Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Entrepreneur Tackles a Business in 120 Days

We’ve all heard about “accidental” business success—just look at the famous story of Kingsford Charcoal: today’s leading manufacturer of charcoal in the United States was accidently developed from Ford Motor Company’s factory wastes in the 1920’s.  Or take a look at Play-Doh: this non-toxic, non-staining, reusable modeling compound was originally wallpaper cleaner until kids began molding it to make Christmas ornaments. 
But were these stories really “accidents” or did these entrepreneurs succeed simply because they had no idea what they were up against?  Did each entrepreneur simply have luck on their side, or did they become a success because they didn’t see the option of failure? 

Tyler Prochnow seems to think that perhaps its a little of both.

Tyler Prochnow
Founder of Kansas City Brigade
Co-Founder of Think Big Partners
To say that Prochnow knows how to launch a business is an understatement.  As co-founder of Think Big Partners and current President of two other companies (Connexsus Technology Solutions and ACS Properties), entrepreneurialism runs in his blood.  But it’s Prochnow’s greatest success story that proves that anything is possible if you don’t know what you can’t do.  In 2006, Prochnow launched a successful Arena Football League Franchise, not in one year, not in 6 months, but in 120 days.

After conducting due diligence for an 11-year NFL veteran with an interest in investing in an AFL team, Prochnow's eyes were opened to the world of Arena Football.
“The very things that the AFL promoted were the things that I believed Kansas City supported—family entertainment, giving back to the community, players that were accessible, and most of all, football,” says Prochnow.

Over the course of several months, Prochnow studied the League, did due diligence on the Kansas City market, and made a presentation to the League's owners on the viability of a Kansas City team.  Prochnow was approved as the owner of the expansion franchise and was set to begin play in the 2007 season. 

This is where fate intervened.  In the fall of 2006, the AFL New Orleans VooDoo team suspended their operations due to Hurricane Katrina.  Prochnow saw a business opportunity as well as a chance to help the city of New Orleans. 

Prochnow made a presentation to AFL owners about starting play a full year earlier than anticipated.  The League agreed.  And the rest of the word, according to Prochnow, "happened overnight."  And so began the development of the Kansas City Brigade.

Prochnow began hiring immediately and was able to put together what he calls, "the best front office staff ever assembled.  They were the ones responsible for the remarkable success of the franchise."  Even with a world-class staff of people who rolled up their sleeves and worked around the clock, Prochnow found himself putting in 60-hour weeks, often times until 2:30 in the morning.  His days were flooded with up to 100 phone calls and countless meetings.  But he and his team were determined to see the Kansas City Brigade become an AFL success, even if that meant no sleep and an overdose of Coca-Cola.  In other words, living the life of all entrepreneurs launching a new business.
“Anything is possible if you don’t know that you can’t do it,” says Prochnow.  “Looking back, we probably should not have been able to pull of what we did in such a short period of time, but it never crossed anyone’s mind that we couldn’t do it, so we focused on our goals and made it happen.” 
And happen it did.  The first Kansas City Brigade game, held just 120 days after the League gave them approval, attracted over 16,500 fans, even when the capacity at Kemper Arena was only 16,200.  From then on, the Brigade averaged over 15,000 in attendance per game and exceeded 16,000 fans in attendance for more than half their games that season.  To say that Prochnow’s hard work paid off is an understatement. 
“Virtually everything I do in my current business endeavors came from lessons we learned when we launched the Brigade,” he states.  "We made a lot of mistakes, but we learned from every one of them, and that was crucial to the success of the venture."

From hiring talented managers to listening to the customers, Prochnow implemented his business knowledge gleaned from this nearly-impossible business venture into his current business endeavors.

See what amazing things can happen in under 120 days? 
See what amazing things can happen when you Think Big?  
Written by Allison Way.  Allison is a writer and videographer for Think Big Partners, Kansas City’s mentorship-based business incubator and startup accelerator.  To read more of Allison’s work, check out the Kansas City Entrepreneurship Examiner as well as her articles on Helium, BrooWaha, eZine and Newsvine.

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