When the Gladiators take to the ice Oct. 18 for their 11th season at the Gwinnett Arena, founding President and General Manager Steve Chapman will be among thousands, applauding. Families and fans across Gwinnett and beyond share his enthusiasm for the team. Chapman sat down with Gwinnett Magazine to discuss the sport”s growing popularity, keys to a successful organization, role of family in business and what makes good leaders.
GM: The Gladiators have been here more than a decade. Talk about their growth.
SC: “Well, in our first season, we”d be in the middle of a game, and somebody on our team would make a great play to gain possession of the puck. You”d hear a smattering of applause. Well, now when that happens, you hear 5,000 people cheering. We”ve got a huge crowd who seems to understand the game. When we first got here, some people were like, “hmm…minor league hockey…in Atlanta.” I don”t think they knew what to do with us. Now, the Gladiators have become a big part of the community.”
GM: How has being a family man helped you?
SC: “Having two kids, you get in that mindset of how late do you want them out and what”s entertaining and what”s too much. It gives you a good perspective on what we”re trying to deliver, which is entertainment. We have diehard fans that are here for hockey, but 80 percent of people who come to minor league sports have come to be entertained. They don”t necessarily know what place you”re in. They don”t necessarily know all the players” names. They want to see an exciting game. They want to hear some upbeat music. They want their kids to laugh.”
GM: As a businessman, what have you learned from running a hockey team?
SC: “When you build a team, whether it”s minor league hockey or a company, you”ve got to put the right people in the right places and get them to buy in to what you”re doing. I find that people buy in when they feel like they”re a part of it – when it”s not just one guy shoving all his ideas at you. It”s when people feel like they have a say, and they get to contribute.”
GM: What qualities make for a good leader?
SC: “Passion for the job. It”s not as common as you”d think. People have a habit of reverting to what might be average…instead of challenging themselves. I want people around me, whether it”s in business or friendships, who aspire to be the best they can be.”