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James Speros Motivates Students in Violet L. Patton Lecture Series

Julie Bethlenfalvy
April 20, 2012

The Spring Violet L. Patton Lecture Series engaged attendees with a lecture by seasoned entrepreneur and former professional football staff member to the series in the Baker Center Ballroom on Monday. James L. Speros focused on numerous lessons he learned and experiences he had based on his diverse business interests during his lecture, “Entrepreneurial Ventures On & Off the Field.”

As the current chairman and CEO of Speros Ventures, LLC, Speros’ passion for entrepreneurship was influenced by the restaurant owned by his family where he worked in his youth. As a child, Speros’ business ingenuity surfaced when he sold his bag lunches to fellow students so that he could have a hot meal instead of the sandwich made by the chef at his family’s restaurant.

Speros believes that entrepreneurship is something that is in his genes. Speros was a member of the Washington Redskins staff when they won the Superbowl in 1982 and National Football Conference Championship in 1983, but has no regrets about leaving coaching. “Not everybody is made to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “You need to really evaluate whether you’re willing to take those risks and rewards.”

Speros also advised attendees on the building blocks on how to move forward with their dreams. He shared the struggles that he faced bringing the Baltimore Stallions, a Canadian Football League (CFL) franchise, to Baltimore in the 1990s. Although the governor of Maryland told Speros that he would never succeed in bringing a CFL team to Baltimore, Speros persisted and succeeded. In 1995, the Baltimore Stallions won the Grey Cup Championship, the first and only U.S. team in 125 years of the CFL to accomplish such a victory. Speros advised, “You got to stay the course, and you got to be really dedicated. You have to be willing to sacrifice.” Patience is also a big part of what it takes to be an entrepreneur, according to Speros.

While president and owner of the Baltimore Stallions, Speros became involved with the technology industry because it enabled him to operate his business better. He was one of the first people to use a stadium diagram where fans could choose their seats in real time using an e-commerce transaction online. Speros was also president and CEO of Sideware Systems, Inc., a customer relationship management software company. With Speros at the helm, the company grew to 12 offices across North America and served several Fortune 500 customers.

Speros also returned to his roots in the restaurant industry. Velocity Five, his upscale sports restaurant and catering chain, was named as one of the Top 5 New Franchises by Franchise Edge in 2009. Speros’ enthusiasm extends to charitable ventures as well, including the JB Awards, which benefits the Special Olympics in the Washington, D.C. area.  Renée A. Middleton, Dean of The Patton College of Education was impressed with Speros enthusiasm, drive and natural ability to lead. These are qualities that The Patton College helps students develop on their journey to becoming leaders in their respective fields, she said.

Speros’ business ventures in sports entertainment, technology, hospitality and business industries brought a multifaceted perspective to Violet L. Patton Lecture Series event. “A speaker like him shows it is possible and that it's also not easy, but in the end it is still possible. Hearing advice directly from him will help along the way and motivate students,” said Andrea Harless, an Ohio University senior majoring in Political Science.

The Violet L. Patton Lecture Series was presented by The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education and co-sponsored by the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.