that they're paying tuition for. And so that

Kelley Still Nichols 29:27

The whole class is not personal finance. The whole class is an overarching business and finance class to support people going into several different majors, but they're not business majors. So, it's a life skill class. So personal stuff, and then we're moving into balance sheets, income statements, you know, transactions, the whole thing.

Steve Baker 29:53

I predict you're making a big impact on folks. That's the way I look at it and I know not everyone will take it, but gosh, with the you know, consumer debt in the trillions, it's oh my gosh, this is crazy. And now there's all these handouts and stimulus dollars coming at us. So that really confuses people. When I look at, you know, especially young people today, we hear from young entrepreneurs, they go, I'm having a hard time getting people to come back to work, because they literally are making more or we're at one-point last year, making more, you know, at an entry level position by staying home. It's, it's really confusing for folks.

Kelley Still Nichols 30:32

Right. And that's a whole other conversation because I didn't think they did that quite right. You know, they did it too quickly. And they didn't even know who needed it. Right? So, um, yeah,

Steve Baker 30:44

Well, that is probably another episode. But so, the Great Game of Education, I think what we've actually kind of discovered in this conversation, Kelley is that there's the Great Game of Education for like the operation of an academic establishment or institution, there's the Great Game of Education, meaning teaching people, whether it be personal or, you know, whatever, say, approachable finance, if they're going to come out with a, you know, basic understanding of business. There's a lot of different versions of this. So, we go back to the academic side. Now that you're outside of the establishment as an adjunct, do you see are you any more objective about it outside looking at not just where you've worked, but at other institutions? Is there anybody out there that's running this successfully?

Kelley Still Nichols 31:32

You can, you know, the nice thing about nonprofits is we can look up all their 990s and see what's going on if we want to, you know, which is cool, but no, everybody's struggling right now. And the Great Game of Business, the Great Game of Education, would benefit everyone right now, there are some systemic things that make it hard to establish on a campus. And one of those, and I can I was objective about this, even when I was one of the academics, because my committee work allowed me to develop really strong relationships with a lot of staff.

3. Bringing the Great Game of Business/Education can be met with disconnect between what academics and staff believe their business is..

But on college campuses, there is a big disconnect between what academics think their business is, and what the staff thinks their business is. And the academics are going to be the problem when we start trying to play the Great Game of Business on a college campus, because they will say that is not in the job description. That is not what I'm here to do. But here's what's interesting to me. And honestly, some of this stuff happened when my own kids got ready to go to college. I was definitely one of those people that thought people come to college because of our superior majors and what we give them and so what we do is the most important thing here, and all the staff are hired to keep it all in the air. Mm hmm. You know, keep the students fed. Keep, you know, keep the campus looking great. But what happens in classroom is why people you know, think wherever you are, is great. Well, so then, and I got up in a faculty meeting and told this story, because we were having some conversations when we were trying to do open book. I said, you know, what's interesting, when I got ready to do campus visits with my first child, we were looking at schools that interestingly, I was not diving into their faculty and scrutinizing who was teaching in their majors. I just knew that on average, that was a darn good school. And when we got there, I wanted to know, how safe was it to get in and out of the dorm? Was the food worth a crap? Right? If they didn't, if they decided to not pledge a sorority, where there's still other cool things to do on campus.

Steve Baker 34:20

I love it.

Kelley Still Nichols 34:21

I cared about that. And I just told my faculty, people make decisions to go to college for all different kinds of reasons. They follow a boyfriend or girlfriend. They've loved that cut. They'd love that football team since they were a child. They go for a lot of reasons, not just because we are going to give them the most fabulous experience in the classroom of their life. Because guess what, when you're 18 you don't want to have close personal relationships with faculty. That sounds gross. You want to get away from your family, go to school, and have some fun. And even when you're a serious student in your mind, you Now, when you reflect back, you say, Oh, one of the most meaningful things was that my professor got me this awesome internship and spent a lot of time helping me figure out exactly what I wanted to do. But when you're 18, that is not what you want to talk about. Yeah. Oh, you know, we Oh, God. I mean,

Steve Baker 35:18

I love that story, though. You were a parent, not a professor.

Kelley Still Nichols 35:24

Right academic? And I couldn't have cared less about that stuff on the campus. I was worried to death about the dorm, and the food and the security.

Steve Baker 35:32

Yeah, I totally get it. I'm going, oh, my gosh, I'm the same way. It's like, wait a minute, is this going to work? Are they going to be successful and happy? And is it going to, you know, nurture my child? I totally get it. That's what we should do. And yet, here we are having this conversation let's, let's ask a little bit different question about the idea of the Great Game of Education. Do you believe because you brought it up with the idea of the staff and faculty have two different mindsets about the very same campus, which makes tons of sense? If you were to say, like, I know that there are a number of different professors, up in Michigan, out in California, around the country, that that have been teaching, what I would call open book management, to people in business school, we also run into people who'd be like, we're not teaching that other places where it's not necessarily a featured class, but the great game of business is on the required reading list. So, there's all different kinds of approaches. But one thing that we've run into and Kelly, I'm, I know you're not prepared for this, I didn't give you this question ahead of time, but just answer however you like. Would it be true to say that you bring some kind of radical idea like open book management to certain academics? Is it possible that they might resist it? Because it wasn't their idea? And they can't publish on it? Or something like that? Is that a real thing? Or is it in my head?

Kelley Still Nichols 36:58

No, you're right about that. But I mean, you can say that about lots of luck.

Steve Baker 37:06

Oh, absolutely.

Kelley Still Nichols 37:07

Now, those professors because I taught the Great Game of Business, and I use the Great Game of Business book in my classes, and I know those professors you're talking about at different schools who either study Great Game specifically or teach open-book management. And that's what they're doing with their business students. That doesn't mean they could help figure out how to make it happen on the college campus.

Steve Baker 37:30

Absolutely, totally agree. And that's the distinction. For sure.

Kelley Still Nichols 37:35

Now, would they be champions of it? Yes. Just like I was when we were doing open book, staff, and faculty to make the Great Game of Education work so that colleges and universities can get on top of, of how to be nimble and how to be more financially successful. Here's the deal. There's a lot of weird stuff. For one thing, we're kind of like healthcare in that part of the money comes in from tuition, and nobody pays the same amount. Mm hmm. Okay, because of all the different scholarships and stuff. Sure, so you're selling a product, and people are all going to pay different amounts for that product. So that has inherent problems. So, recruiting of students is one whole unit that has a set of problems that nobody else understands, okay? Then we've got athletics, athletics, both generates money and spends money. And they are a unit, who, like nobody else on campus really understands. And academics are always saying that there's too much emphasis on sports, and they're getting cool stuff that should be spent on the library. But the thing is, what we don't know is that they have boosters that are making that happen. Right. And then there's University Advancement, which is raising money for the endowment, and raising money for the current operations. And they are selling and spending. And there are a whole unit that nobody understands their world. And I hate to say it, but those of us in the middle, the academics, and then all the staff that that specifically support students’ services. The truth is, we don't we don't want to know how the sausage is made. We don't want to know what they have to do to get 1500 new freshmen here, just figure it out we don't want to know how you can raise a million dollars here to add to the endowment figure it out, because that's not our job. And that's the problem that we have.

Steve Baker 39:48

That's really fascinating. I'm so glad that you laid that out for me because, you know, I guess intellectually I knew that, but I wasn't putting it together at all until you just laid it out there. Silos within the organization that really, you know, the people raising the endowment probably don't really care how you get the education part done, just get it done. That's your job. And I can totally see where they all fit together to be this one thing. Now-

Kelley Still Nichols 40:13

So, we do because they rely on us, I mean, we're selling to because when a student comes to campus, and express an interest in business, and they set them up for me to have 30 minutes with them, oh my god, I am selling, I am selling the cool stuff that we do, the hands-on stuff that we do that they won't be able to do at another school. You know, I'm selling to, so we know, we got to help. But we don't really want to know, you know, we can't really get involved in all of it. But see, what's different is that SRC, your sales, that everybody on the floor knows that sales can't sell anything, if their products are defective, and word gets around in five minutes. Yep, yeah. So, everybody is more on the same page in that kind of an organization. Yeah, we're, as we always think, you know, that. University Advancement is exploiting, you know, our successful alarms in some way. Or, you know, we just, oh, it's just, it's just really hard.

Steve Baker 41:21

It is for sure. And you made me think about a university that will remain nameless at this point, because they had a really strong start, and they got people started to get people united around this idea of we did our, whatever, seven or 10-year plan, and we will have to close the gates of this fine 100-year-old establishment if we don't figure this out. And as they started to get things together, it was crossing those boundaries and seeing how we affected one another plus, take everything you said and add on top of it a reduced amount of state and federal funding, because they Republic University are a public university. And the funny thing is, it really does come down to leadership again, because you got to have somebody at the top saying, we are going this way, we're going to make it happen. And we're going to keep doing it because it's all about sustaining it over time. So, this has been very-

4. To sustain the Great Game in universities, people need relationships.

Kelley Still Nichols 42:14

People need relationships. It's like diversity, you're never going to get rid of people's biases, until they have personal relationships. And then it dissipates. Same thing, we got to have staff and faculty mixed up in task forces to develop mini games or, you know, study issues. Because the more they understand each other, and where each other are coming from, then instead of feeling like it's somebody else's problem, we can put, like you say, we've got a lot of intellect on every college campus. And we need to harness you know, more of it for things, you know, and the classroom is all consuming, and there's only so much time. I mean, if you spend too much time on committee work, and working across campus on stuff, your classes will suffer. So, it's a real balancing act, but we have to have more personal relationships. And one reason I, I mean, I had those relationships, our head basketball coach was one of my best friends, because he was my son's high school basketball coach. And I was one of the you know; US parents were the only people they knew when they came to camp town. So, I was close to them. And I got very involved in helping athletes that were struggling and, you know, finding resources for people. And I had a lot when I did the Entrepreneurship Center, I became very close with event staff that, you know, the people that came and put the tables and chairs up, I got, you know, became buddies with them and started getting more insight into their problems. And so, it's relationships. And, and but like, we've always said, The Great Game of Business, it's just, it's just a mechanism for companies to learn to communicate.

Steve Baker 44:04


Kelley Still Nichols 44:04

And that's what we need more of on a university campus.

Steve Baker 44:07


Kelley Still Nichols 44:08

People need to understand that everybody's just as important. We just have different roles. You know, let's face it. We all know that I thought your accounting classes were the most important classes you would take in your life. We're all like that, right? Just like when I'm training coaches, I want them to be better at the financial part of it. Right, exactly. So, we all have that bias that we just need to have more relationships. So, we care about what's going on down the lane from us.

Steve Baker 44:38

You just make business so human, Kelley, come on.

Kelley Still Nichols 44:44

If it wasn't for people, right?

Steve Baker 44:47

Oh my gosh. All right. And Jack always says, you know, numbers are just stories about people. And if you remind yourself of that, it just changes the conversation so quickly, because you're not beating people up. You're looking for solutions and I will say that I wanted to shift gears. While we still have a few minutes. The first time that I remember meeting you was you are teaching us about different ways that we could teach. Virtually. So, you already had a YouTube channel and you're using these neat resources. I mean, way before any of us ever heard the word pandemic. And I just wanted to say that I just think that, that that is one of the things I've always admired about, you've always been on the edge out there saying how do we reach folks? How do we make sure that we make this accessible to people? And all of that work that you have done has led to, I think your reach has been expanded beyond what you could have done even 10 or 15 years ago? Right? I mean, you're utilizing the technology.

Kelley Still Nichols 45:46

I think so I have changed from a person that was against anything. That wasn't people sitting in a room together. Interesting. Now, I believe that my zoom experiences are almost as good. I mean, just, and sometimes just as good because our, I'm seeing people's face, I can read sometimes on zoom, I can see their facial expressions better than if they were a few rows back in a in a room. So, I've completely changed since really even a year ago.

Steve Baker 46:21

So, maybe we could do this. And again, this is completely unprepared. So just roll with me here. If you had to give people let's say, three tips on being, you know, I can't believe we're going to do this remotely or whatever, what would be three things to be successful at communicating teaching remotely, because they're going to all be listening saying how do I reach my employees, their remote workforce, or they're quarantined or whatever? What would three great tips be that you've enjoyed over the last year that you said, you've kind of seen a transformation?

Kelley Still Nichols 46:54

Okay, well, some of this, you know, you talked about this last Friday on our coach meeting, and that was super fun. And I don't even like you've got really good advice. Like you made a black background to work in front of me, that looks really nice. And I'm not there yet.

Steve Baker 47:10

We all look the same on a podcast.

Kelley Still Nichols 47:12

This is one of the grandkid's rooms that I've turned into my office. Okay, which you know, and that's why there's a cowboy hat and bongo drums up there and Raggedy Ann picture.

Steve Baker 47:22

I had other ideas, but

Kelley Still Nichols 47:24

Well, I don't think Yeah. But anyway, I think that the important thing is that you still be personal. So, you ought to start every session with sharing, you know, like, if you don't know each other, you know, explaining who you are, and why you want to be there today and what you hope to get out of it, because then that helps me because I know where everybody why they came. And then if you do know each other, it's an ongoing class. I'm a big fan of, I learned this from Jack O'Riley, and we've been doing it in the coach training is the around the horn with good note news. So, in less than a minute, share something personal and something about your job or your business, you know, I'm a big fan of that. And then honestly, what you have to learn to do, and you really just kind of have to watch yourself a little because you do it too. You got to get your hands up. Because like I'm I talk with my hands all the time. But at first, they were down and then I realized that I need to bring them up. And then you do have to, you know, be louder, be softer. You have to be more expressive; you have to be more expressive.

Steve Baker 48:34

See, everybody, you just got three tips you weren't planning on getting today. So be animated. be exciting. modulate your voice and your movements. The that was three, two was the around the room with good news. And make sure everybody has a chance to talk about that. And be personal.

Kelley Still Nichols 48:58

Well, yeah, if you don't know each other, you're going to have to share. You know,

Steve Baker 49:02

I love it. That's great stuff. And oftentimes we work with people, especially folks that already had a remote workforce before the folks who used to say to us, well, we can't do a huddle. Everybody's out in a different place. Now they're huddling anyway. And the interesting thing is that we can work with people or work at the same company and never really know someone and so that I love that sharing good news, whether it's personal or business, eventually you get to know people on a different level. And that's what makes this whole one thing fun.

Kelley Still Nichols 49:29

One thing I did with the coaches, the SRC execs because they do all know each other.

Steve Baker 49:36


Kelley Still Nichols 49:37

I said, we're going around the horn today. And I want you to each tell us something that we probably do not know about you. So, you got you know, I juggle or whatever or I you know,

Steve Baker 49:53

I love that that is such a great idea. That's where you really find out and not only do you find out interesting things about people, but You have memories that you've created that would have never come up in a in a typical business, you know, type environment. That's awesome. Well, Kelley, we always try to wrap up our podcasts by asking, what's the one question we ought to be asking you?

Kelley Still Nichols 50:17

Yeah, I knew you were going to do that. And I just didn't know what that meant. But I want to leave you with my parting thought is that I really, really do think it's important that everyone get a good measure of financial literacy, if we're going to solve any problems that we have both, you know, in our individual businesses in our home lives, in government, I just really feel like I'm just very passionate about everybody getting it.

Steve Baker 50:55

I love it. And that is great advice. I feel the same way. I think it's changed my life. I know it has. And I think it's going to change the lives of my kids. As Dave Ramsey always says, you know, money flows from people who do not understand it to people who do. I really want the people that I know and love to be the people who do I want my community to be the people who do, and I want it to be spread from there. And that's how we're going to really change things. Thank you, Kelley, I appreciate you so much. Always good to have you.

Kelley Still Nichols 51:23

Thanks for having me. This has been a blast, Steve. I'm just I don't get to see you very much anymore. So

Steve Baker 51:29

I'll take it where I can get it. Kelley Still Nichols. Dr. Kelley Still Nichols still an adjunct professor at Drury University and changing the world by being a big part of our team at Great Game of Business. Thank you, Kelley. So, let's keep the conversation going. Send us your questions, your stories, your best practices, your ideas, your challenges, and your victories. Remember, you don't have to go through it alone. The Great Game of Business is a great way to share responsibility burden, and also the things that we can celebrate. So that, ladies and gentlemen is capitalism at its best. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you next time.

Announcer 52:09

The "Change the Game" Podcast is produced by the Great Game of Business. To learn more, visit greatgame.com.


Topics: Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, Leadership, Education, Sustainable Business

About The Podcast

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Hosted by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker the Change the Game podcast highlights true life stories of organizations influencing positive change by doing business differently. They’re teaching people how business works and closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s capitalism at its best. Inside each episode, you’ll discover stories of entrepreneurs who are Changing the Game.

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