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.
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.