John Tippit ’88 says he’s proof that Aggieland never really leaves you once you graduate. “The other night, I dreamt I was back in college and forgot to Q-Drop a physics class,” he said. The former Clear Channel Communications executive told a class of Mays Business School undergraduate students he woke up panicked before realizing he wasn’t in college anymore.

“While many say that 80%-90% of success in life is just showing up,” John Tippit ’88 told students, “it’s that last 10%-20% that really make all the difference.” (view more photos)

Tippit’s journey from his hometown of Las Vegas to Texas A&M is unconventional compared to most Aggies’ stories. “My Dad worked at the MGM Grand Hotel, so I grew up walking around the hotel and working summer jobs as a hotel dishwasher doing the graveyard shifts with my buddies,” he says. Tippit moved to San Antonio his senior year of high school, and with a lifelong love for playing soccer, he joined the football team as a kicker. During that year, he was approached by an Aggie football recruiting coach, who offered him a walk-on position as kicker for the Texas A&M team. Tippit gladly accepted.

Currently the managing director for Mays Family Enterprises, Tippit says he sees his finance degree at work in most aspects of his profession. “Ninety percent of the matters we discuss in meetings are based on business fundamentals I learned in college,” says Tippit.

After graduating from Texas A&M, Tippit went to work for Goldman Sachs, and describes the company’s financial program he participated in as a “two-year crash course in American business.” After completing the program, he took time off and traveled. A planned six-month trip turned into an 18-month backpacking excursion around the world.

“We kept moving west — from the Caribbean, all over the U.S., Canada, Fiji, Australia, Asia and Europe.” Tippit says the experience was eye opening and taught him how to look at things from multiple perspectives.

Tippit eventually went to work for two San Antonio based companies — Harte-Hanks and Clarke-American – where he served as vice president, finance and strategic development. In 2004, he became the senior vice president, strategic development at Clear Channel Communications, working under the Mays family’s leadership.

His time at Clear Channel, a global multimedia company started by Lowry Mays ’57 and Red McCombs, helped him sharpen his business skills and taught him how to a better problem solver, Tippit says. He worked closely with the Mays family and other Clear Channel executives on numerous initiatives including the sale of the company to TH Lee and Bain Capital in 2008. After the completion of the sale, John joined Mays Family Enterprises where he is now responsible the management of the investments and trusts for the family.

Tippit told students the five things he wished he had known before entering the workforce:

  1. No Posing. As you start your career journey, you’re going to be in many situations where you will feel tempted to “pose” because you’re worried that people won’t think you’re smart or competent enough. You really need to squash that urge early on in your career, and get comfortable with admitting you don’t know something or need to learn more.
  2. Life is in the last 10%. While many say that 80%-90% of success in life is just showing up, it’s that last 10%-20% that really make all the difference. Try to make a habit of pushing through the wall of doing “just enough’. That little extra effort helps you set higher expectations for yourself and creates great new learning experiences.
  3. Travel — and not just physically. Take every chance to travel to different regions or countries to understand how other people view the world. But also “travel” locally by reading or listening to new and different ideas, even if you don’t agree with them. “If you usually watch CNN, watch Fox one night, and vice versa. If you like the Wall Street Journal, try the New York Times for a week.” You don’t have to agree with all the viewpoints, but it will help you better understand how people reach conclusions that may be different than yours.
  4. Make capital investments in yourself. Tippit says investing in yourself by learning new skills, travelling, volunteering and talking with those wiser than you greatly increase the potential for future success.
  5. Be kind and respectful. Despite the common perception that you can only be successful in business by being hard-nosed and tough, ultimately business is about working with people. “Lowry Mays is one of the kindest and most respectful guys I know,” he says, adding that Mays ability to make employees feel valued and important helped Clear Channel become one of the largest media companies in the world.