Volume 26 Number 2
Scott Lesht in his home office
©2004 Tyagan Miller
The Leading Business
With majors in accounting and finance, Scott Lesht is good with numbers. So good, in fact, that he seems to come up with more than 24 hours in a day. How else could he maintain four majors in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, participation in the Kelley School's Civic Leadership Development group, a seat on the board of directors of the Monroe County American Red Cross, and a Web-based business, among other things?
Here's how Lesht does the numbers: "24 hours in a day; six to eight for sleep, an hour or two for exercise, a couple for enjoyment and leisure. But the rest . . . I pack my days full. I would not enjoy sitting around playing video games and watching TV all the time. To me, that is not fun."
Evidently, what is fun for Lesht is leading.
The junior from Schaumburg, Ill., lists majors in entrepreneurship and international studies, along with accounting and finance, and maintains a 3.9 grade point average. He was admitted directly into the Kelley School from high school, where he graduated first of 513 students. Last year, he was admitted to the Kelley Honors Program as one of only 60 sophomores.
In high school, Lesht was president of the school's chapter of Business Professionals of America and of the Illinois state chapter. As a freshman at IU, he sought out a chapter of the same organization. Finding none, he e-mailed Rex Cutshall, faculty lecturer at the Kelley School. Within a couple of months, the two of them set up a BPA chapter at IU, meeting the requirements of the national organization as well as the university's guidelines for recognized student groups.
"As faculty advisor, I appointed Scott interim president of the group, which was later affirmed by vote," Cutshall says. "I knew he wanted the club, so I made it primarily his duty to get people excited, to get them to join."
Apparently, it worked. Shortly, a group of 11 members was meeting weekly in preparation for a statewide competition. They came home "with a ton of hardware," Cutshall says. "In every category we competed, an IU student or group took first place. That was our claim to fame."
The individuals and groups competed in eight events, ranging from accounting to marketing, computer systems, and finance. Lesht participated in the spreadsheet and database analysis competitions, while other individuals and teams made their marks in financial management presentations, banking, and finance competitions.
After winning at the state level, the team was eligible to go to the national competition in Chicago. That presented another problem: as a brand-new club, the group didn't have any money. Over spring break that year, Cutshall and Lesht solicited donor support and generated enough money give the entire team a free ride. Although they didn't make as spectacular a splash as they had at the state level, they still made a good showing, especially as a new group. Another group did almost as well in the statewide competition during the 2002-03 academic year, sending four delegates to the national competition in Dallas.
Lesht's early BPA leadership on campus was only the beginning. As a sophomore, he joined the Kelley School's Civic Leadership Development organization, an undergraduate program that facilitates opportunities for students to volunteer and learn about nonprofit organizations from the inside. The program's focus on civic and social responsibility seemed to inspire Lesht--according to CLD director Helen Ingersoll, he became a "head honcho" in no time.
"Scott started as a participant. In 2002, he served on a nine-person leadership board to help me administer the program. This year he's part of a three-person executive team that supervises, motivates, and aids other student leaders," she says.
Lesht's leadership skills are a particularly interesting mix, Ingersoll observes: "He is competent, focused, self-assured, and he has challenged me--which is very, very good--to think through things in different ways. This is what I really want the students to do, not just come in and ask for me to hand them a blueprint of tasks that have to be done by deadline."
Because Ingersoll herself sits on the board of directors of the Monroe County American Red Cross, she helped develop a student seat on that board, a unique opportunity for undergraduates. Lesht now fills that slot, and he cites his positions with the CLD and the Red Cross as highlights of his college career. "In my freshman year, I wasn't really aware of the community here," he says. "It's a good community, very strong, and I'm very happy to be involved in it.
"Being a student and being able to sit on a not-for-profit board is really a unique experience," he continues. "It allows me to use some of my strengths and build on them, to work with talented adults to make the community better. I really enjoy that."
Lesht keeps equally busy during his breaks from school. In summer 2002, he served as an intern with U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R.-Ill.). The next summer, he created an entrepreneurial business with IUB junior Michael Eizenga in just two months' time.
"Michael and I talked about how it would be really cool to start a business," says Lesht. "We brainstormed for awhile about what we could do that could have a big target market. We wanted it to be primarily on the Internet, and we came up with some ideas--a dating service, consulting." Ultimately, the two developed a retail/delivery service concept for family and friends to order themed "snack baskets:" SendMeSnacks.com (http://sendmesnacks.site.yahoo.com) was born.
"I think we're in it for the right reasons, trying to learn, to get the experience of starting your own business," says Lesht. "Even if the business doesn't take off, the experience in and of itself has really been worth it."
Remarkablyor maybe not--Lesht is also president of Phi Eta Sigma, a national honor society. He was elected vice president during his sophomore year and in his senior year, he will serve as advisor.
After graduation in May 2005, Lesht says he's got his eye on law school and more. His volunteer internship with Fitzgerald set Lesht's sights on running for public office.
"Working at the senator's office let me see the legislative and political process firsthand," says Lesht. "I did basic tasks but I also talked with constituents about immigration issues. It was interesting to hear what people have to go through and to hear the problems some people face, but I also felt bad. Oh man, I really wanted to help those people a lot.
"Public service is just something I want to do," he continues. "I want to do it for the fact that you're helping people, and you really can make a difference if you do the right things. Obviously I'll have to play the political game, that's inherent in politics, but inside I want to know that I'm doing it for the right reasons."
It seems the only thing that slows Lesht down is time itself.
"My big challenge in life is balancing things, giving equal amounts of time to the things that I'm involved with so I don't negate one thing, but give good solid all-around effort," he says. "It really comes down to time management."
So maybe Lesht hasn't figured out how to find extra hours in a day. He just keeps trying.
Luci Englert McKean is a freelance writer in Bloomington, Ind.