Successful Businessman Rick Kolsky on Sacrificing in Order to Give Back

By day, he’s a consultant to Fortune 500 companies dotting the globe and lectures at a major business school.

 

By night, though, Rick Kolsky does a 180-degree pivot and coaches 11- and 12-year-old girls’ basketball at a local gym.

Why?

“I view coaching as something that is trying to teach kids great life lessons, rather than just winning,” says Kolsky, who lives in Evanston.

But with a packed professional life that has included working on the Council of Economic Advisers in the Carter White House, consulting for companies such as Motorola and teaching at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Kolsky has had to sacrifice to give back.

Almost 20 years ago, Kolsky was at the top of his consulting game, running a large regional practice that had just gone national. He received a promotion that came with even more management duties. But he missed interacting with clients and having free time to coach.

So, he resigned—the day after his promotion. “I made a conscious decision not to be in the loop as a high-powered, managing-a-couple-hundred-people” consultant, he says. “The main thing is, you’ve got to set priorities.”

It’s a decision that’s been rewarding, he says.

Kolsky took his Full Package Black basketball team this summer to AAU National Championships in Franklin, Tenn. With the flooding that besieged the region, Kolsky decided to turn the trip into an opportunity for his players to volunteer.

As a team, the girls raised roughly $7,500 for their trip that they donated to the Nashville-area Red Cross. They also volunteered at a food bank, sorting through food and supplies that the floodwaters had soiled.

Kolsky says the entire trip was the highlight of his coaching career: “It was just great. I was blown away by the response.”

Kolsky also coaches a girls’ team in FAAM—Fellowship of African American Men—in Evanston, which is designed to prepare middle school students for the transition to high school.

Kolsky’s advice to would-be volunteers who have yet to follow through? “Set priorities,” he says. “What often happens with volunteer efforts is they get put on your to-do list and they never get done.”

Coaching gives Kolsky a sense of accomplishment that consulting sometimes can’t, he says.

“A lot of what I do, my consulting and teaching, you don’t see the tangible results right away,” says Kolsky.  “So it’s kind of a nice balance.”

Photos courtesy of Rick Kolsky