Executives Spotlight stories appeared on this website starting in 2001. Some of the executive's professional experience may have changed since they were published.
Spotlight - August 14, 2002
Paula Oyer Berezin
President, IEG Corporate Consulting
Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden said, "Learn as if you're going to live forever. And live as if you're going to die tomorrow."
With the sudden death of my father at age 63 back in 1987, I took those words to heart as my executive search business, TeamWork Consulting, got launched. What's so wonderful about the recruiting business, is the many people with whom I must interact - interview, know, analyze and learn from to be able to either assist them in seeing whether they are right for a job for which I am recruiting, or in recruiting candidates to work for them.
Paula Oyer Berezin, a woman many years younger than I, was my teacher way back when. She was a colleague of mine on the board of the Women's Sports Foundation. Paula seemed like a pesky one, when we met at an IEG Conference. Paula was thrilled that the Women's Sports Foundation was undergoing a complete renovation, and solicited ideas from its board members on how the organization should be structured and to recruit a new Executive Director. She was excited! Looking back, I should have understood.
Paula was about 22 years old when she first became head of a national Olympic governing body, U.S. Synchronized Swimming and grew the annual revenues from $50,000 to $500,000. At age 26, she jumped into U.S. Rowing Association and grew that from about $1.5 million to $3.5 million a year. Here she was in her early 30s and another not-for-profit to conquer, yet this one as a volunteer board member! Wow!
Paula cornered me at this conference and drew pages with boxes dividing boxes. This one represented coaches; this represented athletes; this one represented corporate sponsor support...and so on. I was dizzy. Then she went on to explain how the ideal Executive Director is able to work all these volunteer groups, put them into membership issues, and talk with the leaders before board meetings and...voila!...the whole organization moves by leaps and bounds and there are members, money, sponsors and more. Yuck, my entrepreneurial self answered. How about, "Here's the issue, here's the answer - you have to do it my way or the highway?"
Whoa! The thinking process of an Executive Director who reports to a board and manages volunteers and junior staff is different from that of an entrepreneur or a person in a traditional hierarchy, such as a team. Executive Directors must lead by making their members believe they are the ones giving direction to the CEO/Executive Director. The job is best for those selfless and patient types.
Donna Lopiano was selected for the WSF position, and she has done an outstanding job in keeping women's sports issues at the forefront. Because of Donna, we've had new women's leagues get started...the ABL, WNBA, WUSA and Women's professional football, and hosted the most well-attended women's sporting event in the century, the 1999 Women's World Cup. Not surprisingly, the org chart Paula envisioned is still the model of the Women's Sports Foundation today.
Is it ironic? Paula went on to give strategic advice to corporations and organizations and event promoters on the intricacies of sponsorship, at, yes, that same place where we met so many years ago, IEG.
They say, "We must understand we are all students and teachers at the same time." This, I know. Paula taught me the mindset one needs to be a successful leading an association. She has since become my model for subsequent CEO/Executive Directors for whom I've searched throughout the years.
- Buffy Filippell
"Paula helped us to grow a successful Brand Partnership program at Pebble Beach. She is a brilliant strategist. She is truly a success story."
--Diane Stracuzzi, Vice President Marketing, Pebble Beach Company
What I do...
Paula advises organizations and corporations on how to make sponsorships more profitable.
HOW I GOT HERE...
IEG, Inc.; Chicago, IL; 1991-present
President, IEG Consulting
UNITED STATES ROWING ASSOCIATION; Indianapolis, IN; 1985-1991
Publisher, American Rowing Association
Board of Directors, International Olympic Rowing Federation (FISA)
U.S. SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING, INC.; Indianapolis, IN; 1981-1985