Football coach Bill Courtney, whose extraordinary story was memorialized in the Oscar winning documentary Undefeated, shares his insights on business, money, and service.

Guest Biography

William B Courtney (Bill), a native Memphian, is married to Lisa, his wife of 27 years, and father to four children; Maggie, Molly, Will, and Max.

In 1991, Bill graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in Psychology. While at Ole Miss, he served as the Lieutenant Commander of Sigma Nu and was active in Psi Chi and Sigma Tau Delta. He was a featured columnist for the Daily Mississippian and the recipient of the first annual Chi Omega service award for Outstanding Community Involvement. Additionally, he was one of the founders of the Sigma Nu Charity Bowl which has now grown to be the largest Greek philanthropy project in the US.

In 2001, Bill founded Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. Today, this 2001 startup company has grown to employ 120 people with a 45 acre manufacturing facility and domestic sales offices in Memphis, TN and international sales offices in Shanghai, China and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam boasting in excess of $45 million in annual sales. In 2007, Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. won the Memphis Business Journal’s Small Business of the Year Award based on its growth and commitment to community service.

In 2003, Bill followed CAH employee and fraternity brother Jim Tipton to volunteer at Memphis’ inner city Manassas High School in an effort to turn its underperforming football team around. In 2003, the team consisted of 19 players and the team’s overall previous 10 year’s record was a dismal 4-95. In the 2008 and 2009 seasons, the team’s record improved to 18-2, it boasted 75 players, and helped to bring hope to countless underprivileged, inner city youth. The story was so compelling that a Hollywood film was produced about it that won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary.

In 2011, Bill was inducted into Bridge Builders for leadership in diversity, community, and justice. He was the 2012 recipient of the Liberty Bowl’s Harry Zinn Spirit of 1776 award for distinguished citizenship, recipient of the Carnival Memphis’ King’s award for outstanding achievement in Business and Industry, and the National Football Foundation and College Hall of fame Memphis chapter’s award winner for The distinguished American for Contribution to Amateur Athletics. In 2013, he was inducted into the prestigious Society of Entrepreneurs as a result of his success in business and community service. In 2018, Classic American Hardwoods was noted as one of the 100 largest privately held companies in West Tennessee. Also, in 2018, Classic American Hardwoods was recognized by The United States Export-Import Bank as the United States of America’s Exporter of the year.

Today, Bill still operates as the President and CEO of Classic American Hardwoods overseeing its day to day operations. He is a nationally recognized and sought-after speaker keynoting at a variety of venues from the Para Olympics in Colorado Springs to Nike, Frito Lay, FedEx, and other nationally recognized companies. Additionally, he routinely serves as the commencement speaker to graduation ceremonies and keynoting nonprofit organizations such as St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Barrett School of Banking. He released his first book in 2014, Against the Grain, which has received national recognition as a best-selling manifesto covering leadership, service, character and other tenets that build the foundation for a meaningful personal, societal and professional life. Most recently, he was the voice of Madden Skills, teaching millions of users about the basics of offensive and defensive football.

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • The traditional values and straight talking that make Bill a great coach and business leader
  • How he built his $50 million dollar business and what the current trade war is doing to American manufacturers
  • The importance of service

Show notes:

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Special thanks to Jim Kimo West for the music.