Wisconsin's Public Liberal Arts College

Derek Miller


Career Services

Derek Miller

You're a CEO, what does that entail? What are your duties or responsibilities?

My job has evolved over the years and involves many disciplines depending on the actual day and time of year. Being the owner and operator of my own company since day 1 has led me to have my hand in every ongoing aspect of the business from answering the phone to answer questions for clients, all the way to consulting with pro athletes on their training and technique.

The short and simple version of my business/job is:

I operate an athlete/hockey player development company that works and consults with approx. 3000 athletes per year. Annually we run 25 separate youth programs, train 40+ teams, and are on contract with 4 local youth hockey associations as their development team. Our company doesn't target any specific person because if you look at our customer history, we train clients from 4 years old to 64 years old and from beginners to NHL players. Since 2008, I have also been the head of development for Scottish ice hockey and coach their national teams in international competition. The spring and summer has us paired off with a more elite client base made up of CIS, NCAA, semi pro and NHL players for their off season regiments.

What are the highlights of your job that you enjoy most?

I'd have to say that the highlights of my job can be broken down into a few categories:

Environment:I have been able to take a game that I love and paired together with the education I received from UWS, they make my office a hockey arena.

People:I have been afforded the opportunity to travel the world and meet amazing people who I consider life long friends.

Results: My tireless effort to give each person I train the same experience I have had with hockey as a youth player and pro player is what really makes me thankful for my job. Each session is a special session to me because it's another chance to make a difference in a players overall fitness and skill set, which in turn, helps them be more confident and enjoy the game to its fullest.

What are the challenges that you face with your job that are not enjoyable?

In my business, it has seen over a 500% growth in the past 2 years and I find that my daily duties have become 90% business preparation and daily management, with 10% training. I am working with a website and software developer to automate most of my business now which should help alleviate this off balance, but currently this is still the situation.

How do you spend your work days? Do you spend a lot of time office/lab/meetings/outside/___?

Most days I will be tackling my very full email inbox with all kinds of inquiries that can consume the majority of the day. Along with returning emails, there is all the planning that goes into the day to day training sessions which consumes more time than most expect. For each and every hour of training I perform with a client or group of clients, I am meticulous and put in an additional 2 hours of preparation time so that the client receives the best training to fit their personal needs. With my house also acting as my office, I don't ever really leave my work so the phone, computer, and paper work seem to always be in front of me.

How did this type of job/field interest you and how did you get started?

I was working for the university and planning on staying through the summer, when one afternoon I looked up hockey development job openings. I submitted one resume and was contacted within 5 minutes of submitting it and hired on the spot with a flight to move to Colorado and begin training athletes all over the US for the entire summer. I worked with the company out of Colorado during my time at the university and still consult with them now. In 2006, I started my very first hockey program on my own when I moved from university to playing professionally. With the demanding playing schedule, I only ran one program annually until I decided to step away from playing hockey in 2008. I accepted a job with the Ottawa Senators Organization working in the development and training area of players, but soon after joining up with them and moving to Ottawa, I realized that I was meant to be my own boss.

I had already established Derek Miller hockey in 2002 consulting and branched out to Next Generation HKY in 2005. I decided to see if I could give this a run to operate the business full time in a new city.

I have since then taken my company from nothing atall, to a highly respectable and rewarding company. I have 25 part time staff, seasonal full time staff and am so busy I often have to turn business away as well as have waitlists set up.

What qualifications did you need to obtain this job?

I think the #1 qualification in my field is simply knowledge! Being confident in the product/service you are supplying or being asked to supply and continually educating yourself is important to successful careers. Preparation, education,and acumen all come into play with displaying your knowledge and thusconfidence.

What personal qualities or abilities do you believe contribute most to successin this job/field?

I strive to always push my personal comfort zone.I was quite shy and always intimidated around groups growing up, but I put myself in uncomfortable situations so that I could learn to keep calm under pressure.

I like being creative and always trying to view the training sessions from the player's point of view. This is something that has shot me to the top of my niche market. I think outside the box, and am always reinventing the training parameters to meet each person's needs and wants.

What organizations were you involved in College that helped you towards your career?

Being part of a hockey team lends itself well to this growth as a player and understanding the struggles of training first hand and now I am able to relate those past experiences to my athletes.

What degree/s is appropriate for this line of work?

The absolute best degree I discovered at UWS was that you have the ability to customize your degree. My interest in the Biology area is what took me in that direction and it lends itself to understanding the anatomy and physiology of the body much better when training the mechanics of an athlete. Combining all aspects of my business on a daily basis, I find myself dipping into several degree areas that would be appropriate for this line of work.

-business department for day to day operation

-accounting to make sure my books are balanced

-education as I work with youth and teach

-bio to understand the body

-Human performance, physical Education teacher etc.

Where and/or what do you hope to be in 2-5 years? 5-10 years? What are the keys to this career advancement?

2-5 years, 5-10years - I will have 3 full time employees running my existing business on a daily basis, and being a full time trainer with a NHL franchise and hopefully Canada's national teams.

What was the best piece of advice you received and from who that helped you towards your career?

Find a mentor! For my personal line of work, it is ery competitive especially being in Canada. I have been quite fortunate to getwhere I am today, but often learning from others and those figuratively passingthe torch along to you will help you along your own career path.

*Doyou have any advice or "words from experience" for a college student interestedin this job/field?

- I hope others candraw parallels to what I do to spark their own interest in working with sportsplayers. (Football, soccer, track, or simply just being a personal trainer)

It's a dog eat dogworld out there, so you will have to have some thick skin because not allpeople are honest and often some believe their best marketing tool is toslander their competition. Be a truthful and honest person to your customersand look for ways to separate yourself from the rest.

* If you knew all this back in college, whatwould you say were the most important classes? Is there anything you would havepaid more attention to? Any additional classes you would have taken?

- I would have had astronger focus and taken more business classes to complement my major. As Ihave said before, I love educating myself and over a year ago I enrolled backinto UWS as a distance learning student taking several marketing and generalbusiness classes in an effort to gain some personal growth.

*Incollege, people claim that a bachelor's degree isn't enough anymore and thatyou need a master's or doctorate degree to get your foot in the door.  What's your opinion?

-There are pros and cons toboth sides of the coin here. I personally think that a person with a BA who isan educated person with experience can do a job as good as an individual with amaster's degree. However, setting yourself apart from the pack can be achievedthrough the master's route and some jobs require this.

From personal experience, I know many people whohave gone both directions and I often would choose the person with the BA as Ifeel 90% of people who have attained their master's have only done so to addthat to their resume versus actually further educate themselves.


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