Episode #297: Liz Clark, CEO, IHRSA

Episode #297: Liz Clark, CEO, IHRSA

Liz Clark


Pete Moore: This is your host, Pete Moore. And I am pleased and humbled to announce the launch of my one and only book Time to win again, 52 takeaways from playing and watching team sports to ensure your business success.

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Pete Moore: This is Pete Moore on halo talks NYC on location, Dallas, Texas, IHRSA 2021. Finally, in person, I have the pleasure of having Liz Clark. Join me on halo talks, welcoming her with open arms to the industry. Welcome to the show.

Liz Clark: Thanks so much, Pete, and really excited to be here.

Pete Moore: Awesome. So first off I was in Montana two days ago, and I had a great time. So why don’t you talk about your background and I know you do a little bit of hunting and do a little bit of outdoor wilderness.

Liz Clark: Yeah, man. Well, it’s, God’s country out there and I’ll tell you, I was really blessed to have grown up out there. My family moved out when I was I don’t know, like eight or nine, and then I was out there until I was 15 or 16, so real like formidable years and came from a very active family. And so yeah, when I think I shot my first year when I was 12 or 13 and then you know, active, like fishing all the time and then just everything about I’m what makes Montana freaking amazing is the skiing and the hiking and, you know, lived on a lake. And so I had a canoe and yeah, just, I mean, just an awesome, awesome place to grow up and my brother are still out there. So I actually my husband’s the one who encouraged me last year.

Liz Clark: He said, you know, you should go spend some time with your brother out in Montana. And I’m like, well, all my brother does is hunt. So if I’m going to spend any time with him, I probably have to go on a hunting trip. And so that’s essentially what happened. I put in for this tag, it’s called a coming home to hunt tag and I didn’t know if I’d get it. And I got it. And I was like, oh man, now I actually got to go on this trip and hadn’t shot a gun in 25 years. It was quite, I mean, I’m a city kid now I live in Washington, DC and went out and you know, spent 10 days out there and ended up it’s a crazy story. But at the end of the day shot a monster bull elk and like record breaking animal. Yeah. And now I’ve been eating me and my family been eating elk meat, you know, every meal of the day for a year.

Pete Moore: So I was playing golf out in, out in Whitefish and Kalispell. So I wasn’t, as a, I had different set of weapons, which were some irons

Liz Clark: Beautiful time of year. I love golf.

Pete Moore: We’re in Kalispell. I got to get the names, there’s one in Whitefish. And then we went down to one in Kalispell. So it was nice to get out there as

Liz Clark: A beautiful two months. And then

Pete Moore: We came in and then, and the trees were changing colors and it was just like, well, I understand why people live here. So well, welcome to the industry. So, you know, your background, I’m kind of unique, you know, I did some research and he said, you start out in, in sports management. So obviously, you know, there, there’s a big part of public speaking and being present, you know, in, in the association world and in public policy. So maybe talk us through the progression was from what your initial passion was and how you’ve kind of morphed it and now to where you are today.

Liz Clark: Yeah, you bet. So, I mean, I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I was a three varsity sport athlete in high school and then in college I was on the crew team. And so yeah, my, my undergrad was in sports mark. No, what was it? Broadcasting radio, television, sports broadcasting. So I loved it cause I’ve just been very interested in it my whole life. And then as I sort of ended college, I was getting job offers in cities that I was not wild about. And I was like, you know, I don’t know that I really want to go live until Lido and, you know, because you got to work your way up and these markets, like you don’t just start on ESPN. And so I actually just came to Washington DC. I had a bunch of friends there and got into the association world.

Liz Clark: It was really weird. And with that obviously came a lot of public speaking, but also a total exposure into the policy world and what associations do. And then I’ve just been on this trajectory with associations my entire time. And it, Ben, this is now my fourth one. So it’s been a pretty cool spot to land and, you know, always had an interest in, in public policy. But you know, now at that, at the helm and being at an association that needs to pivot to focus more on policy, it’s a pretty cool time to be here.

Pete Moore: Yeah. So, you know, being part of the candy industry you know, obviously a lot different dynamics than the fitness industry, but what are, what are some of the, you know, lessons learned that, Hey, look, whatever the product or whatever the industry is like, there’s a certain set of facts or rules that you have to abide by in order to get policies, you know, proliferated in your favor.

Liz Clark: Yeah. You know, I mean, so the industries themselves actually, it’s really interesting. I’ve only been on the job two months now, but I’ve seen a lot of comparisons that a lot of small businesses, a lot of innovative thinkers. And that’s what happens in candy to the candy comes up with five or 6,000 new skews of candy every year. So it’s a really creative people that, you know, pull their bootstraps up and, you know, put their personal finances on the line, you know, to, to just very similar to this industry. So that said, you know, as you look at advocating for policy and what that makes it, I really am a trained advocate. And so what you can do with that is you can really advocate for anything. But for me, it was important to advocate for something I really believe in. And that’s what makes this industry so amazing. And, and there’s ways, and you know about advocacy that are important, but you got to have data. You got to have the stats you’ve got have, you know, a good team around you. You’ve got to have relationships with Congress, relationships with communicators and, you know, you kind of package all that up and then that’s your advocacy program, right?

Pete Moore: So when you take a look at IHRSA and I think IHRSA got some undue heat when the pandemic hit, because collectively we funded IHRSA to basically create a trade show and create some marketing materials, which have been very helpful. And some data high level data that that’s helped guys like us bring private equity and venture capital into the space because we could show that there’s third-party data and that this industry has got the wind that it sells it so on and so forth. So when the pandemic hit, it’s like, oh, versus not doing this well, they don’t have money to do, like, you didn’t give them any money. So why can you, you can’t blame them for this.

Liz Clark: Yeah. Well, and it wasn’t even the money. It was frankly just the mission and the structure of what we were doing. Right. I mean, we were working on trade show. We had publications, but we were never a advocacy focused organization. We, we did do a lot of advocacy at the state level, but nothing federally. We just weren’t structured that way. That wasn’t the mission of the board. But obviously over time, that became very critical, which was, you know, why they wanted a very deliberate shift into, into focusing on that today. So you’re right. We were, you know, we weren’t prepared, we weren’t ready at the time when we needed to be, when this whole thing went down. I mean, nobody saw pandemic coming or what that was going to mean about like arguing on who’s essential and whatnot. But we definitely were, you know, behind when, when all that came to be. And so we found ourselves here now, and that’s why it’s a new day.