How a College Basketball Coach became Yellowhammer's CEO

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How a College Basketball Coach became Yellowhammer's CEO

"Everybody else was excited come the end of the month. I'm like, 'it's just time for a new month.'" 

That was BJ Ellis's reality when pay day came during his time at Pensacola Junior College. Everybody else's pay day, anyway. BJ coached that entire season without getting a single check. 

So how did that experience help him on the path to where he is now, at the top of a prominent news outlet? Here he was, working long hours in an extremely competitive industry, making nothing. But it started the journey. And one of BJ's biggest takeaways from all of his experiences, in coaching and elsewhere, is that everyone should "enjoy the journey", no matter where it takes you. And it's taken him all over the place.

That season at Pensacola led him to another job, and then another, and another. And each one presented unique challenges. He spent one year as the Head Assistant at Mississippi Valley State, and describes that time as fulls of highs and lows. 

"I was the only white guy anywhere near," BJ says, "and I had some trouble getting some reimbursements and stuff. And I asked my coach, 'why do they not like me?'"

"Is it because I'm new? Or a male? Or white? Or not from here?" 

He said his head coach replied pretty simply. 

"Probably all of it."

But out of that circumstance, BJ helped a team that started 1-11 win 17 games in a row, win the SWAC, and make it to the NCAA tournament. 

He's had to overcome similar challenges in his position at Yellowhammer, including when his longtime friend and then company owner Cliff Sims left to help run Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and left BJ in charge of the company.

"I was so unprepared."

It was only supposed to be for a couple of months, but nearly three years and several ownership changes later, BJ is still in charge of the company. And he picked up a lot of the skills he uses on a daily basis from those early days in college basketball. 

"College [coaching] taught me that you have to figure things out. If there's a problem, here's how we're going to address it, here's how we're going to fix it. If that doesn't work, then we're going to do this. It's about figuring out problems, and it's very eerily similar from what I was doing to what I'm doing now." 

 

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  • Thomas Cox
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