She’s won games, built leagues, written books and formed her own company. Now, one of most influential people in sports has a new platform to help aspiring women of all ages.
Donna Orender was born to lead and also inspire. You’ll hear it in her voice and learn it in the stories and experiences she shares about her career journey with host Kraig Kann.
What does it mean to be a 5-star athlete who played 7 sports in one year?! What was it like to play professional basketball and then parlay that into becoming president of the WNBA? And how did diving head first into professional golf help launch it all?
Orender shares a career that includes television and media production … which vaulted her into a 17-year executive role with the PGA TOUR where she tells how she built the business, negotiated huge deals and expanded global reach.
Kraig also pulls stories about how she’s launched a big non-profit geared toward bringing women together.
She’s been voted among the top 10 most powerful women in sports, Newsweek’s 100 most influential in sports business and she’s given a Ted Talk she talks about that gave her a huge platform to share her message.
Don’t miss this power woman who’s had a journey worth following but will convince you that it’s really just getting started. It's right now on an all-new Tracks To Success.
Welcome to Tracks. To Success brought to you by a presentation partners. This is the podcast that brings you inspiring people, and they were inspiring stories. How did they find their way to the top and how can their path helped you do the same? Here's your host network, broadcaster, executive and entrepreneur. Kraig Kann
Right now on this edition of Tracks To Success you'll meet a woman. Who's one games built leagues formed a production company, written books, built platforms, and then stood on them to speak lead and empower, inspire many born on long Island. She grew up in Queens. She wasn't a three sport athlete. She was a five sport athlete when to play college basketball, then played professionally as well. Who knew she would one day become the president of the WNBA before that the road was television and media production, which vaulted her into a 17 year executive role with the PGA TOUR where she building business, negotiating huge deals, expanding global reach.
1 (1m 19s):
After stepping away from the WNBA. She launched a nonprofit geared towards bringing women together and also in an LLC focused on consulting both. Then the same year she has been voted among the top 10, most powerful women in sports. Newsweek's 100 most influential in sports business, and she has given us a Ted talk to share her message failure motivates her curiosity drives her and believing gives her the energy to keep it all going. Her name is Donna. Orender her inspiring story. And this edition of Tracks To Success starts Now well Donna thank you so much.
1 (2m 4s):
I am truly honored to have you on Tracks To Success I'm calling this a great get, okay. I'm thrilled to have you be a part of this. I'm also calling this a bit of a reunion of sorts. So I really appreciate your time, how you doing,
0 (2m 17s):
Did a great that it isn't really the need of sweats. And I love reunions. I think that's, if it, if there is a silver lining and this is one of them from this period that we are living. Yeah.
1 (2m 27s):
Yes. Well, I'm honored. I want to kick things off by talking about your Ted talk experience. Now I know you do a lot of things. We are going to get into all of those and your background, but the Ted talk fascinates me. I want you to tell me about that. You you've done some things, how nerve wracking was that for you? What's that process like
0 (2m 47s):
Actually, and I it's become kind of a focal piece of some of the public speaking I do because I found it to be almost debilitating. I became very well aware that you
2 (3m 0s):
Are going to deliver these words that will live on forever in this kind of sacred, very visible vault, if you will. And at every word I parsed every single word, thinking about what it would mean to different constituencies and listeners. And I became very sensitized. And then you also had to be very disciplined and the time amount, and then they wanted you to memorize it. And all of a sudden they had this thing about memorizing. So all of those things together brought me to a stand still for about three months. I literally wrote five different Ted talks, like different ways to approach it before I finally could settle in and feel like, okay, here is my voice.
2 (3m 46s):
Here's the message I want to give. I feel comfortable with it. And I'm pretty sure I can memorize it.
1 (3m 53s):
The memorizing would just unnerve me. I mean that, that's probably what scares people. The number one fear among Americans is public speaking any way. Then you throw that into the mix and you have to be perfect. You've got nothing behind you. You're, you're basically naked on a stage when an audience to deliver one of the biggest messages you could ever deliver. Correct? Correct. Yeah.
2 (4m 13s):
Yeah. Correct. But you know, at the end I always felt like, you know, it will work out, just get yourself there, which by the way, is it is a, it's a major lessons in life in one of the ones that I've learned. I learned very young as an athlete, which is, Hey, you just gotta put in the work to do it as hard and as best as you can commit. And if you do you'll get results. And so ultimately you actually, that was my self-talk during the process.
1 (4m 39s):
That's good. I do a lot of self-talk. I've been watching you lately. Donna a Facebook live with your generation w generation. Wow. Really putting people together for opportunities to educate, connect, inspire mentor, all of those things involving women focused on that. What's the motive behind it. All.
2 (4m 59s):
I believe the world has a better place when we live together and learn together. Cause ultimately we can lead together. As you know, I spent many years a at the WNBA where I learned a lot about how the world felt about women. I spent a lot of time with girls who looked up to those women. I still ad one of those girls in a woman's body. And I believe And and felt that there is a lot of unfinished high potential work to do in elevating and creating opportunities and making sure that women who are 52% of the population in this country that there's equity.
2 (5m 40s):
Now I do want to say this. We believe it all. So the work has focused on women. It's an inclusive message. So, you know, we, we value working side by side with men having them part of this work and movement. So I'm, I find that a real positive as well, really good up because we're going to get
1 (5m 58s):
Too a lot of that, more in depth in just a little bit, but I want to go way back. I want to go back to childhood and kind of figure out where this Tracks To Success all started. So you grew up in Queens, you were born on it.
2 (6m 10s):
Well, actually I brought up on long Island. I grew up in LA.
1 (6m 12s):
Okay. All right. Long Island. What type of a young girl where you, where you in? I know you were an athlete for sure, but, but what do you remember about those days when everybody had said, yep, Donna Orender was going to do this?
2 (6m 25s):
I don't, I don't, I was extraordinarily active. So not that much different than I am now. I have incredibly curious, had a wide range of interests, felt that my friend groups were across a wide diversity of interests. So it wasn't like, you know, you know, in high school you gotta meet, you can have your groups. I've had lots of groups. I like being friends with lots of groups. I like doing lots of things, but I did play sports. I played seven sports in a year. I even went to dance school and then Hebrew school and all these other things. So I, I felt like the seeds of both a learning curiosity, as well as a people, curiosity, I've been with me since I've been young,
1 (7m 6s):
I had heard and read five sports. Now you're telling me seven.
2 (7m 11s):
Right. It was seven. So then we can count them. You know,
1 (7m 13s):
You do that. That's what I want to do, run them off. Cause I know you were great in basketball.
2 (7m 17s):
Well, yeah, that the season started out with field hockey, which I still love. I love to play field hockey, but you can't just go, go to pick up field hockey game. But I played field hockey. I played volleyball. I played softball. I played basketball. I ran track. I faulted on the gymnastics team. And then ultimately I played on the boy's tennis team. So there you go.
1 (7m 40s):
Wow. Elmont high school tennis. Yes. You mentioned that no girls teams. So you can try it out for the boys team. Right. You just started whipping them. And then all of a sudden you were there, you were like the first girl ever to play tennis at the school.
2 (7m 54s):
That was the first goal was to play any sport I believe. And the state of New York at the time, at least that's what I was told. That was, I mean that it wasn't a motivation or anything that was just kind of like an after the fact or maybe on long Island or something like that. But yeah, there, wasn't a lot of role models for me at that point in time. Why? Because girls' just didn't play sports or it wasn't something that was encouraged. So a lot of them weren't allowed of me's out there. And so I just did something that I loved, which was play. I, I think I always saw, and I, I hadn't talked about this recently, but I think I always had a sense that there was greater value placed on the boys, that they had a great deal, more power and influence and sports seem to be a direct road to that.
2 (8m 47s):
And I said, well, you know what, if it works for them, it could work for me too. Plus I loved it.
1 (8m 52s):
You were good at It Queens college, right? All school's athletic hall of fame. I mean just an amazing career Don but you, you bypass what an academic scholarship to go to a different school. You chose the athletic route and then had an amazing career. In fact, played in the first ever women's game college game at Madison square garden. What do you remember about all that?
2 (9m 16s):
Our first women's game of any type at Madison square garden and of any type of patchouli, which would really, really proud of really proud of by that it was such as an electric experience. What am I most proud of? Did you ask me at that point? I am really proud of in an amazing coach who still has not been inducted into the women's basketball hall of fame, which is a travesty. She was a pioneer who taught us how to Excel. And we did that. We didn't have any scholarships. We didn't have a whole lot of money.
2 (9m 58s):
We went to our, you know, our games are on buses, but we were such a dominant team and we played at such a high level and she taught us how to draw out the best each of ourselves and the best of each other. And that is a legacy which today she's still around. I continue to thank her for
1 (10m 16s):
I'm sure you've passed that on to many that you've mentored or led in your career. You majored in psychology, is that correct? I'm sure that that in and of itself has probably served you so well in working with an empowering other people to do better.
2 (10m 36s):
You know, it's really amazing how we look at education today. How we look at the values of majors, the value of what we should be learning. My goal, always I remember was to make a difference in the world. And I actually thought it was going to be through social work, but to get a sense I still do, which is what I'm doing now. And it said, and so I thought psychology and the understanding of people, which is fascinating. Why did we do the things we do? What motivates us? I figured that no matter what business or whatever, wherever you ended up, although I did have a target for a social work school, it would be beneficial. Ultimately like ultimately my life story played out into a different way, but that, that thread of understanding people and wanting to help people through understanding who they are, that's a little repetitive really has stayed true.
2 (11m 30s):
It's an, it's an amazing thing, right?
1 (11m 33s):
I think it helps people a lot in business and understanding how the mind works, how other people feel, because this is not necessarily about, you know, anything more than how we make others feel when we're trying to, you know, do business with them, negotiate, make a connection, et cetera. I want to talk about your pro basketball career in the WBL. You're one of only 20 to play all three seasons in that league. Three different teams, right in New York, New Jersey, Chicago. I remember the Chicago team. They were the hustle, the hustle,
2 (12m 2s):
The hospital. Yes, we were. We were the Chicago West. So I loved playing in Chicago. He was a great city grade sports Citi. And it was open to us in a way that was wonderful. We had great fans. They are that a good, interesting ownership, good ownership there before it all kind of crumbled, but I loved it. I loved every second of it.
1 (12m 26s):
You were a good player. And then the league shuts down, goes away. You wrote an article for the New York times that I think is interesting. And I think it can give us a sense for how you felt about your opportunity and what that was like. Maybe what had taught you the article called making a dream come true and watching it fade away. I'm assuming that that is tied to a league shutting down this career that you've had strived for and where, you know, loving his, all of a sudden dashed in an instant. How was that for you?
2 (13m 1s):
I, if you read the height of exhilaration, first of all, you will achieve the highest level uhm, in sport, which has to be paid for what you do. And that's something that women are. I mean, it's something that women are still fighting for it to this day, right? In a very visible ways. And there we were, And, I'm the business model. The investor's just couldn't sustain itself. And I, it's funny, I pulled out that article. I actually have a file on my desk and I keep it. And I remember being at the WNBA and pulling it out and feeling really sad because that the Maddox of what I wrote then still have far too much truism to what has happening today.
2 (13m 43s):
So in all of this time, while we've had made great advances, not nearly enough, maybe you were on the cusp, Now maybe were on the cusp of, of greater change. And I'm hopeful that we are understanding when we look at the history of sports and leagues, you know, the NBA in 50 years in, but it was still struggling. It's a 15 years for the NBA to kind of get over the, the bubble if you will. And a were early in that time span. But we live in a different time with social media and the need for immediate returns and a lot of the expectations that probably we're not had it at a time when the other leads who had their ability time to form
1 (14m 27s):
The sports is so much about superstars and marketing today and, and corporate sponsorship and dollars and rights fees and all that, which we're going to get into a little bit. But how is it so tough for women's sports? Why is it that you say we're still striving, we're still doing this was true, but can't SIEM in your mind, your words to break and get over that biggest hurdle. What is holding women's sports back in your estimation?
2 (14m 58s):
I mean, at a time where we talk about institutionalized and systemic issues, I believe that the way we, as a culture look in value of women a is challenged by a large even tho where the majority of it and, you know, sport's has a long history of being male dominated. That's not a judgment, it's not angry. It just, it's where you take a step back to study psychology since sociology say, OK, how did these social segments, how did these businesses form? And what's the underlying culture for them. And women are much later too, the game for a variety of reasons, economic reasons.
2 (15m 40s):
When you look at the, how the, how How we went from a industry, we went from an agricultural society to an industrial society. How women can somehow were relegated to stay at home. All of these things actually play a part and how, how we are able to succeed in, in certain industries, in, especially in the business overall now, and we're working our way through it. It's, it's not easy. It's complex. The world tells us every single day, who is worth more than who was worth less than. And unfortunately those subtle messages that become not so subtle messages continued to say that women are not as valued in sports realm as they should be.
1 (16m 24s):
Is that the fault of corporate America?
2 (16m 27s):
I think, I think we are all actually victims of a group kind of thing that we all participate in in some ways. And we have to become aware of it and be able to step out of it and then take action. And, you know, I was, I will say this at the WNBA right now, they are a new campaign of getting company's to step in a way. I heard, I heard a great story and you'd appreciate this with your backpack and the LPGA as well. Mmm. How companies are now looking at how they spend, because they're being held accountable by their shareholders and their customers along all of the equity. We're talking about racial equity, but we also have gendered equity and they are seeing like, wait a sec in our portfolios are really unbalanced in terms of an equity measure.
2 (17m 16s):
And so, you know, we should be investing differently. And as companies begin to realize that we've been to see an accelerated change,
1 (17m 25s):
I'll be the first one to say the opportunity to elevate a women's professional sports league was so appealing to me and the chance to take athletes who I felt didn't get the opportunity to share a message about all the great things they do. And elevate that platform was, was a thrill ride for me. I enjoyed every bit of it. I went from media to that. You went from professional women's too, the media, I find this fascinating, you worked for ABC and production. And then you started your own production company before I say, what made you do that? So there's my question. I got to throw out the name of this production company, because you're pretty, you're a pretty clever Primo Donna productions.
2 (18m 8s):
Yeah. Yeah. We had a cute logo to it. Wasn't a cute, I mean, there was, it was a series business level, but it kind of liked it why'd you do it? I'm trying to think I did that. I did it because actually I had a lot of interested from people who want you to do business. And I thought it would be a really great opportunity to do that at the time I was doing, I w I, I think I had just left the initial PGA to our production company and the TOUR still wanted to do business. And the PGA of America went and decided all the companies that really want you to lead part of their businesses. And I said, okay, well, why don't I just wrap that all up and do it as a production company?
2 (18m 52s):
And so I did. So it's great. I mean, I get my twenties to be able to start a business, run a successful business before I sold it. It was really fantastic. And I talked to college kids often, and that in fact, I recently talked to a bunch of interns at a top companies. And I said, you know, to have business experience at a big corporate company, such as ABC, before it became cap city's to work at challenge our company, which was a rainbow programming cable television, which was like the internet today, challenge or opportunity. And that's worked out of your own pocket. Each one of those is such an informative experience in an understanding of business I've had so value each one of them. I often say you don't really understand business to be worked out of your own pocket.
2 (19m 33s):
You understand where you're gonna spend, where you going to invest, what's important. Then they also sheds light on the companies you work for, or the ones you're going to work with as well. So I feel very fortunate that I've had this rather, I guess, full experience of business entities that has taught me a lot over the years
1 (19m 54s):
That you have, you're an original producer of inside the PGA tour, then climbed your way up as an executive. You handle had a hand in so many things, their business development negotiation and the huge $400 million network TV deal back in 97, then the circle with the commissioner of the PGA tour, a lot of work with Tim Fincham. What was the biggest victory for you there in your mind? In other words, I know that TOUR had many victories, coz I was, I was riding that wave as well during my time at golf channel. And I'm well aware of everything you did, but, but what is it that you're most proud of? What did you learn about yourself and what did you succeed?
2 (20m 35s):
I, I always, I always try to look at things as creatively as possible. I wa I was and still remain, not the person wants to say, well, this is the way we done it. I was find that a challenge. That's the way we've always done it. Why is that a good thing? Or is there an opportunity for us to be, to take that to another level or look at it through a different lens? I mean, that's kind of what allowed me to bring in and create PGA TOUR radio. I remember at the time people thought that was insane. All of my coworkers that is crazy, who was to listen to a golf on radio. And I'm like, I was a kid who grew up listening to baseball with my dad and the garage as he worked, you know, the Ralph Kiner and the Mets.
2 (21m 20s):
I loved radio. I thought it was magical. And think about this was before really the internet took over and I want to hear, I was, I had to watch every single golf tournament that we had my life wasn't like, this is week, May 22nd. This is Memorial week. My life was a golf calendar. And I thought, when did be great to be able to get these audio feeds delivered, and sure enough was able to negotiate a deal with XM radio, and then it became XM Sirius into this day. It's quite successful. Isn't it?
1 (21m 52s):
It is. And I'm thankful because I work for them and host multiple shows on their platform. So I'll send you a thank you note and I'm truly appreciative.
2 (22m 1s):
Yeah. And then I would also say also looking at our calendar, I mean, being a, B being a part of and initiating the whole idea of early round coverage. Yeah. Really that's the basis of the golf channel's initial Success. We didn't really had that. I think we had like Ted events on USA network and whatever, but literally I put together the entire, the entire package of saying, let's look at how we can repackage our programming. Let's create early round and bake those packages and let's tie them to different weeks and let's create seasonality throughout the whole season, or let's create the world golf championships, all of that, and then build our media around that globally and then build up our international television, which when I took over our international television, it was $1 million of revenue.
2 (22m 46s):
And I have to say a rather unknown story or did not use. And probably I guess, cause it's just a few people involved. Uhm, was I had a number that I thought we could get based on understanding the marketplace and one of the biggest negotiators, most famous God rest his soul, he just passed. I mean, honored and admire this man came in to negotiate with the kid and you know, look into this and I'm like, nah, I don't think so because I can get this. And not only can I get this, but we will have so much more flexibility to build our business. I'm not sure that's the right deal. So of course they went back to Tim and they said to him, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
2 (23m 26s):
Or this is, this is like you, no, this is one of the biggest entities in sports and golf golf partner. And Tim calls me and he goes, well, this and they were saying this. I said, listen, Tim, it's your call. Here's how it could work. We can do this, this, this, and this and this. And ultimately I think we can build out or here's what this deal means. And it's much more limited and we don't have control over our own brand the way we wanted to go and God bless him. He said, you know what? Let's let let's, let's let's pick a year away. Let's try it. It's funny. There's a guy in the business for 25 years. He did talk to me, I often think, and I'm going to say this out loud, but it was a man who will try to hire me.
2 (24m 9s):
But as a woman, it was like, wow, she's so bad. I'm like, no, actually that 1 million turned into a $40 million over time. And I'm, it was just incredible. We were able to really change the construct of many business relationships that allow it so much growth in a positive way. And I am happy that I was trusted enough to make that stuff happen.
1 (24m 35s):
I don't say this cause you're a guest on this podcast. I say this because I know this to be true. You were so well respected within the golf circle. And I can, I guess I can. Thank you. Not only for Sirius XM PGA tour radio, I can thank you for the pregame and post game shows that were created on golf channel.
3 (24m 52s):
1 (24m 54s):
It affects you were creating my paycheck's a long, long ago And to this day. Donna so I appreciate it.
2 (24m 59s):
No problem. No problem. I, but listen, I remember when the golf channel was around and they said, okay, go figure it out. I literally put together like this, what a golf channel would look like. You know what I mean? Like what it would be. And then the, in the financial analysis of, you know, I wasn't the ultimate financial analyst, but what it would look like in terms of putting it together, which was so much fun. And then ultimately he decided to go with Joe Gibbs, which was great. And you know, interesting, so interesting when we look through the history of media and not only at the PGA tour, but we look what's happening with the NBA and NFL and NHL, everybody who was continuously.
2 (25m 43s):
And right now I'm on the board of the world surf league, which I love. I sit on our global digital media committee. There's three of us and look at the, how much the world's changed in terms of content and yet how much it hasn't because at the end of the day, the goals are still the same. You want as many eyeballs as you can, and you want to deliver it in a way that you're a consumer is an advanced can consume them and you want to be able to drive revenue. That's gonna support and underpaid your sport. So it's all fascinating.
1 (26m 16s):
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2 (27m 1s):
1 (27m 4s):
Let's talk about the WNBA Val Ackerman, Val Ackerman leaves. You get the call, Adam silver recruited. You tell me about that.
2 (27m 14s):
Well, Adam and I were friends for a long time. I mean a long time. And I dunno if you remember, cause its funny, Don Garber reminded me this of this. The other day I spoke to him, you know, we had the NFL Cadillac, remember that event where we had the NFL players and a pro and it was a lot of fun. So I created that with Don Garber. And at some point I think Adam was interested in doing something with, with the NBA player. So the NBA, lot of those guys play it off and we never quite could get there, but we became great friends. And so whenever he got in New York, I would see him. We're still great friends. And when it was time to move, when we, when it's time for Val to move and he did call me and asked me if I'd be interested.
2 (27m 55s):
And I was like, I, you know, I had never thought about it. I loved basketball. It's still my passion to this day, but I never really thought about it. I was so immersed in golf at the PGA tour. I didn't even follow the week that much, but had peaked my interest. And it was a long courtship, longer than David would have liked. But ultimately the move that I felt I had to make.
1 (28m 20s):
Yeah. What was women's basketball in dire need of that was the big challenge that brought you there.
2 (28m 29s):
When was the day it was a business that was not a sending at the time I made, if you recall, the, it launched with one of the greatest fanfares ever and they had $40 million in sponsorship. There was on the cover of Adweek, Rick Wilkes. He was a man I loved to this day with foul, Gary Stephenson was involved, which is what have your former colleagues. And it was, it was big time, big time, high expectations. But after two years, the business reality of running, it started to lose some. It seemed so by the time that I got there and year nine, every C, every single business metric has declined precipitously. And their was a lot of talk about whether this week was going to make it and be around.
2 (29m 11s):
I felt I had achieved so much in my life because I was an athlete. I felt like people had been great to me and supported me. I felt like I had an enormous amount of industry wisdom and experience. And I felt like women's sports were not valued in a way that they should be. And I should, if I could give back and try to pay it forward to make a difference, I've had a responsibility to, to do that. My friend's, I mean the, the, the people that are towards that, I was a crazy, I mean, come on the corner office, they had access to the plane. I pretty much could like pursue the deals. As I saw fit, working with my peers and connecting and it was, it was pretty great.
2 (29m 54s):
And they were like, you're leaving tiger woods. I'm going to Diana Taurasi, what are you thinking? And I said, I think I'm, I think what I'm thinking is that as I looked around all of my peers at the PGA tour and realized they all had daughters and I said, I'm doing this for your daughter's and I'm doing this for my sons, because this is important. That's why I'm doing this. And off I went, wow. It was frightening. At first, I have to say
1 (30m 18s):
I've been there, but sometimes if we don't, you know, give ourselves a stretch opportunity or, or put ourselves, you know, outside of our comfort zone, we don't grow.
2 (30m 27s):
Absolutely. I, you know, what's interesting a, there was always swirl at the TOUR about who was going to succeed Tim, obviously 15 years later, the swirl game two a, you know, really terrific, terrific. Jaymar in hand, but this was a tetanus, not many jobs like this in the industry. And so to be offered the honor of that position, I felt like I, I should accept.
1 (30m 53s):
Well, you really put a thumbprint on things, 20% rise in sponsorship during your tenure, 25% rise in viewership, six years of attendance growth. After many years of decline, you negotiated an eight year deal with ABC and Disney. How do you pinpoint your success? Like those are the results. OK. And, and results really don't drive people. It's the process from what I've heard from leaders that really gets them up in the morning. So what was it in your mind that enabled you to do, to make all that happened? Was it your ability to connect with people? Is it your ability to persuade people? What is it?
2 (31m 31s):
I just think it was a passionate belief in the value of these athletes and this league and this product, not only as a commercial enterprise, but as a value and values oriented centerpiece of our lives. And these are, and they remained extra. And I think they're all starting to get into the bubble now. So I'm excited to see how it's going to happen. These are extraordinary athletes who have devoted their life at the highest level, who believe not only in themselves, but in their communities and giving back and they give you everything. They have it's family oriented.
2 (32m 12s):
It seems strong women in arenas, where you normally would see men that speaks volumes in a society that desperately needs to hear gender equity, as well as racial equity messages and the product was priced for family. So it was good family entertainment, which I think is also really important. And it also spoke to young girls and young boys. And one of my favorites and I did talk about this. I think in the Ted maybe I can't remember was my kids at this point in time were like nine, eight and nine years old. And I brought it to New York city and she was back here. I commuted, but with it, they were up there. He commuted, it was his turn.
2 (32m 52s):
And they were playing in their little league and central park, which is by the way, it was exhilarating for me. A and they'd come to all the games with all their baseball friends and they'd run around the court and they'd get the girls autograph. And I'm like, yes, they didn't see them as girls basketball. And they saw him as exciting elite professional athletes and that desire to have the proximity to them begins to change and a overall paradigm of how we value each other. And as you can tell, I'm still very passionate about that.
1 (33m 24s):
Clearly, clearly, top 10 women in sports, you were voted power 100 in sports business. That's because of your successes. I know you just talked about how you guys were commuting back and forth family in Florida, you up in New York, you had twin sons, et cetera. What made you bang your head against the wall about the opportunity of being the president of the WNBA? What was the thing there that, that you felt like I just can't get this done. This is frustrating me.
2 (33m 56s):
Maybe while I was there, but I, you know, like, it's funny and I remember this, first of all, when you take a business over and then you find that your is a lack of unified believers, we're a belief system. That's going to support it. You got, okay, I got to fix this first because you have to have a belief system in order to build anything, actually in this case, this leak. And so I spent the first 18 months try to figure out where are the gaps, where, and then try and it, and then try to bring those and closing those gaps and building a connected belief system that this business there's a lot of people that believed, but it was like, how do we make it work?
2 (34m 40s):
And the frustration thing is when people think you're going out of business, even people who love you was saying, Hey, listen, I'm not going to lead there. So we got through that hump by the year three, it was like, okay, I am not listening to any naysayers anymore. I kind of close my door to put my hand over my ears. And David taught me this, God, rest his soul. I'm not listening to know. No it doesn't get us anywhere. Talk radio. What's the question. Our existence, like just shut off the radio. I don't need to listen. I am out in the marketplace. I am with communities and families. And I see the real, tangible results of this kind of activity. And you know what, that's what we're going to continue to build on. And so beginning in year three, and then understanding what are the levers of this success as valued and judged by the marketplace.
2 (35m 26s):
And the first thing was attendance. Attendance had grown at eight or nine years. I'm like, okay, let's look at our attendance. Why isn't it growing? OK, how can it grow? Okay, then fine. Let's focus on how it and how it can grow. And that had happened in year one and the year we started focusing on it, we grew our tenants 1%. So what does that mean? It means that we did go down 1%, year two, we went up 2%. Now in two years, we're up 3%. Guess what all of the stories started to. You need to be flipped, look at the WNBA that growing your sponsors here, that they can, they can size and they can exhale a sign of relief and say, okay, we're going in the right direction now.
2 (36m 7s):
And once people start to believe and see that movement, then every other, we were, they able to build on every other metric. Now I do want to say that I was given another wonderful gift. It was, I also stepped in right at the beginning of the recession came two years later. And so we were able to outsell every other sport. Now in total dollars, it was in a pittance compared to when, in the hell sponsorship, but that's why we were able to grow. So because we had a value and values message. I think that still resonates today.
1 (36m 40s):
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1 (37m 40s):
Generation w the nonprofit and Orender unlimited the profit, you know, consulting and starting those things. What was your mission to serve? What, what did you aim to do a who needed What? Why did you do it and how nervous were you to leap into that? Right,
2 (38m 2s):
Right. I don't know if that was all that nervous per se. It was just kind of time. I knew I spent a lot of time away from my family and my kids, and it was time for me to be around for them, but probably for me as well, my phone thankfully rang not one of my most exciting projects to this day, just to make a call me, was to take on, this is a wonderful project called connected with her, which was the golf industry. I did an and set, Oh, you know, we're not growing. Yes. A, we looked at it, I think Boston consulting group and said, women are the key to growth.
2 (38m 43s):
And I'm like, really, I could have told you that as well. And he said, listen, we went to get the industry under an umbrella. Would you lead that initiative? And I could not have been more happy to do it nor it felt more prepared because here I was having, I just spent six years at the helm of a business around focused around strong women, big net, viable and sustainable. And of course, it's, you know, I spent 17 years in the golf business. And just because I was a female, didn't understand that I understood how all that worked, but now I understood how it all worked. And I had to say, it was some of my best work. I just loved that assignment.
2 (39m 25s):
And we wrote a book that I, that I still have up here called connected with her, which was the tremendous guy that talked the industry. A couple of things. If they read it one what's happening in terms of social dynamics with women in general, too, how to women think and act and behave as consumers. And then understanding that the third part that I did was Suzy Whaley. He was the most incredible thought partner and a great friend was how do you, right? All of that into an actual tactics. And it went all across the country, speaking to PGA sections as a 350 guys at a time, there might be a couple of women.
2 (40m 5s):
And it was funny for me to be in that reverse situation. I'd spend so much time speaking with women. Now I was back with men and you can feel like the, kind of a, the uncomfortability, you know, talking about sex, race, politics, and gender can be, to make people uncomfortable. I'd liked that I was to figure out how to be able to make everyone feel comfortable and finding a way to do your business as best as you can and grow it. And I loved it. It was really great.
1 (40m 35s):
Yeah. Talking with Donna Orender CEO of Orender unlimited, you have served or do serve by my count on six boards. That's what I counted. You've provided a whole lot. It seems like give back at this stage of your career is really huge for you. Am I right? Yes.
2 (40m 56s):
Yeah. Yes, it is. It is. It is. Cause, and that's what I, then that was the other piece. When I came home was I created generation w and that really was born from what I learned at the WNBA, what I saw as I spoke in a 10 of events all over the country and said, you know what? I would like to do something that gives back. And then I had this moment because it was that like a moment of huberus like, what happens, where they don't want it. And I set that and I said, well, it, they don't want it. Then they'll tell me, and then we'll work in. Okay. But really believe in educating and connecting focused on women.
2 (41m 36s):
And uhm, I, it was just kinda of me and I went from around starting to merchandise, this idea of a little bit and companies were like, yeah, I mean, yeah, that sounds great. Will do that with you. And I had a great group of friends that I'd met along the way, extremely accomplished mostly women. And not that there weren't men, but this was a female focused event. And they said, if you do, this will come in. They did. And you're one, we've had 700 people attend PGA tour productions remains our production company. I went to Timberly and I'm very happy that they said we'll step in and support in one of our own butt.
2 (42m 20s):
Not only because it's You because the mission is important. And now we're in nine years in and we had generation, wow, which is our exponentially growing a team leadership mentorship program that is you in Orlando. And the Orlando school district is our partner here to Jacksonville, Florida up in New York city where talking to Newark Portland, Oregon, we have a club in Bethesda, Maryland. We have a pilot right now in Charlotte, North Carolina. So this work around girls underpinned by the philosophy of a positive of the possible a is really powerful. So it's really, it's really terrific work and it fuels my soul.
2 (43m 0s):
And so many in our generation w community that are now across the country and going beyond is a very bad, it was a very it's validating and a, and it feels right.
1 (43m 10s):
You talked about another book You, you've done a Ted talk. Here's another book attributed to you. It's called wows dumb girls guide to positive and the possible. Now I have two girls. What is it in your mind that girls need most today?
2 (43m 29s):
I think there's a couple, there's a couple of things. I think we talk a lot about girls believed in themselves and creating a positive path that they can C living in their, you know, in the exploration of their journey forward. So we work a lot with self esteem, confidence or new leadership skills and also creating sites, safe spaces for them to come together and share who they are without feeling threatened. And so I think those are the issues that are at the bottom of the funnel for them. But there's lots of other things that we're making good decisions we will talk about.
2 (44m 11s):
We've talked about careers, how you look at the world and being what you can see and understanding what the world says to you and what it does that say to you and how do you internalize that? And then again, your own path. I love this book. I hope you have two one for each of your daughter's. Of course you can get one for your wife too. It's great for women. My boys each have one by their bed. Yes.
0 (44m 32s):
I know they're mind, but it's, it's, it's the powerful use of authentic storytelling that helps us learn from each other, both from an intergenerational perspectives, but also umm, from our peers and you sign the books. Okay. I will definitely S I will definitely sign now right now. Will you send it to me? We go to curriculum off of them. And so now schools are adopting them and I'm like I just said, we have a pilot in Charlotte, North Carolina, working with the bank of America for 25 teen girls. And we built a wonderfully engaging, interesting curriculum for them.
0 (45m 14s):
And each of them has a book and they use the book, but they also have great conversations with each other and meet interesting people. And the feedback has been really extraordinary. In addition to hosting this podcast, Kraig leads the Kann advisory group focused on elevating communication for companies and individuals, company consulting, empowering team, and individual workshops, mind altering webinars. And Craig's inspiring keynotes for your conference or company meeting there all on the menu of services. Kann advisory helps companies clarify their message, helps professionals build and showcase their brand and helps everyone present their best selves.
0 (45m 58s):
So if you are the leader, have a team or company looking to give your employees a game changing one day experience or an individual who wants to become a speaker and presenter that gets other people talking visit Kann advisory.com. And when you do connect, make sure to mention the Tracks To Success podcast to receive a special discount on any of the Kann advisory services. That's Kann advisory.com. Now back to the interview,
1 (46m 29s):
A couple of things before we go down on this podcast is called Tracks To Success. Now you've veered and pivoted and done lots of different things. I always say that the career path has not a straight line for most. And some people feel stuck. They just don't know where to go. They don't know where their next opportunity might come, how to make opportunities happen, et cetera. What would your advice be? A successful person who has done so much? How can people get unstuck? What can they do to find out?
0 (47m 2s):
I think it's a really great question. And it's just conversation that I have regularly with so many different people. I think that when we put ourselves in a box or feel confined, then we truly limit our possibilities. And so I'm like, okay, first of all, I'll just jump out of that imaginary box. If you don't even probably be realized that you're in, but you are right. I know I am
2 (47m 30s):
This, I am this Now actually, we are all of these things and give yourself permission, right? To pursue the other aspects of your life that have interest for you. Right? So often it's our self definition. That is self-limiting. I, you know, people say, what's your elevator speech. So like, I'm like, I don't have an elevator speech. I just, I just, as I look back, I just kinda follow the things that I was interested in. I was passionate about and I wanted to make a difference in it. And it's taken me in a variety of different fields and I'm not done yet, which is the beauty of it. And so I, in my Talk, as you know, Ted, I, I will go back to that.
2 (48m 13s):
I use these two defining words, which is why not? What is your, why not a question? Why not do this? And when you start to frame your world with why not, as opposed to why you are giving yourself precision your self permission to pursue what is possible. And I think that is a big life opener for a lot of people. And also be, I guess it unstick to use it as, as, as it pertains to your question, right? How do you get them stuck? Ask yourself why not?
1 (48m 47s):
I traveled the country speaking as well. I do leadership communication workshops for corporations. And I talk a lot about the importance of today, cutting through the noise, cutting through the clutter, finding a way to get noticed, not waiting for people to take notice very in line with the things you're talking about. And my thing is be the green shoe. Find a way to stand out when you stand up, you've done so many different things that you should be proud of. My final question is what do you want to be remembered for? Donna? What is it about you? And I know it's sometimes uncomfortable for people to actually talk about their greatest gifts or strengths, et cetera. But what is it you want to be remembered for the legacy that helped you stand out?
2 (49m 32s):
You know, that's like, but that's a question you get when you're really old, isn't it. So I'm not really comfortable with that question. It's funny. I will give you my blink on this, which is, it was just interesting to me, but I'll, I'll, I'll share it. It cause there's, you know, like, yeah, this is a lot of great work or whatever. I like to remember. I'll be remembered as a mom who loved her kids and brought them great value and, and make their lives better.
1 (50m 4s):
C that's what, to me, separates people who can take all their successes and still have their true core value. It says everything about who you are and why you work. Not what you do. Very impressive. Donna now this has been fun. I can't thank you. Yeah, really cool. And I'm all the best with everything you've made such a big impact. And, and now I, no, the reason for many of my things that I've been able to do as well, they're all tied to you. Thank you so much. Donna
0 (50m 37s):
Thank you. If they see a producer in your team, Kraig like, we'll keep talking. Okay. You got it. Take care.
1 (50m 45s):
In our conversation. Donna has shared the story behind her book called wows dumb, the girl's guide to the positive and the possible. And that leads me to my one last thing. If you want to be an influencer, keep the word. Wow. In your own personal dictionary at Kann advisory group, we talk about helping companies take the What and then deliver the wow. What that means is that everyone does or tries to do something, but it's not really what you do that matters so much. It's how you do it. And having a wow factor is what gets people to take notice, no matter what you do focus your energy on delivering something that makes people go wow, stopping them in their tracks, pausing to pay attention.
1 (51m 30s):
The world is filled with people trying to break through the noise. Donna dealt with that at the WNBA. I did it at the LPGA. Getting people to take notice is not an easy thing. If you want to be relevant, what you need to do is spend time doing relevant things. The rest simply won't move the needle. So go for the wow. You're Tracks To Success, we'll be a whole lot easier. Do me a favor. Take a moment. Share this podcast with somebody you think would enjoy it the way you did and give it a rating too. It helps until next time. I'm Kraig Kann thanks for listening.
0 (52m 11s):
You've been listening to Tracks To Success brought to you by presentation partners, visual storytellers, passionate about connecting presenters with their audience. Don't forget to subscribe to the show for more great interviews and thoughts on reaching your highest personal and professional summit. You can follow Kraig on Twitter and Instagram using the handle at Kraig Kann and four exclusive Tracks To Success content and news about our upcoming guests. You can find Tracks To Success on Twitter. It's at Tracks To Success.