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Entrepreneurs
Business Observer Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 6 years ago

Game Gurus

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Leaving the confines of a parent company, especially one with a powerful global brand, can be nerve-wracking. Entrepreneur Steven Shenbaum, though, says his firm's growth was stunted with the status quo.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Executives who wonder how to harness the power of social media to grow their business should query Bradenton entrepreneur Steve Shenbaum.

Shenbaum, founder of a communications training firm, struck Olympic gold earlier this year when star U.S. Women's National Team soccer player Abby Wambach boasted about his company on Twitter. Shenbaum, through his firm, Game On Nation, led the soccer team in two 90-minute team-building sessions, including one held in Sarasota before the Olympics.

One tweet in particular, disseminated to Wambach's 214,443 followers June 29, was heavenly word-of-mouth. Wrote Wambach: “@SteveShenbaum comes in and wows us again. Fortune 500 co, coaches, small biz owners, call this man to get the best out of each other.”

The tweet was not only an exceptional testimonial, but it was timely, too. That's because only two weeks before, Shenbaum's firm left its parent company, Bradenton-based IMG Academy. Game On, founded in 1997, had been at IMG since 2003. It helped young athletes improve their communication skills at the prominent sports training facility.

“It would have been easy to stay there and stay cozy,” says Shenbaum. “But there was a limit to how much we can grow there.”

Shenbaum, in conjunction with Game On's other full-time employee, Blair Bloomston, now hopes to lead the firm into non-sports arenas. The company intends to build a client base of national and Gulf Coast businesses, while still working with professional, collegiate and Olympic athletes and teams.

Current and recent past sports clients include the New York Yankees, football player Eli Manning and hockey player Sidney Crosby. Game On also recently put together sessions for its first two business clients since leaving IMG: Sarasota Ford and Norton, Hammersley, Lopez & Skokos, a Sarasota law firm.

Shenbaum realizes in exiting IMG he will enter a crowded field, where dozens of Power Point-armed business coaches and training experts battle for business. Shenbaum nonetheless believes the Power Point-less Game On curriculum, with a focus on four attributes — leadership, communications, self-awareness and self-confidence — will win out. “We don't want to position ourselves as corporate training gurus,” says Shenbaum. “We know there's a lot of us out there.”

While Shenbaum, an actor with 15 credited movie and TV roles, is excited about Game On's opportunities, he's also cognizant of growing too fast. In fact, Shenbaum says he turned away some business that came in after the Wambach tweets, for fear the curriculum would be diluted if the company took on too much.

The growth plan, instead, is to train and certify a nationwide group of already established motivational speakers and business coaches in the Game On method. Shenbaum and Bloomston will train the first group of coaches in early October at a four-day seminar scheduled for the Longboat Key Club.
“We want to create a depth to our business,” says Shenbaum. “We want to continue to share this curriculum.”

This story has been updated to correct that Game On was founded in 1997 but has been located at IMG since 2003. It also updated the businesses it has served since leaving IMG.

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