Todd Ransom has a not-so-secret identity: On Saturdays during football season, he officiates Big Ten Conference games in front of tens of thousands of fans. And after 21 years officiating (and as many years in the family business), he has not only learned a thing or two about football, he’s also become a pro at keeping cool while running Kramer Lumber.
Tell me about being a college football referee. Why did you start?
I grew up with a father who was not only part of our family lumber business, but also a football ref. I got to see him go through a 30-year career in the Big Ten and I decided when I was in college to start working high school basketball and swimming and diving. That led to me wanting to do football. He helped me get my crew and my start and challenged me along the way. I worked through high school and through small college in the mid-American conference and then was fortunate enough eight years ago to be taken into the Big Ten conference football officiating staff.
Do your employees ever go to see the games you officiate?
Once in a while if I'm at Indiana or Purdue, which are close to me, I'll have an employee who will say, 'if you have any extra tickets, call me.' I try to always accommodate them if I can. When they're interested in what you're doing, it makes that much easier to walk away from the business to do what you do, because it does take time away.
What happens if you make a bad call during the game? Do your employees ever give you a hard time about it?
If they're a fan of a certain school, sure, they'll heckle me. They'll give me a hard time. That's just part of it. If you've never gotten a hard time about a game or a call, you've never put on the striped shirt.
Are there similarities between being a referee and running a lumberyard?
There are a lot of similarities. There's always a stress level. You never want to get too comfortable in your surroundings. Somebody's always pushing you, whether it be an employee pushing you in the business or a coach who's pushing you to get information. Communication is a big thing in officiating that is important in the business world, as well. We have to make sure that we are communicating at our best all the time to make sure that we're the best team on the field. In business, we have to do the same thing, to our people, to our customers.
Does being a referee help your dispute resolution skills at work?
Conflict resolution becomes a big piece of the puzzle. Sometimes, people get frustrated with me because I don't show a lot of emotion when conflict arises. You learn to keep a level head on the football field and hopefully you can apply that to the other things you do in life and resolve things quickly, easily, and efficiently.
You also have to keep track of a lot of minute details on the field. Does that attention to detail come in handy on the job?
We have a saying in officiating, which is 'silence can't be misquoted.' Sometimes, you have to take time to think through what's going on before you jump in and start giving orders or direction. It's good to survey the situation and approach it in a common sense manner, a lot like we do on the field.
You see someone doing something wrong at the yard. Do you ever reach for a yellow flag?
No, we've been very fortunate over the years. I've never felt myself reaching for a flag. Don't get me wrong, there's a couple people I'd like ejected, but I didn't.