Getting to Know You: Ivan De Irish, Sports Management Executive, Entrepreneur, Author, and Philanthropist

Born in the Bronx and raised in Bridgeport, CT, Ivan De Irish believed his future would be like that of so many others who came from the area: He would work a 9-5 job for years just to earn enough to get by.

Luckily for him, his parents saw the breadth of his potential. They strongly encouraged him to attend college in order to increase his career prospects. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Temple University in Philadelphia, Ivan was accepted to graduate school at George Washington University in the District of Columbia, where he earned his master’s degree in Professional Studies. While in grad school, he took a class that focused on the creation of small businesses. It was this class that sparked Ivan’s interest in creating and owning his own business.

It took some time for Ivan to find his real passion. He knew he wanted to give back to his hometown and other similar communities. The encouragement he received throughout his time in school pushed him to seek out a successful career, and he wanted to share that success. Finding the best way to give back became his new focus. He is now the vice-president of The Color A Positive Thought Organization, an inner-city based non-profit, as well as the co-founder and president of Legacy Management & Consulting Group. Ivan is also a published author and philanthropist. He has used his own inspirational story as a guide to show young people in underserved communities that they can reach any goal they set. The biggest lesson Ivan De Irish wants to share with the world is that, with the right discipline and perseverance, you can achieve anything.

What do you currently do at your company?

In my role as vice-president for the non-profit, I provide leadership. My approach to how a business should be run is that you should lead by example. We do a lot of work with underprivileged and underserved youth. I provide that leadership to both the inner-city youth we work with and to my colleagues. On the sports management and consulting side of things, I work to ensure that we keep a team atmosphere. We are an integrity-based firm. The day-to-day work is delegated amongst several of us. It’s important to me that my co-workers see and understand why working with integrity and respect is the cornerstone of a successful career. I like to think outside the box. I like to use my creativity to come up with new ideas on how to genuinely reach the kids and clients we work with. For the non-profit, I find the best way of accomplishing this is to create programs that are interactive and interesting. It’s important for the kids to be active and connected to whatever it is they are doing.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

In grad school, I took a course on legal studies. The primary focus was to teach the class how to start a business, how to create a limited liability corporation, and other types of businesses. As we studied the various corporations, we had a project that walked us through the actual process of starting your own business. It’s such an easy process when equipped with the right tools. Very quickly after I completed the course, I started my first business. You don’t have to be Thomas Edison to do that. Inspiration can come from unexpected sources—it doesn’t always have to be a brand new idea. You can just be going about your day and run into a situation where you see a need for improvement. Maybe you’re using a product and think of a way to make it better. If you can then take that inspiration and find a way to market it, by creating a new business, you have the potential to be very successful.

What defines your way of doing business?

When I’m looking to expand my business with new team members, I look for those who have strengths in areas that I don’t. I want to have as well-rounded a company as I possibly can. Obviously, you need to find people who share the same vision you do, but if we all have the same talents, other areas may falter. So, I look for people who thrive in a team-oriented environment where we are all using our individual strengths to reach our collective goals. I look for experience and a willingness to work within the team.

What keys to being productive can you share?

Discipline is the key to being productive. You can come up with the ideas, but if you lack the discipline to work toward realizing them, you’ll get nowhere. That’s why it’s important to take time to sit down and prioritize whatever you are working on. Once you have everything laid out and put it in order, things become much easier. Then you can start working toward finishing the first step, then the next, and so on. Be prepared to put in the work. It may be hard work at times. Keep going. Check in with your team to be sure they are accomplishing their goals on time. When you work together, you will be productive. Discipline and hard work are the two key ingredients to productivity.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career.

My long-term goal is to build a company that provides financial comfort for myself and my family. By that I mean not just my biological family, but everyone in my company. I want to build something that will be here for years to come. The world has been moving in the direction of automation, and businesses have been transformed by new technology for many, many years now. It’s a constantly changing field, and I’m always learning about it. As a long-term goal, I would love to create a company or business that will generate wealth whether I am there or not.

How do you measure success?

Success is different for everyone. From my point of view, I see it as when someone has reached the personal goals they set for themselves. That could be personal wealth. It could be building something extraordinary. It could be just creating a comfortable life for your family. Whatever your goals are, success is found when you reach them. On a smaller scale, when I am working on a project, I measure my success by reaching each individual goal on the way to completing the work. Each success for me leads to another goal. That is how I have built my company.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned over the course of my career is to always treat others how you want to be treated. It seems like such a small, easy thing, but it really does make all the difference. Treat everyone with respect and act with integrity. Regardless of the industry you are in, no one will reach out to you if they feel like you will cheat them or not follow through. It is much better to be known as a company that delivers on its promises. Also, another valuable lesson is don’t take shortcuts. Stay on the right path, even if it is a difficult one. Build a good reputation and work daily to maintain it.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

First and foremost, be disciplined and be ready to work hard. Surround yourself with people who are like-minded and better at doing things than yourself. Make sure they value honesty and integrity as much as you do. Work together with your combined strengths to accomplish your goals. Find mentors and learn all you can from them. They have experienced many of the things you are going through and can guide you in the right direction. Success isn’t a sprint. Building and maintaining a successful business is a long-distance marathon. Stay humble and be willing to learn new methods. Accept that some things may not work out as expected, but those are the moments where you can learn the most.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

Philanthropy has been something I’ve been involved in for many years. I really enjoy being able to give back to the community and to those who need resources or guidance. There are moments when you can actually see the spark of understanding occur within a young person—the moment they realize that they can accomplish their goals. Sometimes, fostering this spark is as simple as spending time with a young person and showing them what is possible. Doing so can introduce them to a world they may have thought was beyond their reach. I really love spending my free time doing this. It is such a meaningful experience for everyone involved, not least of all me.

How would your colleagues describe you?

My colleagues would most likely say that I am very professional, determined, and passionate about any business I pursue. They would say I am trustworthy, approachable, and open to learn new things. If they know me really well, they would say that I don’t procrastinate. I’m always looking toward the next steps in whatever I’m doing.

How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?

Everything I do in my life is something that I’m passionate about. Whether I’m at work or spending time with my family, it’s invariably something that I really love to do. A lot of my family is involved with what I do, especially the nonprofit stuff. The great thing about genuinely being in love with what you do is that it never feels like you’re working. You can find a balance quite easily when you bring in the people you love along to help with doing the things that you love.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

My father is the person who instilled in me the importance of working with integrity and discipline. From a very young age, these foundations were set in place. He worked in law enforcement and always followed these principles, so it wasn’t about just saying it, but actually doing it. And I got to see it being done. I think witnessing that first-hand is just as important as any verbal advice, and it’s something that I have kept with me throughout my career. Without discipline, there is chaos.