Schiller Alumni Keith Overton speaks at Tampa Bay Commencement

Keith Overton

It was with great honor and privilege that the faculty, staff, families and friends of the Schiller International University’s Tampa Bay Campus celebrated the graduation of almost 150 graduates on Friday July 28, 2017: it was a special night from beginning to end, highlighted by the Keynote Speaker, Keith Overton, a Schiller Alumni. Keith Overton is President of TradeWinds Island Resorts – the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, Guy Harvey Outpost St. Pete Beach, and the restaurant concept RumFish Grill. TradeWinds Island Resorts is collectively the largest resort on the west coast of Florida with over 1,100+ employees and has nationwide notable brand recognition. A native of Kissimmee/Orlando, Florida, Overton is a graduate of Schiller International University’s MBA program in International Hotel and Tourism Management from Schiller International University and an adjunct instructor at Schiller from 1996 – 2007. He has also served on the Board of Directors for many notable organizations such as: American Hotel & Lodging Association, Tampa Bay Watch’s Board of Directors, the Board of Visitors for the Florida Institute of Oceanography and is the founder of Athletes for Hearts.

Mr. Keith Overton was kind enough to provide us a copy of his Keynote speech. Please enjoy the speech he gave to the Graduates and guests:

“I have been leading the TradeWinds Island Resorts since 1995, almost 23 years. TradeWinds is the largest resort on the West Coast of FL and we employ over 1,100 people.

I am also the creator of the restaurant concept Rumfish Grill. You may have seen some of our fish tanks (the largest being 33,000 gallons) featured several times on Animal Planet’s hit TV series Tanked.

As noted in your program, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Travel Industry Management from Concord University located in the state of WV. While seeking my undergraduate degree, I had the privilege of attending Schiller International University in London as an exchange student the summer of 1987. That was my very first introduction to Schiller – 30 years ago!

Later on in my career I was asked to teach at Schiller International University right here in Dunedin as an adjunct instructor and did so from 1996-2007 – I loved the interaction with the students. I initially did it for recruitment reasons because I got to evaluate the students’ abilities first-hand. While I hired and promoted my share of Schiller graduates, I ended up learning as much from them and they did from me. Particularly from those students who shared classroom stories about their home countries and cultures.

I then received my MBA in International Hotel & Tourism Management from Schiller Int’l University in 2010.

So given my long and prosperous history with Schiller, I am honored to be able to speak to you today. I literally just attended a graduation a few weeks ago and I sat in the audience and respectfully listened, but I found myself thinking that the speaker was making the world seem much more complicated than it needed to be. I thought the speech was too long and that she was giving a lifetime’s worth of advice in a matter of 45 minutes.

Well you’re very lucky tonight! I have only been given 15 minutes and I don’t have any real revolutionary advice for you that would take 45 mins anyway. In fact, I will mostly tell you what NOT to do in your careers…as I have certainly made my fair share of mistakes over my career.

You have a lot to be proud of by accomplishing the course work to earn the degrees you are receiving here tonight. I congratulate each of you on this very difficult undertaking. Your achievements will open many doors that might have otherwise been closed… or certainly more difficult to enter.

But I’d like to jump past tonight for a few moments and just talk to you about what’s next!

I want to make just 7 short points that may simplify things for you.

1. The world does not owe you anything! And don’t ever forget that. You will receive from the world, only what you put in. This is true for employers too. The expression “what have you done for me lately?” will be asked of you for your ENTIRE career. How you deal with those demands will dictate how far in your career you are able to advance.
• The degree you’re receiving here tonight does not make you “better” than, or superior to, anyone else – including those who will work for you with less credentials.
• Your degree simply affords you a different “and perhaps” better opportunity.
• Do not squander it…. by feeling entitled.

2. Be humble. No matter how much knowledge you have on any subject, be self-disciplined enough to refrain from always dominating the discussion….and just listen. The time for your input will come and it will be obvious when it’s appropriate.
• Likewise, be prepared to pass through any and all of the credit to those who helped you by doing the heavy lifting.
• The pathway to real leadership is your willingness to relinquish any power or credit that you achieve….to those around you who helped.

3. Hire the best people! Nobody…. regardless for how talented they might be, can achieve anything alone! One the most common mistakes I find in business is that younger leaders tend to hire people who will always agree with them or who might not be as smart or experienced as they are.
• Sometimes that’s their ego getting in the way of their judgement; and other times they just tend to want individuals who will carry out their plans without resistance or even input.
• This kind of insecurity will surely lead to failure of achieving the maximum results.
• And the irony of that is it actually hurts your career potential.

4. Never stop being a student. Learning is a life-long exercise and the more you listen, the more you will learn.
• Be open to others’ ideas and, in fact, insist on getting diverse input on almost all important decisions you have to make that affect your business.
• Not only will that input help you make the best decision, but it will secretly behind the scenes achieve buy-in and support from your team when it’s time to implement your initiatives.

5. Hitch your wagon to the “right” people. In other words, pick superb mentors! Always associate yourself with the person who is highly respected and has achieved significant accomplishments in your field of expertise.
• Find a way to get into that person’s circle of influence. Even if it means taking a job that pays less than you feel you deserve.
• I don’t even care if it’s an entry-level position, I promise that you will learn more and best advance your career by choosing good mentors.
• This is far more important than any other experience you might gain, whether it be hands-on training or academia.
• As your career advances, I encourage you to continuously seek-out excellent mentors… no matter how close you are to achieving your ultimate goals.
• In my career, I’ve had 7 notable and influential people that I contribute my successes to. Without their help, support, and most importantly, PERSONAL endorsements to better opportunities, I would not be where I am today.
• Think of your career-life as a book….and each mentor as being a very important chapter of that book.

6. Work toward “LEGACY” and not money! I repeat, work toward “LEGACY”….and not money.
• The old American cliché that you can’t take your money to the grave with you is very true.
• But the reality is that money is extremely important to a happy and prosperous life, regardless for what people without wealth might tell you. But the pathway to money & wealth is through the building of your legacy.
• If you approach everything with legacy in mind, money & wealth will ultimately come.
• You must ask yourself regularly what will people say about me after they have moved on to a new job, or even after I am dead and gone from this earth.
• Will they say I was kind, but not effective?
• Or will they say I was effective and got results, but mean and no fun to work with?
• Or… will they say they admired me for my integrity, my kindness & compassion, and my ability to accomplish great things through the efforts of the people around me?
• If you can earn respect and admiration for your kind leadership and have the ability to empower those who work for you, “you will achieve wealth”.
• But if your focus is always on money first… your legacy may not be one that you will be proud to have shared.

7. Nothing takes the place of caring. Most jobs don’t truly REQUIRE a formal education. Some do, perhaps if you want to become a lawyer, a doctor, or maybe even an airline pilot.
• But the majority of jobs out there can be performed by any person with a reasonable aptitude and a desire to learn.
• I will promise you this, having the ability to genuinely care for people cannot easily be taught, and you certainly didn’t learn how to care from the curriculum you just underwent!

• This quality is intangible and if you were lucky enough to have had a great upbringing, this quality might (and I repeat – might) come to you more easily because you’ve seen it within your family and have felt it for a large part of your life.
• But there’s no guarantee that even your upbringing will ensure that you actually have the “character” to care and can express it to those around you.
• You get to decide whether you will care… or not care.
• All people want to feel loved and appreciated. This is as true in the workplace as it is at home.
• If you can express to your customers and the people that you work with, that you genuinely care about them,

Thank you again to our Schiller Alumni Keith Overton for presenting the Keynote Speech at this year’s Tampa Bay Commencement Ceremony!