Sea Pines’ Dee Ray smashed the glass ceiling in the world of sports
Story by Eddy Hoyle
In 1979 Dee Ray and her husband, Rick, formed Raycom Sports and forged the largest independent television network in the U.S. for live collegiate sports. In a man’s world, Ray experienced a patronizing attitude that she was only there to lend moral support to her husband. Networks and athletic conferences didn’t expect to be working with a female in televised sports in those days. The sports industry was skeptical she would succeed in a male dominated, sports televised world. She proved them wrong.
“Their attitude was like ‘okay, you broke the glass ceiling, now get a broom and clean up the mess.’” She broke new ground, developed the most successful sales force in collegiate televised sports and broke a $100 million milestone in sales. “We built credibility and changed the industry at the same time. And for the first time, we brought local sports into homes that had no way to see their favorite teams.”
In 1989 this power couple purchased the 28,000 sq. ft. Duke Mansion in Charlotte. They restored it from condominiums back to a single-family home and in 1996 established the Lynwood Institute to preserve the mansion, which now has 20 overnight guest suites and is a tremendous asset to Charlotte and North Carolina. In 2010 Ray came out of retirement and founded Nuray Digital, one of the first companies to digitize archives of film on antiquated formats for movies, documentaries, news, cartoons and, of course, sports. Her most important job, however, is that of a wife and mother. She describes Rick as her best friend; they have four children and are 25-year residents of Sea Pines. Here are her tips for success.
Keys to Success
1. Smart counts. “Hire the smartest people you can,” Ray stated. “Let them do their jobs and learn from them. Most of the employees we hired moved on and upward in the business world, validating we hired the right people. Qualities that are important are honesty, a willingness to work hard, and being a team player.”
2. Work like it’s your own business. “To work like it’s your own business is critical,” Ray explained. “That means that you should be willing to take the initiative and not wait to be told what to do. Recognize your efforts also effect the bottom line. And don’t just bring problems to management. Bring solutions along with the problems.”
3. Financial gain. Ray emphasized that financial gain shouldn’t be your first priority. “Don’t work for only financial gain. In every hiring interview I did, I would ask ‘what is more important — financial gain or a job well done?’ I never hired anyone who answered financial gain as their first priority because I wanted to hire people who would promote the good of the company. It always worked out, which is amazing. But a job well done gives satisfaction, and that equates to not only satisfaction of a job well done, but an employee’s financial gain as well.”
4. Honesty and follow-up. Recognize that you are human and don’t have all the answers. “If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it, find the answer and then come back. Honesty and follow-up earn trust. So admit it, find the answer and learn. Finding the right answers to questions may actually help shape your business.”
5. Meet all clients in person. “The electronic environment we live in is too easy. Every first meeting should be face-to-face. It begins to build relationships that will grow and prosper. They meet you, see you, and experience your presence. They now know you, and you know them. This will build the best list of lifelong contacts.”