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ROS - Return On Stories - The UGA Bus Story

Many football seasons ago… I was a sophomore at the University of Georgia. On a fall Sunday afternoon, seven friends and I were on our way for a round of golf just outside Athens. We passed a flea market on the drive over to the golf course. Sitting on the front lawn of the flea market, sparkling in all its glory and camouflage green paint, was a 1985 GMC, 52-foot school bus. As we continued to the course, my good friend, always known for his crazy ideas, James Bauer had another one.

"We should buy the bus and make it into a tailgating machine.”

After about nine holes and a couple of beers each, the eight of us and two other helpless friends scrounged up the $2,000 necessary to purchase the most beautiful “Partridge Family” want-to be school bus ever.

Now, all we had to do to buy a 52-foot bus for 2,000 dollars was to convince the owner our $2,000 was enough. In this negotiation, I learned the power of being a poor college student and only having 2,000 dollars. The seller wanted $4,000, so we had to keep negotiating. And we didn't have any more money, so we just held firm. ( special note: not the ideal position to be in)

Finally, I knew we had the deal done when he said, "I have to ask his wife," and I heard her from the background say, "Sell that damn bus." So we picked up the bus and drove it back to our apartment complex. Little did we know that this was the start of a story that changed our lives.

We worked on the bus throughout the next couple of months. Clearing out the inside, painting it Red, Black, and White (Go Dawgs!), we started to make our passion the ultimate in Bulldawg history, or so we thought.

We installed generators to play music and run the electronics. We insured it as an RV so we could legally drink in it while parked at the tailgates. We set our goal to have it ready for a maiden voyage to, the Georgia Vs Florida game in Jacksonville. While all of this was fun and exciting, the story's next phase is what took it to the next level.

We needed more money for the bus, apparently, our “budget” was a little short-sided. So, in full entrepreneurial spirit, I came up with an idea to sell UGA T-Shirts to make the money needed to complete the bus. The unique part of this idea was that we were going to pitch a print company to sponsor the bus, and in return for allowing them to advertise on the bus, we would ask for T-Shirts at cost. The following Monday, I put on my best suit (truth be told, my only suit), hopped into the bus, and drove to the print company. I began seeing the power of a story and a vision on that day.

I talked to the owner about our plans for what we wanted to do. I shared our vision of the future and set the stage for an epic impact on UGA folklore and history. He was excited to invest in us, and he put two big UGA logo’s on the bus and a picture of the Georgia mascot eating a Florida Gator on the back. In turn, he agreed to sell us 1,000 shirts for the cost.

We had shirts made that used the name of the top running back and said Go Dawgs (we weren't aware that was an NCAA violation at the time.) Once we had them printed and my credit card maxed out, we started to sell them.

About two weeks after selling them to our friends and family, we still had about 950 shirts left. Obviously, the market was unaware of the future collectability of these shirts, but we never lost hope.

As aspiring future marketing professionals, we realized that there is a solution in every problem, and now it was time for some PR. I contacted the school newspaper and told them our story. They jumped at the opportunity to write a story about us. The 100-year-old icon, the “Red and Black” featured us on the front page of the special edition newspaper for the UGA vs FL game. We all wore T-Shirts, which amplified the story. We began to receive calls from alumni, students, and fans, all wanting to be a part of our adventure and buy our shirts. We sold them for 10 dollars to students and 20 dollars to alumni. My mom was fielding calls at the house and taking orders since the phone number on the school directory was my home phone.

In the end, we sold all of the shirts, avoided trademark prosecution (now we know) and were able to make a lot of people happy. All for a simple reason…we had a vision and believed in ourselves.

We had a fantastic experience with the bus. We turned it into a business, created a website, and made enough money to fund our adventures. As you might guess, the bus did not have a long life physically, but it lives on today in the memories of that fall season.

This effort and the magic of what we did got many of us our first jobs after we graduated college and is responsible for millions of dollars of sales.

People buy from people based on emotion, and very few emotions are stronger than SEC football. So, what does this have to do with your personal development, sales, and being elite? This experience taught me the ROS or Return On a Story.

We did not realize it at the time, but we were creating something special. With simple goals and a deadline (the game date) combined with a little sweat equity, a few guys with imagination and will power created "The Bus Story"

I want to challenge you to create stories in your life that will continue to support your goals and are just plain fun. Even if you don’t realize it when it's happening, these memorable moments matter in life. They are something special and need to be told. Stop chasing what others are doing and start creating your original stories.

As my good friend Benjamin Franklin said, "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

If Ben was here today, I am sure he would agree that if it is worth writing, it's worth telling. And those stories can change your life.

Wrapping this up

  • Stories are a powerful tool in your life and career

  • Keep yourself and your team focused on creating the future

  • Ask yourself the question – What story do I want to tell in three years – in five years?

  • Create your stories and see for yourself what Return On Stories they produce, even when its lost in the moment – it matters.


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