Although he had a good entrepreneurial foundation through experience, Tim Clegg didn’t have a lot of formal leadership training when he opened a gourmet donut business in 2013.
“For me, I feel like I had a good basis to start from, but I didn’t necessarily have anything to back it up,” said Clegg.
Now he claims to “kind of know” what he’s doing.
“Today, I would rate my leadership ability as ‘always improving,’” he said. “I believe a good leader is always learning.”
Clegg’s newfound confidence comes from the OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership degree he earned in May. After opening that first donut shop, Clegg, the founder and CEO of the growing Hurts Donut Company, now oversees a franchise that encompasses more than 20 stores in 11 states across the country, including one on Campus Corner near OU’s Norman campus.
“We opened the first Hurts Donut Company in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, in late 2013. I was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan later in the year but was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and deemed non-deployable,” said Clegg, who is a Marine Corps and Army veteran. “Hurts Donut Company is a business that was built on a diagnosis of a disease that can take people out of the game for good.”
“People are always asking me where I find the time for school. I tell them the time is there, you just have to use good time management and commit to it. I’m a married father of four and a CEO of a successful organization and managed to find the time to complete my degree on time. It’s all about prioritizing what you want to do for yourself and making it happen.”
Clegg said the diagnosis is an important part of the Hurts business, and the company makes charitable donations to the National MS Society through its water bottle sales and National MS Society cycling team.
“That’s been a big part of us from the beginning,” he said. “I was raised in a very charitable environment. Even though we didn’t have much, I was taught to give what I could.”
A long road to reach a dream
Clegg first began the MAOL program in 2011 but had to withdraw after losing both his father and grandfather within a couple of months of each other. He then took over his family’s seasonal shaved ice business. The donut idea rose when he and his wife began looking for a way to earn an income during the other half of the year.
“The plan was to open a business that would bridge the gap between our other seasonal business, shaved ice stands,” Clegg said. “Since we were only in operation five to six months out of the year, we needed to earn an income without having to meticulously budget for the rest of the year, especially since my wife had just given birth to our twins Harper and Finnegan.”
Hurts experienced tremendous success almost immediately, and the couple’s three-year plan to expand accelerated to opening the Norman location just nine months after creating and opening the first location. Clegg said that was the first step in bringing him back to Norman, where he first lived in the early 1990s while attending Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College, now Randall University. This time, however, he was able to bring something that would benefit the local economy.
“I’ve been a fan of OU, not just the football team, since moving to Oklahoma from Missouri in 1992. Living in Norman as a young 20-something allowed me to experience the importance of community on the campus and beyond,” Clegg said. “It was a dream of mine since then to earn a degree from OU, but life took the long road to bring me back here. I was so excited to watch the process unfold and to experience additional success in a community that had played such an integral role in my youth.”
A manageable program for working adults
Clegg said he was led to the MAOL program because of the university’s reputation for scholarship. He started a master’s program at American Military University. Once he realized going to school while running a business and raising a family was possible, he transferred to OU.
While OU was more difficult and the course work was much heavier, it was still doable, and instructors always made time to exchange an email or a phone call.
“They were always available to address a question or help me if I experienced a brain fog moment,” he said. “The design of the program was easy to follow. I felt like that made the process very easy. I was able to complete the program with all A’s, and I was probably the worst undergraduate student ever.”
Clegg said in addition to being able to apply what he learned almost immediately, the MAOL program gave him the opportunity to explore different styles of leadership. He always thought of himself as a servant leader, but realized he was more of a transformational leader. That realization led him to foster better relationships with his staff and create a more focused vison for his company.
“As a young company, we are constantly evaluating and implementing change. Using strategies learned in the program, you can approach change systematically and address the fears that some may experience with a different mindset,” he said. “I’ve taken more time to listen to my employees as their leader rather than as their peer, which has made an incredible difference in employee satisfaction. Employees want to be led.”
Organizational Leadership professor Ruby Daniels would disagree with Clegg’s abilities as a student but confirms his ability to immediately put into action what he learned in class. She said as a small business owner, Clegg seized the opportunity to use insight from his leadership classes to give his business a competitive advantage.
“In addition to tackling hypothetical scenarios presented in class assignments, Tim regularly leveraged the discussion with his classmates to analyze problems and brainstorm about strategies and solutions for his small business,” Daniels said. “His enthusiasm, openness and collaborative spirit helped everyone in class to learn.”
Daniels said when Clegg passed his comprehensive exam, she received a note from one of his prior MAOL instructors. It said, “Tim is a rock star.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Daniels said.
Moving forward as a lifelong learner
About midway through the MAOL program, Clegg realized he’d fostered a passion for learning and applied for admission into an organizational change and leadership doctoral program at the University of Southern California. He said his foundation at PACS set the stage for a smooth transition, and he’s settling in after starting the program last month.
“I, along with many others in my cohort, are currently experiencing imposter syndrome, but we’re learning to accept our place in the program,” he said. “I believe that it was important for me to continue my education to be the best leader that I can be for my organization, but also to identify problems of practice within my industry and make a lasting impact, through research, on those who I serve today and in the future.
“As a franchisor, I have the honor of leading some incredible people who have bought into my vision,” he added. “To do that successfully, I have to constantly be learning, failing, educating and implementing ideas that will keep us all moving forward.”
It’s never too late
Clegg said in addition to learning tangible ways to improve his business, the program taught him it’s never too late to walk down the path toward self-improvement.
“People are always asking me where I find the time for school,” he said. “I tell them the time is there, you just have to use good time management and commit to it. I’m a married father of four and a CEO of a successful organization and managed to find the time to complete my degree on time. It’s all about prioritizing what you want to do for yourself and making it happen.”
Interested in learning more about an OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies degree program? Visit our website for more information on our undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership.
Photo by Nate Webster, Hurts Donut Company