Ned jests that he peaked at 18 when when he was awarded the Rhode Island Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the Providence Journal Bulletin. We, however, believe he’s just getting started. As CFO for The Frontier Project, he’s everything you would expect: an unflappable, levelheaded decision maker. He’s also everything you wouldn’t. Most days, he’s in a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers—a fitting tribute to his laidback, humble nature.
Since starting with The Frontier Project in 2011, he worked as a consultant on client-facing work before pivoting to the Chief Operating Officer role in 2012, where he also began managing the finances. In early 2015, he became the Chief Financial Officer. He’s seen all parts of the business and knows what is needed—and not needed—to keep it profitable and successful. (It also doesn’t hurt that he’s started two businesses of his own, so he’s got first-hand experience to back it up.)
Ned’s time spent studying organizational psychology at Harvard, coupled with his experience both playing and coaching Division I college tennis, serves his well-rounded approach to navigating the interlocking financial worlds of all four business units of our growing portfolio. He intuitively understands that the financial health of a company starts with a company’s leadership and culture. It’s no coincidence that in the time he’s been with us, we were named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies.
Despite his proclivity toward maintaining a low profile, he’s also made a name for himself in Richmond’s booming food scene as the founder and co-owner of Barrel Thief, which recently won a 2016 Elby Award for Best Wine Program in Richmond.
Oh, and did we mention he’s doing all of this with young twins (a boy and a girl) at home?
A high-performance college athlete turned high-performance associate consultant, Jonathan—or, as we call him, JB—works from one tried-and-true play that rarely leaves him with a loss: never be conventional. Perhaps that’s why he’s found his niche venturing into the underbelly of our society’s largest subcultures so our clients are always a step ahead in their quest for product and market exploration.
Of Guyanese descent by way of upstate New York, Jonathan landed at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business where he picked up his degree while also launching his own line of sports-inspired streetwear. He’s a problem-solver by nature, embracing equal parts immersive research and super sleuthing. Truly, it’s his job to know it all, and he does whatever it takes: monitoring the rapid-fire conversations that take place in the comments section of a Youtube video. Befriending a business-owner and inquiring about recent regulatory standards. Brokering a meeting between a 20-year-old prodigal video game developer and a group of 50-something engineers. Digging up the answers to all of our team’s tech issues.
He does all of this, of course, with the sort of assured, poised presence only possible for someone completely comfortable in his own skin. Abounding with contagious positive energy and never one to wait for perfection before putting a plan in action, he’s the teammate every group wants (and needs).
— Keynote —
Shoot or Pass?: Small Decisions Make a Big Difference
Were you a professional athlete? Probably not, but maybe. Possibly you were a collegiate, or high school, or just backyard athlete. Regardless of the skill level, sports are full of the same kinds of pivotal moments that define our careers and our lives. Decisions made in an instant—Do I pass or shoot? or deliberated for days? Do I accept a new job?—are the definitive moments that shape our future.
Often, the most defining decisions aren’t the ones we expect them to be in the moment; sometimes we can’t see the major ramifications of a seemingly minor decision until years later. But these important junctures occur all the time, so the key is not necessarily understanding whether or not you made the “correct” decision in the past, but to examine your decision-making process and hone it to be ready for future pivotal moments.
Drawing on what they describe as “brilliantly pedestrian” athletic careers, Ned Wheeler and Jonathan Benjamin swap stories, interact with the crowd, and bring to life the way that isolated moments in sports can truly set the stage for who you become (or don’t become). From childhood games to Division I careers in tennis and basketball, respectively, to time spent coaching and teaching—even glimpses of sporting greatness that felt much closer than they likely were—Ned and Jonathan will use athletic examples to show how responses to small but critical points in time make all the difference.
Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “Sports don’t define character, they reveal it.” Completely true—and completely false. While surely character is revealed (in some sense of the word) in the moment, character definition is a longer story. Ned and Jonathan’s keynote will help you understand how your decisions and responses to success and failure (on the playing field and in the boardroom) define your future self.