SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40
Published March 20, 2006
PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDERS INC.
By Ross Nethery
• Age: 38
• Title: CEO
• Company: Professional Bull Riders Inc.
• Education: Studied agriculture business management at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
• Family: Wife, Cameo Kneuer; children Priscilla, 16; Ryan, 16; and Alexandria, 13
• Career: Six years marketing the California Mid-State Fair before joining the PBR in 1995.
• Last vacation: Three- or four-day trail ride in California last May
• Last book read: “Jack: Straight from the Gut” by Jack Welch
• Last movie seen: “Glory Road”
• Pet peeve: The word “can’t”
• Greatest achievement: Seeing where the PBR was in 1995 and where it is now.
• Greatest disappointment: Not spending more time with family.
• Fantasy job: Five years ago, I probably would have said something different, but right now I absolutely don’t know anything else I’d want to do.
• Executive most admired: Jack Welch
• Business advice: Never quit. Never take “no” for an answer.
Back in the early '90s, when Randy Bernard was event coordinator for the California Mid-State Fair, he hired the top two cowboys in the world for a head-to-head matchup.
For Bernard, it was a way to boost attendance. For Ty Murray and Cody Lambert, it was another paycheck.
For all three men, though they didn't know it then, it was the start of a relationship that continues today and has been more successful than any of them dreamed.
In 1995, Bernard was looking for a new opportunity at the same time that Murray, Lambert and their partners in the newly formed Professional Bull Riders Inc. were looking for someone to run the business.
Call it serendipity, or just plain luck. The result of it is that in 10 years, Bernard has gone from being the PBR's only full-time employee to being CEO of a fast-growing company with 90 employees, four bull-riding circuits and an expected $26 million this year in sponsorship revenue alone.
All of that growth helped earn Bernard a spot on the 2006 Forty Under 40 list, but his friends and partners expect Bernard's next decade to be at least as exciting as his last one. That's due in large part to Bernard's leadership, which is described as alternately visionary and off-the-wall. The essence of it is that Bernard is never afraid of what he doesn't know.
"He continually surprises me," said Mike Evans, senior vice president for sports and entertainment at SMG, which runs many of the venues in which PBR events are held. "He's always asking questions. He's always learning."
That translates into a constant stream of new possibilities, though some are more possible than others.
"His brain goes a thousand miles an hour, and he has a lot of out-of-the-box ideas," Murray said. "If he comes up with 10 ideas, nine of them will be stupid, but the other one will be huge."
"Randy is not afraid to think really big," added Lambert, "and dream up something that hasn't been done before."
The benefit from that, Bernard said, is that he's willing to consider ideas that others might dismiss out of hand.
"When we look at an issue, I'll throw out hundreds of ideas," he said. "Half the time they're not worth thinking about, but sometimes they are. I've always been that way. I love to think out loud and keep moving."
What Bernard has the PBR moving toward now is becoming more mainstream — "Our results need to be listed in the major papers," he said — and more international. The PBR will take its top circuit, the Built Ford Tough Series, to Mexico this summer.
As for what happens after that, he said, "Every day, we'll just keep working on it."