The Chuck Wielgus Blog: Juggling Act


Wielgus (small)I recall my father saying, “Don’t do business with your friends, but make friends with everyone with whom you do business.”  Personal friendships and business friendships are very different. Over the course of my career I’ve always kept my dad’s advice in mind and have worked hard at cultivating positive business friendships.

USA Swimming has an enormous number of business relationships. In fact, I can't think of too many other organizations or companies where there is such a broad range of organizational relationships.  Consider this partial list of groups with whom it is important for USA Swimming staff to have positive relations.  

  • Members and Member Clubs
  • Volunteers - Board of Directors, LSC General Chairs & offices, committee chairs, etc.
  • National Office staff
  • National Team Athletes & Coaches
  • Athlete Agents
  • Event Organizers & Officials
  • Media - general reporters, Olympic beat writers, endemic swimming media, etc.
  • Television Producers, Talent & Programming Directors
  • Key Domestic Partners - USOC, NCAA, NGB Council, City Sports Commissions, etc.
  • Domestic Swimming Groups - ASCA, CSCAA, ISHOF
  • International Swimming Groups - FINA, LEN, UANA
  • Official Sponsors - Arena, AT&T, BMW, Marriott, Mutual of Omaha, Myrtha Pools, Omega, Phillips 66, Speedo and TYR
  • Advertising agencies and public relations firms
  • Information Technology consultants
  • Vendors for a wide range of products and services
  • Donors and donor prospects
Not a day goes by that I am not spending time working to nurture and respond to matters involving many of the above and others.  This is not work for the timid, it requires a sincere joy in working with people and the ability to be nimble, multi-task and quick-moving in managing communications, making decisions and overseeing all aspects of USA Swimming’s business affairs.

When it comes to business relationships, you cannot fake it, and this is why I have developed a number of guiding principles that I use to maintain consistency in managing my communications.  Here are the key values I have learned:

  1. Be readily available.  I work hard at responding to emails, returning all phone calls, and keeping my door open to meet with people who just drop by.
  2. Under-promise and over-deliver.  This is how you build trust and confidence with your partners.  Never over-sell or put yourself in a position where you don’t have significant responsibility for how a program or service will be developed and delivered.
  3. Keep score.  We’re in the sports business, so keeping score should come easily.  I’m always looking for our business wins and losses, and readily report these to others.
  4. If something goes wrong, admit it and fix it immediately.  Life isn’t perfect and circumstances are always changing, so you need to expect that every once in a while something will go wrong.  Sometimes, when working together with a partner to fix a problem you also strengthen the business relationship.
  5. Treat everyone with respect.  People change jobs and you never know who you’ll be dealing with next, so by treating everyone with honesty and respect you’ll always be in a good position when a business relationship is transferred to another person.
  6. Know when to walk away.  Some relationships just don’t work out and you never want to compromise your organizational or personal values.  Cutting ties is never easy, but sometimes it just has to be done.
  7. Make it fun.  I love what I do and truly want others to share the joy of being associated with a great sport and a great organization.  Making it fun means bringing a positive can-do spirit to work every single day.
Juggling so many business relationships is a huge challenge. A vision and a good business plan would go nowhere without the engagement of others to help bring that vision to life. And bringing that vision to life is done when others share the vision and see how they themselves will also benefit.  

Chuck Wielgus can be contacted at: cwielgus@usaswimming.org.