Sports have a way of challenging, uniting and enriching our lives. In this issue of Know Your Network, we celebrate sports and ask Emory alumni−those who participated in them and/or who work in the arena of sports−to share its impact along with insights on life and career.
Adam Chait 05MBA
The Athlete’s Foot USA
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Adam Chait serves as CEO and board member of The Athlete’s Foot USA. Since joining the company in 2015, Adam has helped turn around the going concern, launch new businesses and more than double retail sales. Adam is also president of the Atlanta chapter of Handshake America, a nonprofit organization that pairs student athletes with local business leaders to translate lessons from the field to success in life. Adam’s family includes his wife (Jessica), his two sons (Alex 10, Parker 8) and, begrudgingly, a dog named Cooper.
What’s your favorite sport and how has it impacted your life?
I attended the University of Michigan for my undergrad degree, so I’m a diehard Michigan football fan. Michigan football has impacted my life with elevated blood-pressure, screaming at the TV and heartbreaking losses that weigh on me far more than they should.
Who inspires you and why?
My grandfather was a first-generation American and had a modest upbringing. His dad was a junk collector. One story that has stayed with me is sometimes my grandfather had to wear his sisters’ hand-me-down shoes because his family couldn’t afford boy’s shoes for him. My grandfather was smart, hardworking and had incredible integrity. He built a small wholesale business in the dairy and eggs space. It was enough to provide for my dad and give my dad opportunities my grandfather never had—like attending college. My dad went on to be a professor at Harvard. So my grandfather really changed the trajectory of our family, for which I am eternally grateful.
What is your definition of success?
Success to me is about personal fulfillment. It’s about being the best husband, father, friend and professional I can be.
Is there a lasting lesson, memory or skill gained from business school that you particularly remember or to which you credit your success?
I approached business school as an opportunity to fill gaps in my skill set. I may have taken accounting twice in undergrad, and I may have gotten C’s both times. I was basically financially illiterate. At Emory, I signed up for every accounting or finance class I could. I got my butt kicked by all my peers with a banking background, but I learned a lot and graduated from Emory knowing my way around a financial statement.
What advice do you have for today’s business students?
Focus on listening, understanding and empathizing with others. Be coachable. Come to work with grit and determination. Keep things in perspective. Have a good sense of humor—everyone likes laughing.
What are some of your professional and personal goals?
One of my goals is trying to feel a greater sense of accomplishment when I realize a goal. It’s tough because deep down inside of me there is this insatiable achievement monster that always seems hungry for something bigger and better.
What is a professional moment or accomplishment you are most proud of and why?
I’m very proud of what we are doing at The Athlete’s Foot. It’s been really rewarding to be part of the team that has breathed new life into a well-known brand that was on the verge of extinction. Over my four years with The Athlete’s Foot, we have repositioned the business, improved our operations, launched new businesses and grown sales at a 19% CAGR in a challenging retail environment.
As a coach for Handshake America, what do you find youngsters most need and want to learn?
Through Handshake America, I work with high school juniors and seniors. I’ve been super impressed with how open and vulnerable they are willing to be. Their emotional intelligence is well developed. Where I find they seek the most support is to diffuse some of the stress and pressures in their lives. They find it comforting to hear stories about how I’ve failed, made mistakes or didn’t have a clear plan.