Hi! I’m Adam Steen, the founder of 25Connections, LLC. My company connects businesses with the resources they need to grow. The “25” in my business name stands for the number of baseball players on a Major League Baseball roster. Teams need the right player to enter the game at the right time to help them win. In the same way, businesses need the right professionals to come in at the right time to help them succeed.
Pursuing the Dream of Playing Ball
It all began in Indianola, Iowa, where I had one goal in mind as a kid… become a professional baseball player. In 1998, I accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Minnesota State University, Mankato—a Division II baseball powerhouse with a rich tradition of winning. After enrolling in the business school and selecting a marketing major, I set my sights on athletics… not studies. I found out toward the end of my courses that I had a knack for management strategy, where you pick apart business plans and develop a growth strategy for different models.
But in 2002, I got a call on a Wednesday morning… the Philadelphia Phillies had drafted me. My flight left for Clearwater, Florida, that coming Friday. This was great because it allowed me to pursue a long, lucrative career in professional sports, right? Wrong.
After two brief minor league seasons, I was released. Apparently I threw one hanging slider too many. At this point in my life, I took an entrepreneurial approach to my release… I decided to pick myself up and decide what I should do next.
Starting my “Life” in Insurance
After packing my bags, I had to make a decision. I could keep pursuing baseball, or I could start my life. I reached out to two members of my wonderful family support system who just so happened to have played affiliated ball in the past—my grandfather Jim Fetters and my father, Tom Steen. Their advice was to start my life. Of course I didn’t listen and spent the next two months trying to get back on a team. But when my money ran out, I had no choice… I had to get a job.
My other grandfather Chuck Steen invited me to Bloomington, Illinois, for a few rounds of golf, and in between rounds, he introduced me to executives at State Farm Insurance and Country Companies. Not long after those introductions, Country Companies offered me a job in Plymouth, Minnesota. At that time, Minneapolis was a perfect location for me. I had a large group of great friends in the city, and I had the passion and drive to do great things with my career. It had all the makings of a fairy tale story, right? Wrong.
I took a long-term networking approach to selling insurance. Armed with my natural ability to collaborate and connect, I started a flurry of networking activities and waited until I felt it was the right time to introduce resources and products to potential buyers. But when your salary and benchmark criteria are based off life insurance, closing sales three months after the initial introduction creates a problem. After a brief, but very valuable, conversation with the vice president of Country, I decided to leave the company. I gained a decade of knowledge and experience during that year of employment. I have and still maintain my personal insurance products with Country so needless to say the split was very amicable.
So… what’s a guy to do that has almost no business experience after devoting his early years to baseball? Call it fate, call it luck, call it God… but right as I left Country, my father left his investment banking firm.
Transitioning Back to Iowa and to Marketing
My father founded Cybus Capital Markets in 1985, left it in 2004, and that same year created Transition Capital Management (TCM). I remembered the strategy course I excelled at in college and thought… I want to be part of whatever he is doing next. So I called him and said, “Dad, I want to be a part of your new business.”
He responded, “That’s great Adam, but you have no business background and wouldn’t be able to handle the deal business.”
Well after my third phone call, my dad recognized an opportunity within his business strategy that fit my skill sets perfectly. I would be his eyes and ears on the ground, getting his expertise in front of privately owned businesses. Call it boots on the ground or call it business development, but whatever it was, it sounded like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. He extended the offer on Wednesday, and I had my U-Haul packed for Iowa by Friday morning.
At this point, it was December 2004, and I was off and running. My goal: network across the state of Iowa in order to do whatever I could to create success for others. I believe that by giving others a chance to succeed, you increase the odds of success for everyone, including yourself. I don’t relate it to “paying it forward.” I see it as taking control of your own destiny.
With TCM, my salary was our marketing budget so I had to get creative with my approach to networking and collaborating. I viewed my hours as a marketing expense. This meant I got involved in numerous community activities, learned how to put relevant topics in front of large audiences, and met with people constantly.
The goal was to take a very proactive and action-oriented approach to business and economic development. Well, if you take this intrapreneurial approach and work each and every day to improve yourself and your firm… you start to develop a pipeline of solid opportunities for your employer. You also discover that you may have overlooked some opportunities along the way.
Making the 25Connections
On the night of March 11, 2008, I had a thought as I sat in my living room … Wow! I meet with several businesses every day that need resources outside of TCM’s area of expertise… I often connect with highly specialized professionals that need access to opportunity… I need to start my own business because there is a need for a business model built on the foundation of networking and connecting people to create value.
The next morning, I walked into my dad’s office and started to say, “I want to go out on my own.” But before I had the chance, my dad said, “I think you should go out on your own.” That was my cue that it was the right time.
I originally wanted to call my business 37Connections after my college baseball number, but my dad said, “Why not 25Connections for the number of players on the major league roster?” I wish I had thought of it, but it fit perfectly so I took his advice.
What the next day holds, I never know. I tell people that I always know where my day will begin, but I never know where it will finish. I’m here to stay. I’m here to work hard. And I’m here to help you make your connections.