Coach Bill Hart is used to getting odd looks when he arrives at speaking events. Since he’s made a habit of sporting combat boots with a business suit tucked in at the ankles, that’s just par for the course.
The Southern California-based coach and speaker built a 25-year sales and consulting career in the real estate and mortgage industries before joining Building Champions in 2003. He’s passionate about helping people discover what they really want in business and life, and helping them close the gaps between their dreams and reality.
Over the past six years, Bill has also become an enthusiastic ambassador for Boot Campaign, a nonprofit that supports the military community by raising awareness and providing assistance for servicemen and women who are making the often difficult transition back to civilian life. As part of its fundraising efforts, the organization sells combat boots and encourages people to wear them to show patriotism and support.
Bill’s passion for our troops has inspired him to write a new book, due out summer 2018, and has led him to don his Boot Campaign combat boots at every speaking event. We recently sat down with Bill to talk about how these experiences have impacted his leadership and his life.
Building Champions: What is Boot Campaign, and how did you get involved?
Bill Hart: Boot Campaign is a military charity that was started in 2009 by five women in Texas who had read the book “Lone Survivor” by retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. They were so moved by the book that they came up with the idea of creating a visible way to show support. The whole idea behind Boot Campaign is that it builds awareness, promotes patriotism and provides assistance — a way to help our men and women when they come home. Their slogan is “When They Come Back, We Give Back.”
Boot Campaign came across my Facebook feed at some point, probably six years ago — and while I have never served in the military, I have always been patriotic. My dad served in the Navy in WWII as most men did during that time, and my brother-in-law was a Navy Pilot during the Vietnam era.
As a coach, I spend so much time with people who are very successful, and I was struck by the juxtaposition of these young men and women, who train unbelievably hard, who deploy and often have to fight beyond what is reasonable for each other and for our country, and who do so for a fraction of what many of our clients earn monetarily. So I reached out to the founders, and that evolved into a role as an ambassador — I committed to wearing my boots every time I have a speaking engagement. I’m also now honored to serve on Boot Campaign’s Advisory Board.
BC: How do people react when they see you wearing the boots?
BH: To this day, even if I'm wearing a suit, I tuck my pants into my military boots. When people see me come down in the hotel elevator in the morning, they give me odd looks — and then when I explain it onstage, people get it, of course, and they appreciate it and support it. It's all about building awareness.
BC: We hear you’re currently working on a book: “White Collar Warrior — Lessons for Sales Professionals From America’s Military Elite.” Can you give us an update on the project?
BH: I just met for two days last week with my co-author, Bill Blankschaen, and we laid out each of the chapters. We went through the individual interviews I have done with Navy SEALS, Army Rangers and other members of our special forces to determine what stories and tidbits we have there for each of the chapters.
He turned on a recorder all day for both days and just vacuumed my brain — he took what he could out of what I think and what I've learned from 14 years in the coach's chair. My job now is to do some more interviews with sales professionals and sales leaders from other industries.
The chapters focus on training, discipline, fear, business planning (mission planning), failure, motivation and team — as in, "Your training is the foundation of everything," "Your discipline will determine your success" and "Your fear must become your friend."
We've signed with Post Hill Press, and the book is scheduled to release around Father's Day 2018.
BC: Between writing the book and supporting Boot Campaign, how has getting involved with our troops impacted your leadership and your life?
BH: I wear a bracelet every day; it's called a KIA bracelet — Killed in Action — and it has Michael Monsoor's name on it.
Michael was a young man who lived in San Diego. He was a surfer, enjoyed life as much as anybody, and he joined the Navy and eventually decided to become a SEAL. On Sept. 29, 2006, he was in Ramadi, Iraq, on top of a building with two of his SEAL teammates and two Iraqi soldiers. At some point one of the insurgents tossed a hand grenade up on the roof, and it bounced off his chest pack and landed on the floor in front of him. In a split second, he yelled, “Grenade!” and jumped on it to save the others — and he died 20 minutes later from mortal wounds. He was 25.
I heard Michael’s story and now I wear that bracelet every day, because it reminds me of what true sacrifice looks like — what “all-in” means. What I've learned from these veterans is that we can say, “Thank you for your service,” and they appreciate that, of course. But when you really get into a conversation with them, they'll tell you that the greatest way that we can thank them is to live life to the fullest.
So I close every one of my talks with that story of Mikey Monsoor, who also was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and every one of my talks is dedicated to Mikey. The idea is, he’s not the only modern military hero — unfortunately, we have thousands of these men and women who have paid the ultimate price for us and our freedoms. And if the survivors who come home are saying, “All we really want you to do is live your life full-out,” then I'm going to live full-out every single day. That’s my message.