by Chris Buck
After a year and a half of focusing on education and working with 24 different Phi Kappa Sigma chapters, James Coffman was nervous and excited about working on an expansion. He had never done an expansion before, and the native Texan was excited to be close to his family and to lead his first project. I was fortunate enough to interview James about his experience and how he and his teammate, Christian Springer, were able to recruit 70 men under three months with the help of ChapterBuilder.
Quick facts about James Coffman:
Title: Educational Consultant
How long have you been at Phi Kappa Sigma? Going on 2 years.
Where did you do your undergraduate work? University of North Texas
What previous expansion projects have you done in the past? This is his first expansion project.
Buck: Tell me how you prepared for the TCU expansion.
Coffman: Back in November I had my first experience with TCU. The former Executive Director had a meeting on campus and invited me to join him. I met with a good five to seven guys that were interested in joining Phi Kappa Sigma. I didn’t know that I was going to do the project, but because I had been on staff for a year and a half and I was local, they figured “Why not give James a chance and see if this is something that he could do”. I had no training, beside basic level understanding of recruiting. The plan was that my direct supervisor, Ben, would come down and spend some time training me on how he thought expansion should work; that was very helpful. Andy Bremer (an Organizational Growth Coach for TechniPhi’s sister company, Phired Up) came down and trained us. Andy made things much clearer and easier, answered all my questions, and made me feel like my mindset was right. It built my confidence up big time.
Buck: What goal did you have in mind, and what did you think was realistic in terms of numbers?
Coffman: The expectation was 65, but I was thinking maybe 40 was realistic. The first week of meeting with guys was rough at times, and I remember thinking, “are they all going to be like this? Can we really reach 65?” I started thinking that even 40 was pushing it.
Buck: What type of men where you looking for?
Coffman: We weren’t trying to create a mold. We were trying to create something different. We wanted to be the group that challenged the status quo; we wanted to find genuine individuals who wanted to be something different and something better – a catalyst for change for the Greek community. We asked everyone we met with: how can we be better? It was about creating that open-mindedness, and about accepting who they are as people, not how they dress or how much money they have. The meeting were, “let’s learn who you are” conversations. Guys connected with this idea. As challenging as it was to get that message across at times, the best guys caught on quickly.
Buck: What was your process? What was a typical day at TCU?
Coffman: Wake up, get to the university by 9 a.m. and set up shop at the Greek Union. We’d have meetings starting at 10 a.m. running until 6 p.m. back-to-back. At times we were both doing meetings all day at the same time. We were fortunate with the amount of support we got from the Greek Life office with referrals to help build up the names list. They were crucial in the success of this project. So basically, meetings-on-meetings.
Buck: Did you have daily KPIs (key performance indicators) you needed to meet?
Coffman: We set up our KPIs/goals when Andy came to campus. We tried to meet with 16-20 people a day.
Buck: What were some obstacles that you encountered during the project?
Coffman: Meeting with guys that we really wanted to accept a bid, but they were on the fence. So trying not to come across as pushy or give them an ultimatum. Instead saying, “we enjoyed meeting with you and would like you to consider joining.” When you don’t hear from them, that can be frustrating. There were a number of guys that fell in this category.
Buck: What role did ChapterBuilder play in this project? How did it help?
Coffman: If we didn’t have ChapterBuilder, it would have been a mess to be honest with you. ChapterBuilder kept things organized. Knowing first that we can send out messages and organize guys by where they are in the process was critical to us staying on top of our list. Being able to shoot out text messages through ChapterBuilder was also very beneficial; better than trying to use my own phone. At the end of the day, ChapterBuilder kept everything organized and I knew where everyone was at. It was a big part of the process.
Buck: Ultimately, what did you think led to your team’s success?
Coffman: Motivation and determination. We knew that this was a very important project for our organization, and we couldn’t mess it up. We also wanted to make sure these guys were set up for success. We got a lot of support from the university and had great alumni support. We knew the kind of guys we wanted and we went out and found them. We extended 85 bids, and 70 were accepted.
Buck: Any big lessons learned from this project that you’d be sure to do on future projects or recommend to other teams?
Coffman: Don’t always judge people at face value. There was something that I learned a lot. You may not have a reason right away why you want to give a guy a bid, but you want to. Some guys took several meetings before we decided to give them a bid, and afterwards see that you made a great call! So trust your instincts.
Don’t let one bad meeting ruin the rest of them for you. You are going to have those meetings and you can’t let those make you think your project isn’t going well; think about the end goal. Too often I found myself wondering what I did wrong in that meeting, and that can derail your progress. The good meetings makeup for all of the bad meetings.
It also taught me to be organized.
Buck: Any other final thoughts?
Coffman: For my first expansion project ever, it was the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s amazing to see guys get fired up about Phi Kappa Sigma, and seeing their faces lit up and that they are as excited as you; that was the best part.
Congratulations to the men of Phi Kappa Sigma for their successful expansion; we can’t wait to see all the great things to come for the chapter in the future! If you’re looking for help growing your fraternity or sorority, let me know by emailing me at Chris@TechniPhi.com.