Transcribed from The Strata Leadership Show podcast. Listen to the full episode here.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: Welcome to The Strata Leadership show, a podcast designed to help you gain clarity, lead effectively, and drive results for yourself, your team, and your organization. I’m your host, Dr. Nathan Mellor. Well, today on the Strata Leadership Show, we have someone that I just met just prior to the podcast. And he was someone that was recommended because of the impact that he’s making in the world and already just having a discussion with him for just a few minutes. It’s clear why this was someone that was sent our way as a leader who is making a difference in people’s lives in profound ways. So I’d like to welcome to the show Mike Beckham. Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike Beckham: Thanks for having me Nathan, it’s great to be with you today.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: Well, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to talk with us about leadership and your life and your life experience and for those who are listening in, Mike is someone who has really been a part of a lot of different types of things, nonprofit, startups, just all kinds of things. And so when you’re looking for someone that has been down the path. Mike’s the kind of guy that’s gonna relate to really almost everybody because of his background and experiences. But Mike, when you began your career and you were looking at your future, I’d like to ask the question to start off is what is one thing you wish you had known when you started your career? What’s one thing that you wish somebody had sat down with you and talked with you about? That you might think would be helpful to leaders listing in today.
Mike Beckham: Great question. I really, there’s two things that jump into my mind. Somehow cheating already. We made it 30 seconds without me coming up with my own answer. But then the first is that when I was a student, there was this very kind of linear view of how my career, my life, right. And I think that, you get kind of conditioned or indoctrinated in that way. You’re thinking pretty early, you know, the very first week of college being asked, OK, what’s your major or what are you gonna do? And so I think that kind of carried through my undergraduate time going to the University of Oklahoma. And this thought process that, you know, whatever decision I made, closes off a bunch of paths and kind of really defines where the rest of my life will go, and for sure I mean that’s true in some ways, like I chose to marry my wife a week after I graduated, and that has become like, you know, a life defining decision. But I think my career has been less linear than I than I anticipated. And I’ve got a very unique, I would say career arc. And one of the things that I think I had a fear of really early on is I’ve got these kind of very different gift things that kind of pull in different directions. And so, the thought process was I need to kind of choose which ones I’m gonna use my career. Now that I’m about 20 years into my career, I can look back and see how really all of them have been important in different seasons and have been used. But I didn’t necessarily anticipate that beginning. So anyway, I graduated from college and I felt like I had kind of two main things I was looking at. I had my finance degree, so I thought about going in, working in the finance world and also thought about getting a PhD and actually teaching finance and then do a number of different things, including the fact that I was getting married. I actually went into the nonprofit bold. And so I spent the first nine years of my life in the non my career in the nonprofit world, and by the time I got to 30, I just had this assumption of, I guess in the nonprofit world, you know, I’m not gonna teach or not gonna use my finance degree. And it turns out I did it just didn’t necessarily go the way that I would have expected. The other thing that I wish that I had been told earlier was to have a growth mindset and I don’t know how familiar with the listeners of your podcast are with fixed mindset growth mindset, but I think I was kind of the classic getting by on natural aptitude through a lot of college. I mean, I was like the guy who wasn’t going to class and then pull the all-nighter and somehow get a good enough grade. And I thought I was kind of beating the system, but what I realized is that was just kind of beating myself, you know, later in life as I’ve matured and I’ve come to really just love learning for learning sake, I wish that I’d had that kind of a growth mindset. Even earlier in my life, because you can’t get those years back. So those would be my two themes that end you know today I do get to teach today at OU, I’m the entrepreneur in residence at OU and I talked to students every week. I encourage them that hey the decisions you make about what to do with your career right out of college those aren’t like permanent and that will just kinda be a launching point and having a growth mindset of whatever it is you choose to do will set you up and continue to grow into the person you want.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: No, I love that you brought up the growth mindset and I think my wife has a threatened to rename me with my middle name being growth mindset.
Mike Beckham: Well, that’s a compliment.
Nathan Mellor Ed.D.: Well, I’ll reframe it that way. You know, because I think she may be a little bit tired of hearing about it, but then I tell her you should have a growth mindset about that. And it doesn’t seem to help a whole lot, but.
Mike Beckham: We’ve got, you know, we talk about and wanted our company and one of the other leaders at our company, his son was fishing recently and he wasn’t catching anything. And so his mom was like, OK, it’s time to go. And he turned around and said, mom, you’re not having a growth mindset about this and going to catch a fish. Pretty awesome when you’re surrounded by people, but even in their families there’s this desire to grow and challenge yourself.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: So if you’re not familiar with this Dr. Carol Dweck, DWECK, at Stanford is the person that is really championing some great work in that field of the growth versus the fixed mindset and the fixed mindset is that idea that what you have is you look at your talent. Your intellect is really all you’re gonna have and you know that’s it. So you do the things that come to you the easiest, whereas the growth mindset would say that brains and talent is just the starting point and you can impact all of those things by the way that you, the way that you think and specifically being willing to take on challenges, believing that you can learn new ways of doing things, and so that’s the really simple overview. It’s a lot more complicated than that and a lot in some ways more elegant than that. It’s a really simple thought, but a very profound one. So you continue on after the age of 30, you have transitioned from being a nonprofit leader. And I know that you and I both have just a great deal of respect for people who can lead nonprofits well and effectively, and then you start applying yourself differently. Tell us about your career and what you end up doing on the for profit side.
Mike Beckham: Yeah. So as I mentioned, by the time I was turning 30, I was leading this nonprofit. And I was kind of a local leader in that non profit. And I have a younger brother who’s about 2 1/2 years younger than I am who had kind of a one man Internet marketing company he was running. So this is like circa 2008, 2009 and we’re really just starting to see the explosion of mobile and it is really expanding in the country and he had done it really well. Running spent one in Internet marketing company but he really wanted to start a more kind of traditional company or more of like a a built out team and he approached me and said, hey, would you be willing to help me do this? Even though I really enjoyed the nonprofit I was. I work with ministry and I really loved it and definitely was excited about the opportunity to be involved in a side project. I was kind of working some different businesses so I said yes and helped recruit a team of people, including my best friend from high school, and we started this Internet auction company called Quibids, and you know, to me it was totally like hey. It just is gonna be some side thing that I’ll work in a few hours a week. So that was about October 2009. By November of 2010, that company was having $1,000,000 revenue days. And so it was every kind of stereotype probably you see I think the social network, it was like the inmates running the asylum so, I was the oldest person associated with this company. I’m 30 and I am full time and it’s just like there’s Perkins at the office. It’s kind of craziness, really rapid growth. My brother, I think was 27 and he’s running, he’s trying to run a company that got up to 200 people almost, you know, immediately. And so it was, it was an incredible experience and a lot of things that I enjoyed a lot of things that I learned from and I’m still kind of, you know, like I said, working almost two full time jobs at this point. And then we got pregnant with our first child, my son Carter. And I got to the point where after he was born, it was like, man, I’m really kind of riding to horses and I can’t be the kind of father I wanna be and do all of the things that I’m doing. So what is the calling here? Where should I be? And that’s when I felt like what we came to was that the calling was to be in the business world. So I thought when I went into the business world, I thought I’ll be here for a few years and then you know, I’ll probably transition back to the non-profit world. So get into the business world, we had some ideas for subsequent businesses. The original business was still going strong, but we had some subsequent business ideas. The first time we tried, you know, put your heart and soul into it. Probably there was a lot of over confidence in Hubris because things had gone so well massively. Devastating, massive failure. And then we kind of pivoted from that, started another one, another failure, but a little bit more promising kind of pivoted from there and started another one, which was, I would say, kind of nominally successful, but by that point we were in this very, very small kind of group of people. This is probably 2014-2015 really had the level of experience we had in college. We had the source products. We run 10s or hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising. We had done over a billion dollars in transactions. And so just a lot of the blocking and taping of how you doing commerce. We were just a couple of brothers in the middle of Oklahoma that happened to have a lot of experience with it. Before this had really become a thing that a lot of people were associated with. And so around that time I hope my brother launch another company that did kind of textile type stuff with pillows and mattresses and action stuff on Amazon and a couple of guys that I’ve worked with that I really respected approached me and said, hey, would you be interested in starting this side project with us? And I said yes, and that company turned into simple modern. When we started, what we knew was culture was incredibly important to us. All three of us had worked together and had been part of this department that had an amazing culture within a larger organization that maybe had a little bit of a different culture. And so we knew how important culture was to us. And then my other thing was I had been fortunate enough to be financially provided for with the first kind of venture that that I’ve been part of that I was able to think about creating a business where making resources for myself was not, it didn’t have to be the primary driver. And so that’s how we came to really this idea that we wanna build a company that does capitalism a little bit differently. But it’s really based on generosity. And so in fact, today simple modern, like our mission statement is we exist to give generously and we are constantly asking ourselves. How do we have we generosity through everything we do, the way that we take care of the team, the way that we, you know, the prices we set for products, for our customers, the way that we treat our partners, you know, kind of holistically. How can we be a company that’s really about everyone wins? Everyone benefits because the company is successful. So anyway that’s that’s what I’m doing today is I’m the co-founder and the CEO of Simple Modern and have been doing that. I think we’re in the sixth year now.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: Well, thank you for giving us a brief overview of an incredible story and to have that experience, but also to have that experience with your brother. What an incredible thing to see some of that together as a family. Looking back at your life there, there were some threads there of different people that you had referenced that connected and it sounds like a lot of life for you is about relationship. When you think about your life and you think about people who have impacted you and who you have become as a leader, who would you say is someone, could you tell us about someone that made an impact on you maybe? A mentor or someone who came along at the right time that helped shape your perspective.
Mike Beckham: Yeah, I think I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of obviously, like my parents. And there’s people in my earlier life, but there are a couple of men. Two men, Sean McGrath, that I had kind of a mentorship kind of relationship with during my 20s and I feel like it was transformational. As I’ve said, sometimes leadership is as much caught as it is taught and watching. I think at our most basic level, what we are are imitators. The words I say, the phrases I use, my mannerisms. If you trace out all the people that I’ve spent time around you, you’ll be like, OK, he stole that from there and kind of borrowed that from over there. And I think we’re all that way. And so a lot of developing as a person is getting examples of people that you look to in these days. I really respect that person. I really would like to be like that person and both of those men kind of served in that role for me. Sean McGrath was the leader of my nonprofit team that I was part of, and I had this great parade, and I love it. He says we had a group of people that kind of cut their teeth together and sometimes we were cutting off on each other. But it’s a great. It’s a great way of describing, you know, there was a group of 20 somethings that were on this team and we were all kind of developing and growing into the adults that we would become and in a lot of times we’re dealing with each other’s jagged edges and helping each other grow, and so I think really the biggest benefit that I had was not only that I have people that could be mentors, but they had enough insight in my day-to-day lives that they could really get into it. I don’t think it’s enough to just have someone that you say they have the title of mentor and you’re talking every so often. There has to be enough transparency and enough insight for each of you to really understand the other one at a little bit deeper level. So I was really fortunate in that regard, but I also would say. I couldn’t take their first. I can learn from anyone, and there are plenty of people in my organization. We’re really asking everybody that’s part of the computer work list today. There are things about them to challenge that I see. And you know, I wanna be more empathetic, like so and so or I wanna be the kind of listener that so and so is. And so I’m also this believer that it’s not always like mentorship in having a warning grow isn’t always just having somebody older than you and kind of have this phone titled some of it is just having an attitude like I want to learn from others, and everyone has something that I could learn from and grow from.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: I can hear in your response, that growth mindset and, for a lot of people who’ve worked closely with people when they first discovered the growth versus fixed mindset, it wasn’t that they discovered something that they didn’t know was true. It was that they discovered the name of something that they had observed already. And so for people like you who are constantly looking to learn, I just love that I love the idea that every person you’re interacting with is an opportunity to learn something else. And so one of the things I referenced probably too much is the study of identical twins who you’re looking at their lives of genetically. How much of leadership is genetics and how much of it is learned and this and that. And the number that seems to come back pretty consistently is between 25 and 30% of leadership is genetic. In about 70% is something that is learned going back to what you were saying before, what is caught not just taught, but when you think about those competencies, that mindset, that approach to life and you think about if we could just sift it down, which is completely unfair, but if you could sift it down to one characteristic that you think every leader should possess, what would be something that you would point to? This is something that just seems to be really important for someone who is trying to be an effective leader.
Mike Beckham: Well, that’s a great question. When you boil leadership down to one thing, I’ll take a stab at it. You can’t be an effective leader if you don’t have a compelling vision of the way that life should be living. People want to believe, they want to believe that their lives have purpose. I believe that everybody’s life has purpose. They they wanna believe that there’s a better way to do things. They don’t wanna be centerfold. They want to be optimistic. But you can’t lead people unless you have in your own mind and heart some kind of a compelling vision. Of the way that the world can be that you can cast brothers and that you can help lead them towards right, like leadership is not convincing people to do things or getting people to do what you want them to do, I think, very immature leaders think about leadership in that way. Leadership is a lot about casting compelling vision that excites and enlivens others and then helping them empower help empower them to go towards it. There’s a great quote that you know if you want men to build ships, you don’t talk to them about cutting down trees and you know the making of boards and a hammer. You talked to him about the sea. And there’s no way that you can be effective leader if number one, you do not put you can’t impart what you don’t possess. Right. So if you don’t have a compelling vision that you can cast for others that they can rally behind, then why would they follow you? Why should they follow you? And then I think just the ability to communicate that so you have to have a strong point of view. You have to have a consistent and defined worldview, which I think is one of the things that we’re seeing. In our current Society of some of the chaos of if you have an inconsistent worldview or you don’t even really have a worldview, how it really eviscerates your ability to lead others, right? So having a clear lens that you look at the world through and I guess for lack of a better word. Understanding of what you define working and and desire to be and then can you articulate that to other people and help them, you know, like I think that the message, I hope people hear from me is not so much, here’s what I want you to do. But hey, here’s what we can get. And I want to help you to be able to get there. Right.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: So Mike, thank you for sharing that perspective. And I find it interesting when leaders unknowingly or in essence affirm each other with these responses. And one of the things that you’re saying I’ve heard from the most compelling leaders I know that you’ve got to have a vision that is that Ember that you can fan into flame. That becomes that bonfire. But to go back to that part, what is the thing that makes you passionate? And so for the listeners that are listening in, I, I would say that what Mike’s getting at is really kind of captured in the work of Dr. Richard Boyatzis and Dr. Boyatzis is up at Case Western. And one of the things that he found by looking at people in brain scans specifically. Is that when you are dealing with people and you give them a vision of the future that is in alignment with their vision for who they could be when they are imagining the ideal version of themselves and they want to pursue that. That it lights up a very different part of the brain, the part that is trying to avoid some type of negative thing. And so when you’re trying to avoid something negative, it starts up the part of the brain that’s called the negative emotional attractor, the NEA. And that prompts change, but it doesn’t sustain it. But if I really want to see that change to stick, that’s that positive emotional attractor the PEA, and that is that vision of who do I want to be? What am I willing to endure to pursue that? And it’s a very different part of the brain that is being engaged by thinking that way. And I want to point out that Mike gave an unbelievable textbook response to that of when you were thinking about that future. That shared vision. It not only increases the odds of you succeeding, you are literally training your brain differently. Because it is a positive thing versus a negative thing, you were almost hinting at it already. But when you think about the challenges that leaders face today. And you think about all this stuff that’s going on and how important it is for them to know who they are and what they want to accomplish. Mike, what would you say is the biggest challenge that leaders are facing today?
Mike Beckham: It’s a great question. Well, I’ll, I’ll give a couple. One is that by definition having a vision means that you are going to have a point of view that people are going to disagree with. And I think in the explosion of social media and in just proliferation of news sources and opinions. You feel that more acutely than at any point in history that I can be talking about the vision for how I want to leave my company and somebody I don’t know some, you know. Scandinavia can drop in on my comments and say, well, this is terrible because of XYZ and that is hard because as a leader you’re constantly trying to get feedback about how people are responding to what you’re saying and how to kind of fine tune your vision. And so it’s hard when you are constantly feeling like there are some people that just do not like, you know, some people who have a different point of view. And I think that that’s just more, I don’t know any other way to say it, but it’s just more obvious now that there are all these different worldviews and many of them are in conflict with each other and believe different fundamental things about what we want to accomplish with our lives. And what’s true about the world? And that’s creating quite a bit of dissonance for all of us. I think the worst way to respond that. Is to take this kind of. It’s all about the same. You know who’s to say? If it, you know, this is good or bad or right or wrong, it’s all. It’s all the same, you know, lives in London and you know, honestly I feel the appeal with that. The problem with that is it is just about impossible to be an effective leader with that perspective. Right. By definition, leadership is presenting people with a compelling vision of how life can and even should be, that they want our master and you feel it, that more, more today than any other time, whatever that vision is, there will be people who do not like it. I think another thing that kind of goes hand is hand with that is that probably we’re more diverse and heterogeneous in terms of our society and the thought processes and information sources than ever before. And so as a leader, what you’re trying to do is kind of build common vision, common language. You know, you’re trying to get. People where they’re kind of synoptic, where they’re kind of seeing together and that is just more difficult than it ever has been before. And this is one of the things that’s been talked about by some others, but it used to be there were like two or three places that you want to get your news. And so there was very little diversity of kind of thought process or opinion even within the United States. I think what we’re seeing in the last, especially the last couple of years is there’s an incredible amount of diversity really every single person has kind of a different set of inputs that they’re listening to where they’re getting information that or helping inform. And mold the way that they view the world around so it it becomes more and more difficult to align. Leadership is also about alignment. So one of them to kind of piggyback onto the vision, one of the ways that I evaluate. How are we doing on vision is OK if everybody closes their eyes. And I said you guys, it’s five years from now and everything we would hope to have come true has come true. With simple modern. OK. What do you see? What does your day look like? What’s going on with the company and just describe what you see and if you’re getting, if you ask 10 people get ten different answers. You don’t have very good vision, right? The the definition of good vision is that there is this kind of alignment in similarity like we all might describe it a little bit differently. Undoubtedly, but the common threads are the same, and so alignment is just it’s more difficult. I also think this is one of the things Covid created this diaspora kind of of where there’s a lot more working remotely. There’s a lot more groups of people that work together that. I’ve never even physically been together or has spent time outside of the work context, and that’s another question I have is how our leaders going to manage that and to continue to create alignment when it feels like work is getting less and getting less time around each other as people and it’s getting a little bit more transactional.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: Again, Mike, I I’m so grateful that you are providing us insights into your world, because anybody who’s ever led anything knows that it involves pain, it involves pain. When you’re doing this in a way that you are, you love people, you’re passionate about them. There’s no pain free way to pursue great things and to get at that idea of having an opinion is so important. And then being willing to endure the hardship because of it is also a big part of why vision is so valuable. Last question for our time and again, thank you so much for the time last question is what advice would you give somebody who’s going into leadership for the first time and when we talk about this at Strata, we’re really talking about the mindset shift that often occurs when you have someone who’s moving into that world in which they have to look at themselves differently. It’s not just about what they can do, it’s about helping other people be able to accomplish their vision. And so the idea of moving from the doing to being the orchestrator of the doing when someone moving into that new part of their world, it’s an, it’s a very servant minded concept. But what advice would you give them when they’re moving into leadership for the first time?
Mike Beckham: I’ll give two or three. One is that is absolutely essential that you have people that are close to you that are not sycophants. You have to get feedback and lots of feedback. You need honest feedback and nothing will deprive you of the ability to grow more than being surrounded by people that will tell you what they think you want to hear. One of the things that I’m slowly adjusting to is that I always get peoples best side. You know, when you’re the CEO, you get the best version of people people wanna make you happy. They want conversation to be positive and it takes a real emphasis and commitment to get people to be honest with you about the hard things and one of the things I’ve seen is that sometimes people say, well, hey, I had an open door and I always want to hear your feedback. And so people will hear that and they’ll say OK, maybe he’s legit. I don’t think he’s legit, but maybe he’s different. Maybe he’s legit. Maybe she’s legit, and then they will come and they will bring a piece of constructive feedback or, you know, hard feedback. The way that you respond in that moment is incredibly impactful. If you respond with defensiveness. Immediately, that person is going to say I knew it. They don’t really, they said it, but they don’t really want to hear it. And from that point on it, so they won’t bring it anymore. So there are a lot of things where there’s there’s kind of more grace and you can kind of lean into it over time and. Can adjust with missteps, but I think this is 1 area where people pretty quickly are going to put you. Are you in the you really don’t wanna hear it bucket where you really do. And so you have to be. Exceptionally intentional about telling people that you want feedback, soliciting feedback, and then shutting up and listening to it and thanking them for it when they share. One of the things you know, when I was in college, I became a Christian, which is an important life event for me. But one of the more substantial things that came from that is I developed a little bit of a life philosophy in my life. My philosophy was anytime someone shares feedback that is hard for me, I’m going to assume it’s right. I’m just my default assumption is that they’re right. Because I think you know I have broken parts and that I, you know, that expresses it in all kinds of ways. And so my default is assuming they’re right. I think most of us tend to want assume that the default is that they’re wrong, right. And somebody has something hard or constructive to say the default is you got approved. And I changed my default. I’m just going to assume you’re right and it’s helped make me much more open to feedback from others which has I think, just been an incredible tailwind in my growth. The second thing I would say is one things I’ve I’ve really taken up is reading biographies. You can, I mean, learn from the experience of other people. I think there are there. There’s more resources today to develop into a great leader than ever before. Whether it’s podcasts like this or reading about or listening to biographies about other exceptional leaders and the things that they went through. And I think when you do, it’s actually encourage you because you find out that regardless of who you’re talking about, George Washington, whatever they were exceptional people, they were not social people. And that you really do get to get a sense for the things that made them great at leading people, but also the things that made them sometimes hard to deal with in the flaws that they had. And so both of those things, I mean, a lot of it is about you need tons of inputs, tons of sources that feedback about yourself and then you need a lot of input where you’re able to learn from the experience of others and wisdom is the ability to learn from the experience of others and not having to make all of the mistakes yourself. I’ve made plenty of them in my career, but I’d like to think that I’ve also been able to avoid. Quite a few pitfalls just by learning from other people’s experiences and words, and then finally you mentioned this earlier, Nathan having older people that are stage, I would say that the ideal is kind of a stage of life ahead. You get too many stages of life ahead and it can sometimes feel like it’s harder to relate. To me, I’ve always felt like the sweet spot. If you think about it. Your parents are usually like a couple of stages of life ahead of you, two to three. If you can find somebody kind of between your parents age your age that that is typically super helpful ’cause they’re far enough ahead they can really tell you about the road to come, but not so far ahead that they feel. Then it feels hard to relate to them, and in their experience.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.: Well, thanks again Mike for the time and for that very practical advice. And I’ll add this and we’ll wrap up. But I I made the mistake one time of asking for feedback in an electronic form that wasn’t clear. And so then you got feedback, but you didn’t know what it meant. And so I want to point out that what Mike was talking about is building the types of relationships where someone can sit down with you and express incredible loyalty. By being able to say, hey, this is something that I don’t think it’s working. And that expression of loyalty is a gift, and not everybody is ready to do it. But to have that door open that when people are that you’re listing ear, that to me is great council. And thank you so much, Mike, for spending this time with us and providing these insights. So for those who are listening in, I hope you know how much we appreciate you. There’s nothing easy about leadership, but if you want to make a difference in other people’s lives, leading is a way that helps inspire equip. It helps to give people courage because what you do in the way that you do it is contagious and the world is desperately looking for people. Who care. Who want to make a difference in our willing to to look at the world from that different perspective. So for those listing in, thank you for being willing to be a leader to sacrifice that way to make a difference in other people’s lives. And leadership is about setting the pace and setting the tone. So today, as you go out there, be aware. Be strategically intentional because the way you approach life gives life to other people and make it a great day. Thank you for being a part of the Strata Leadership Show.
Mike Beckham graduated Summa Cum Laude from the OU Business College in 2003.
Mike began his career working with the worldwide non-profit Christian ministry CRU. Since transitioning to the business world, he has been a part of founding and operating several e-commerce businesses that have cumulatively generated more than 1 billion in revenue.
Most recently, Mike has served as CEO and co-founder of Simple Modern. Simple Modern has grown in 5 years to be one of the leading suppliers of stainless-steel insulated drinkware in the world. Simple Modern is an omni-channel consumer packaged goods company that was built from a digital first distribution strategy. Its three largest distribution channels are its website, Amazon, and Target. In addition, Simple Modern is a licensing partner for the NFL, NBA, NCAA, and Disney.
Mike lives in Norman with his wife of 17 years, Heather. He has two children, Carter (9) and Kenzie (6). In addition to his work in the business world, Mike is the senior entrepreneur-in-residence for the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business Entrepreneurship Program.
Nathan Mellor, Ed.D.
A thought-leader, two-time TEDx speaker, author, and CEO of Strata Leadership, Dr. Mellor is an experienced executive coach who has provided over 3,000 coaching sessions for executive leaders. He serves as a sounding board, thought partner, and a source of encouragement for leaders seeking to maximize their effectiveness.
Since its founding in 2009, Strata Leadership has pursued its mission of “Elevating Life at Work.” Each year, the professionals at Strata Leadership provide character and competence-based talent development services for hundreds of clients (non-profits, for-profits, educational institutions, and governmental agencies) throughout the United States and abroad.
In pursuit of educational, humanitarian, and religious interests, Nathan has studied or taught in Australia, Belize, China, England, Guyana, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Russia, and Rwanda. He is passionate about developing future leaders and is the co-founder of the Presidential Leadership Institute, hosted on the campus of York College, in collaboration with the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. He is an adjunct professor for graduate programs at York College and Oklahoma Baptist University. He is the chairperson for the Strata Center for Workplace Coaching and the co-founder of the Institute for Emerging Leaders. He is the past Chairperson of the Oklahoma Business Ethics Consortium.
Dr. Mellor earned the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership degree from Pepperdine University, where he was a Colleagues Grant recipient. He earned the Master of Dispute Resolution degree from the prestigious Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law, where he was named a Straus Fellow. He earned the Master of Science in Education degree from Harding University while serving as the Graduate Assistant to the University President. He earned the Bachelor of Arts from Harding University, where he was elected Student Association President. Dr. Mellor has pursued postdoctoral studies through the College of Executive Coaching.
Dr. Mellor was recognized as the Executive Pilot Award recipient in 2018, the highest individual honor bestowed by the Oklahoma Ethics Business Consortium. In 2021, he was named by the Oklahoma Journal Record as one of Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEOs. He is a fellow with the Institute of Coaching, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School Affiliate, and a member of the International Coaching Federation.
His book, “Sleeping Giants: Authentic Stories and Insights For Building A Life That Matters” is available via Monocle Press, Amazon, and Audible. He also hosts the podcast, “The Strata Leadership Show.”
Nathan lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with his wife and two daughters.