BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.
BE MODERN MAN RANDALL “R.J.” HARRIS
Profession: Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Entrepreneur, Adviser
One Word That Describes You: Creative
What does being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees mean to you?
As a kid growing up, I remember my father reading Black Enterprise on a daily basis as a rising entrepreneur. To be honored by such a prestigious publication in our community, I feel humbled by the recognition and inspired to continue to develop as a business leader.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work in the highly competitive sports and entertainment industry. Despite the high percentage of black athletes on the court/field, it is difficult to get your foot in the corporate door of many sports organizations. This shortage has been a driving force for the mentorship role I have played with a number of young minority professionals and students that I have worked with to find job opportunities. Additionally, I founded a mentorship program called “Locked In” with a group of like-minded friends to help develop students through key principles that will help them excel in life.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
Early in my career, I was working for a sports marketing agency called Fenway Sports Management (FSM) that owned the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC, and a strategic partnership with LRMR Marketing. Being one of the younger representatives within the company, the larger corporate accounts were managed by the senior executives in the organization. To succeed, I had to develop a strategy for a path that would be met with the least resistance. I created my own lane within the company through identifying burgeoning technology startups (e.g., Airbnb) and helping them scale their business through developing creative sports marketing platforms. Based on the marketing partnerships I forged, I was able to demonstrate to the sports industry my ability to lead business negotiations from start to finish.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact”?
My extraordinary impact is through changing the narrative of what a black man in sports looks like. One of the most challenging aspects of our community is a lack of exposure to certain industries. Through excelling behind the scenes, I have been able to help create openings into the industry for diverse candidates.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Energy, Respect, Integrity, Authenticity, and Challenging Growth.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
Currently, I am working for Oak View Group (OVG), which was founded by Tim Leiweke (former AEG president) and backed by Azoff MSG Entertainment. We are developing and managing sports and live entertainment venues around the world, including new state-of-the-art arenas in Seattle ($600M+ redevelopment of KeyArena, NBA and NHL tenants) and Belmont, New York (partnership with the New York Islanders). Additionally, I am responsible for overseeing our agency relationship with the Portland Trail Blazers as we help them identify a corporate partner for their NBA Jersey Patch.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Forget networking and embrace relationship building. When you create connections based on shared interests and goals, you’ll be more successful at your job, because people want to work with people they know and like.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
You have the opportunity to make an impact in your own community. It’s our responsibility to uplift the next generation and we all have lessons that can help expose them to insights that can spark growth. Don’t wait for the right time when you can change people’s lives today.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I am a big advocate of preparation prior to business meetings. I believe in researching industry trends, recent news, and personal background on the people in the company. By leveraging research tools (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Crunchbase) and industry publications (e.g., AdAge, Marketing Daily, Mashable, SportTechie), I usually feel confident on how to put together an effective strategy on the ways that I can create marketing and business solutions for brands.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
I love to travel the world and experience different cultures. Last year, I went to Tokyo with some of my friends from Locked In. We had a great time exploring the culture, cuisine, and nightlife the city had to offer.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would have to say Ghana. My family completed our genealogy test and discovered our ancestors are from there. We have always wanted to visit our roots to better connect with our African heritage.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I would like to thank my parents for instilling the belief that I could accomplish anything that I put my mind to. Without their support and guidance, I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in today.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the 2nd Annual Black Men XCEL, Aug. 29–Sept. 2, 2018, at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.