Leadership: How to Go Against the Grain to Attain It
According to Courtney, football doesn't build character. It reveals character. When Bill Courtney began volunteering to coach a local losing football team, neither he nor the players knew how far they'd go, but their journey together became an inspiring lesson. The players soon realized that Courtney would not let them slide when it came to the fundamentals. Not just of football, but of the actions that count in the real world: commitment, dedication, integrity. The same traits that Courtney encouraged of his players have proven themselves in his business success as well. Having started a lumber business from his living room, Courtney turned it into a $40 million enterprise that currently does business all over the world. Even when the recession hit, Courtney's business thrived. "Walking the talk" of hard work, integrity and dedication, he believes that if you do the right thing, profits will follow.
According to Courtney, to do the right thing, you need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone, Deserve Success, Serve Others and Out work Everyone Else. His discipline, combined with true caring, showed his team that true success isn't about trophies or awards on a shelf. It's about living life by a set of values one can be proud of long after their days on the field were over.
For Faith Based Groups
Bill Courtney volunteered as a football coach, but he became a father figure to the players as well. Most came from broken homes and having grown up without a father himself, Courtney could relate to their situation. His personal faith had always sustained him and as he grew and started his own family, it continued to be a cornerstone of the tools for living he successfully employs.
Speaker Spotlight: Bill Courtney
Football coach, entrepreneur, and subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Undefeated, BILL COURTNEY is renowned for his inspirational lessons on teamwork and resiliency. He is famed for turning around the under-performing football team at Memphis' inner city Manassas High School around, bringing it from a dismal 4-95, 10-year record when he started as a volunteer coach, to 18-2. The remarkable, inspiring story is the subject of Oscar-winning documentary Undefeated, as well as Bill's bestselling book, Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love, which shares his convictions on the fundamental tenets of character, commitment, service, leadership, and civility that have proven to be the keys to a winning and meaningful life and career. Bill is also the founder, President and CEO of Classic American Hardwoods, Inc., an innovative lumber company based on a commitment to community service and winner of the Memphis Business Journal's small Business of the Year Award.
Having spoken everywhere from FedEx to St. Jude's, Courtney is a powerful speaker on leadership, resiliency, success, and faith. His rave reviews speak for themselves: "Absolutely, positively outstanding! We had a capacity crowd of over 450 and his message, as well as his presentation, was simply riveting. So very outstanding!" (FedEx Leadership Live Conference);"In 29 years of planning, executing, evaluating, and attending various conferences and meetings, I have never encountered a keynote speaker as effective as Bill. With his disarming humor and engaging story-telling, Bill immediately connects with his audience..." (Sigma Nu Fraternity); "Bill Courtney is real and relevant, with a transparent soul and the heart of a champion... Bill wowed the room and touched hearts." (Fellowship of Christian Athletes); "He was excellent in tailoring his presentation to the mood and setting of the room. He delivered more than I had even hoped for. His story is inspirational, his style effective and his results are excellent..." (St. Jude's Children's Hospital)
William B. Courtney (Bill), a native Memphian, founded Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. in 2001. Today, it employs 120 people with a 45 acre manufacturing facility and domestic sales offices in Memphis, TN and international sales offices in Shanghai, China, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In 2007, Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. won the Memphis Business Journal’s Small Business of the Year Award based on its growth and commitment to community service.
In 2003, Bill began volunteering at Memphis’ inner city Manassas High School in an effort to turn its underperforming football team around. In 2003, the team had 19 players with a dismal 4-95, 10-year record. In the 2008 & 2009 seasons, the team’s record improved to 18-2, with 75 players. The story was so compelling that a Hollywood film—Undefeated—was produced about it. It won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary.
In 2011, Bill was inducted into Bridge Builders for leadership in diversity, community, and justice. He was the 2012 recipient of the Liberty Bowl’s Harry Zinn Spirit of 1776 award for distinguished citizenship, recipient of the Carnival Memphis’ King’s award for outstanding achievement in Business and Industry, and the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Memphis chapter’s award winner for The Distinguished American for Contribution to Amateur Athletics. In 2013, he was inducted into the prestigious Society of Entrepreneurs as a result of his success in business and community service.
Today, Bill still operates as the President and CEO of Classic American Hardwoods. He’s a public speaker at a variety of venues from the Para Olympics in Colorado Springs to Nike, PepsiCo, FedEx, and other nationally recognized companies, and also at churches, schools, and hospitals. His first book, Against the Grain was released in May of 2014. Courtney lives with his wife and four children in Memphis, Tennessee.