“Service is the Sine Qua Non of leadership.”
When George Foreman III was a first classman at Culver Academies in 2001, Lt. Col. Thomas Siebenthal, the deputy commandant, gave a talk using that quote. The Latin translates to “without which there is nothing.”
Speaking at a special Tuesday all-school audience that included participants in The Next Launch business plan competition, Foreman said Siebenthal’s message of serving others as an essential part of leadership has stayed with him through all of his different ventures. That includes his current business, Everybody Fights, a boxing fitness gym and program now in six cities and preparing to expand.
His basic goal has been to “just put a roof over my head while serving people. Service my passion.” And as he looks back at his different careers, he has been the happiest when he has been serving others. Foreman originally planned a career in finance, but he ended up working for his father, former heavyweight champion George Foreman, as his business manager while still in college.
He eventually moved into boxing himself – with his father serving as his trainer – and retired with a 16-0 record. But he wasn’t happy, he said, because professional boxing is a “very narcissistic” sport. The boxer thinks about himself most of the time, Foreman said. But part of his deal with his dad was to pass on his knowledge by teaching boxing to the youth at the family’s community center in Los Angeles.
As he planned his retirement from the ring, Foreman began to formulate the plan for Everybody Fights. Using the motto “Live like a fighter,” the fitness regimen crosses several disciplines. But it took longer than he expected for the concept to catch on, especially with investors, and Foreman found himself sleeping on a friend’s couch before he got the original gym opened in Boston.
But “live like a fighter” is more than just the physical aspect, Foreman said. Fighters must also “train your brain.” He found that starting a business was harder than boxing but the same principles applied. One of those is “Service vs. Self,” which is his “North Star.” Foreman said that service to others must be part of a business in order to maintain your passion.
He added his service is now teaching and training others to stay physically and mentally strong. The majority of the Everybody Fights customer base is women between the ages of 23 and 44.
You must also build your business with character, he said, and remember that pressure makes you perfect. Like in sports, applying pressure to your opponent can force them into mistakes. But learning from pressure helps you “get better, not worse.”
While answering questions about expanding Everybody Fights, Foreman said investors wanted to know how it was going to happen since he couldn’t be present at all the locations. That is when he decided “to make myself obsolete.” That meant teaching others how to run the business, serve as trainers, teach classes, and handle the day-to-day operations. Now the six locations are offering “thousands of classes each week.”
And, he added, he wanted the audience to remember that “dignity sweetens adversity.” He has always looked at a setback, whether in the ring or in business, as a building block. Keeping your head up and saying “I’m ready for more” takes the sting out of failure.
He finished with one of his father’s favorite sayings: “Go out and slay the beast,” which means there are times you must do something that you really don’t want to – such as having a hard conversation with someone – but you must do it for their sake and as well as yours. The times that he has not are the times he regrets the most.