Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 23 No. 17
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Mike Boykin: The walking dealmaker

Bespoke Sports & Entertainment CEO uses sneakers and a good stroll to improve his health and take care of business.
Photo: adam stern
Photo: adam stern
Photo: adam stern

Mike Boykin walks his way to new business every day.

In a bid to improve his health and motivated by his Fitbit, the CEO of Charlotte-based Bespoke Sports & Entertainment started taking daily walks on July 1, 2016. In the more than 1,000 consecutive days since then, Boykin has gotten into dramatically better shape, lost 40 to 45 pounds and developed a unique penchant for handling business as he strolls around the city.

Boykin started Bespoke with fellow former GMR executive Greg Busch in 2014. The agency’s sports marketing clients include Axalta, Pilot Flying J, Academy Sports & Outdoors and Credit One Bank.

His children bought him a Fitbit one Father’s Day. Having learned that the American Heart Association recommends people walk 10,000 steps a day, Boykin decided to use his newfound step-counting device.

After he completed one day, he started pushing himself to hit that mark every day for a week. Soon, that grew to trying to do so every day for a month. Eventually, Boykin was hooked on the routine. He’s now closer to a daily 15,000-step mark and along the way has inspired several employees and industry colleagues to improve their health.

The walking approach to conducting business has its drawbacks, such as when a truck passes or construction crews fire up noisy equipment.

“I have had senior-level people call me to give me the approval to move forward with a deal if we could get a few things negotiated, and multiple C-level folks on the call have said, ‘Mike, are you on the highway?’” Boykin recounted with a chuckle. “I can remember putting it on mute and running a couple hundred yards to a side street [to get away from the noise].”

BB&T Ballpark is one of Boykin’s favorite places to walk past as he strolls throughout uptown Charlotte.
Photo: adam stern
BB&T Ballpark is one of Boykin’s favorite places to walk past as he strolls throughout uptown Charlotte.
Photo: adam stern
BB&T Ballpark is one of Boykin’s favorite places to walk past as he strolls throughout uptown Charlotte.
Photo: adam stern

But Boykin has discovered benefits to his business along the way. He said the daily walks have helped him handle private calls more easily and have valuable one-on-one time with employees and clients. He ideates with a clearer mind, unbothered by conversations or other happenings going on at the office.

It’s gotten to the point where he now routinely has clients who are in town join him for the walks.

“It’s a different environment than boardrooms, conference calls and Skypes,” Boykin said. “Just being outside is different than being in an office. When you’re walking, you can have very open, honest or even heated [conversations] — whatever you need to be at that particular moment.”

Boykin looks for walking opportunities when he’s beyond his office. For example, when he gets off flights at the end of the day, rather than immediately heading to his car, he will walk around the airport concourse. Last year, Boykin topped more than 3,000 miles walked, and he walks around three hours a day, according to his Fitbit.

With his office near the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium, Boykin routinely runs into players and coaches, including head coach Ron Rivera. He also enjoys walking by BB&T Ballpark, which is the home to the Class AAA Charlotte Knights. He sometimes brings a change of clothes to work in case he gets too sweaty. He’s had to buy a new wardrobe because of how much he’s slimmed down.

While the walks have benefited him, Boykin hopes his story inspires others.

“When you release the tension, frustration and anxiety — and that’s what these walks do — when you come back in the office, you have a different perspective,” he said. “This is a release for me, mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s been profound.”