They call me Robportunity. I received this nickname from friends and family who noticed two things about me:

  1. I recognize opportunity when I see it.
  2. When I see opportunity, I act upon it.

Often this has worked out well for me…and sometimes not so good.
As a good example of what I’m talking about, let’s look at the development of my Leaders Connect Breakfast Series. I present you a chronology of how one opportunity leads to another, which has resulted in the sustained success of this program for over 20 years.

Opportunity #1. In the mid 90s I happened to be working individually with several successful business and community leaders. Knowing them as I did, I invited them to join in forming a monthly group which I called Leaders Connect.

Opportunity # 2. As I knew my friend, Bob Quinn, a University of Michigan business professor, had recently written a fantastic book for leaders called Deep Change, I took the opportunity to use Bob’s book for the group.

Opportunity # 3. As the group members loved the book, they asked if they could meet Bob and I took the opportunity to invite Bob to speak to the group.

Opportunity # 4. Since Ari, one of the the co-owners of Zingerman’s was a member of the group, he offered to hold the meeting with Bob in the upstairs room of Zingerman’s deli.

Opportunity # 5. Recognizing that the room was able to accommodate more than 10 people I asked the members of the group to invite others to hear Bob speak. Over 30 people were in attendance for Bob’s presentation which made him a happy guy and gave him the opportunity to sell multiple copies of his book.

Opportunity #6. Since the talk was such a big success, I decided to repeated it by asking another member of the group, Bert Whitehead who had just written a book about financial success, Why Smart People do Stupid Things with Money, to give another talk. Thirty five people showed up.

And so in 1996 Leaders Connect was born and began to take root. In The subsequent 20 years I’ve been able to recognize and act upon many other opportunities to nurture Leaders Connect’s growth.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Diane Durance, who was a member of the group, recognized that we were exceeding the capacity of the small room. At the time was president of the Ann Arbor IT Zone so she invited me to move the event to their larger venue.
  • Todd Clark and Bob Chapman of United Bank and Trust, with whom I had been consulting, agreed to sponsor the event.
  • When Zingerman’s Roadhouse opened for breakfast, the managing partner, Alex, agreed to move the event to one of their dining rooms and to become a sponsor.
  • Roger Rayle offered to video tape a session and subsequently recorded several of them and eventually created a YouTube channel to store them.
  • When United Bank was sold, Tim Marshall and Michael Cole at Bank of Ann Arbor offered to become a new sponsor of Leaders Connect.
  • Recently, Chris Sing of Rehmann Financial Services also offered to become a sponsor of the event.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to host 200 leaders to present at these monthly events. Speakers have included authors, university presidents, academic leaders, leaders from the government and nonprofit CEOs.

Each month we’ve featured a non-profit leader who has an opportunity to present about their organization.On March 11 we are honored to have Jim Hackett, the acting Athletic Director at the University of Michigan, as the guest presenter at Leaders Connect.

One of the key lessons I teach my students at the University of Michigan is to be aware of opportunities and to be fearless in not only seeking them out, but also making the most of them. I would be very interested in your points of view about opportunity and to learn about your stories of how acting upon opportunities has helped you advance your career.

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