In the EMU Royals dugout from 2014-16, Aaron Hooven was a talker, remembers baseball coach Ben Spotts.
“I had to stay on him sometimes, but to his credit, he always listened,” Spotts said. “He was definitely a people person, and people are drawn to him because of his personality.”
That amiable nature has contributed to Hooven’s current success in the business world – he now works in financial sales with a growing company in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
But in a recent interview outside the company’s Kennesaw corporate headquarters, Hooven will admit his polish took some “honing.”
“I’m the kind of guy who knows no stranger,” he said, which is why he remembers his speech class at EMU as particularly valuable. “If you’re an extrovert like I am, the speech class teaches you to rein it in. Even now, sometimes I’ll just stop myself and tell myself to listen. You learn just as much by listening well and asking questions as you do by talking.”
HR, mediation classes provided important preparation
As a recreation leadership and sports promotion major, Hooven was always interested in business. “I like to talk to people, and business is always about how you speak and how you handle yourself in conversation.” So he looked for work that involved people and would play to his socially oriented strengths.
And he found that his classes at EMU had prepared him in important ways.
“The courses in human resources and mediation really teach you how to have intelligent conversations and to be able to pick up on where people are coming from,” he said. “Essentially it is how to deal with conflict – and we deal with conflict every day. That conflict doesn’t have to be negative or violent, but there is always a problem to be solved, and we have to talk to people to solve it. You have to be able to pick up on things in the conversation to move the process forward.”
The ability to speak and articulate well in high-pressure situations and under scrutiny is under-estimated, Hooven said. His baseball experiences – he was primarily a reliever on the mound – have contributed to some comfort level in situations where others might be distracted or uneasy. Working in a commission-based model appeals to him, he said, in part because it takes the same mettle he learned in athletics.
High-achieving sales associates in the company were at one point routinely asked to provide a motivational speech for their colleagues. When he had earned the honor, Hooven shared something he’d learned while playing under Spotts at EMU.
“Do everything with a purpose,” he said. “Ben taught us that. Even if you’re playing catch and warming up, hit the guy in the chest every time. So I took that idea and adapted it [to sales]. The river and the flood are both fast-moving water with a current, but the flood lacks vision and focus. The river cuts through the land and is purposeful and so makes a deep impact. We get in flood mentality sometimes, we rush through things and leave a lot of damage behind us. We need to be purposeful and focused in everything we do.”
Athletics experience helps job search
Hooven’s sports experience also helped him find a place in the workforce. After graduation in May 2016, Spotts connected him with a summer internship at LakePoint Sports, a large mixed-use development in suburban Atlanta that caters to youth sports tournaments and related travel experiences. That internship was where he met his future wife (they married in September 2018) and where he was offered a full-time position as the marketing director.
After a year there, Hooven attended a networking event where an acquaintance suggested he look into financial sales. “I see myself doing this for a while,” he said. “I love Atlanta, it’s a booming place, and there’s a lot of opportunity here.