On Wednesday

On Wednesday

Former Seattle Supersonic James Donaldson offers business tips at chamber luncheon

At 7 feet, 2 inches, former NBA star James Donaldson says he is known as the "big man on small business.

At 7 feet, 2 inches, former NBA star James Donaldson says he is known as the “big man on small business.

“He opened The Donaldson Physical Therapy Clinic in Mill Creek in 1990 and since then, has expanded and downsized his business as the economic climate has changed throughout the years.

On Wednesday afternoon, the former Seattle Supersonic spoke at the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce‘s economic vitality luncheon, offering advice to small businesses on how to be successful.

“It’s so difficult and challenging to run a business,” Donaldson acknowledged.

He said one of the most important things for a business owner to have is a vision. They need to see in their mind what they want and focus on that, rather than any possible negative outcomes, Donaldson said. Things may not pan out for whatever reason, but a clear vision is one thing business owners can control.

“A lot of stuff is really outside our control,” Donaldson said.


He emphasized the importance of having a strong support team that will help tackle tough challenges. He also stressed that business owners and leaders need to empower their teams to be the best they can be.

“None of us gets through this by ourselves,” the Seattle resident said.

Donaldson drew on his experiences as a basketball player, sharing a story of when he was empowered by George Raveling, his basketball coach at Washington State University. Raveling had given Donaldson a key to the school’s gym and weight room and encouraged him to practice and condition on his own to build up his skills and strength. Donaldson said he did not play basketball until his junior year in high school and therefore, had doubted his abilities. But Raveling’s encouragement had support helped build Donaldson’s confidence.

Donaldson said this was important as it helped him believe in his talent, which is something that applies to all areas of life, from sports to school to business.

Shelley Kloba, who works as a licensed massage therapist at the Donaldson Clinic and attended Wednesday’s luncheon, said her boss practices what he preaches.

She has worked at the clinic since 1992 (with a leave of absence from 1997-2001) and said Donaldson gives the clinic staff members opportunities to succeed and fail, the latter of which she said is extremely important.

“You learn more from your failures than from your success,” Kloba said.


Donaldson also said it is important to set team goals and Kloba agrees.

The Kirkland resident and Lake Washington Schools Foundation trustee said she has seen her personal productivity increase because she wants to help the clinic meet its goals.

Another important part of having a strong support team is to realizing you don’t know everything and can’t do everything, Donaldson said. He said business owners need to learn how to delegate duties as well as recognize workers who go beyond their assigned duties, which goes with empowering employees.

Kloba said recognizing employees is something they do regularly at staff meetings at the clinic. She said everybody shares with the group something they appreciate, which usually ends up being something a coworker has done to help them.

“It’s a very simple and powerful thing we do,” she said.

In addition to establishing a strong support team within a business, Donaldson said small business owners should also network.

“It pays to network,” he said. “You’ll notice your peers are going through the same things as you.”

Donaldson said it also pays to be current with new technology and not be afraid of change as this will enhance your knowledge and in the end your business’ bottom line.


Donaldson, who grew up in Sacramento, is also an author. His book, “Standing Above the Crowd,” gives readers advice on how to succeed in sports and life.

Donaldson said his speaking engagements range from business groups such as the chamber to athletic teams to bookstores. He said it is important to be motivated on a regular basis because it is in human nature to become complacent.

Donaldson said the strategies he discusses don’t just apply to athletics or business. He said setting goals and working to achieve them can also apply to succeeding in music, academics and other areas of life.

With many references to coaches and others in his life, Donaldson said the role of a mentor is very important and does not stop after we leave school. He is a board member for Washington State Mentors and said it is a necessity to have someone who can motivate you throughout life.

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