Ben Holtzclaw grew up something of a numbers guy, embracing strategy before he actually realized what it was.

He could add, subtract, multiply and divide double-digit equations in his head and spit out an answer with a savant-like quality that made him a master as a pint-sized poker player.

What’s 88 x 37?

“3,256,” Ben responds in a millisecond.

A family vacation to New York City made an early impression on him as an 8-year-old when during an afternoon in lively Washington Square, he handed over $5 of his own funds to learn chess from the peddlers who spent all day every day there. When the final vacation day called for a tour of Yankee Stadium, Ben asked, “Can I go back to Washington Square and play more chess?” He returned to the same table, learning more moves using rooks, pawns and the queen. Without a chess team at his middle school, he cajoled his dad into leaving work early every Wednesday to drive him to Western Branch High to join its chess club, where he beat everyone in his path.

By the time Ben attended high school, his passion had become tennis. His diminutive size as a freshman fooled his older peers into thinking he had soft strokes. The court was his chess board, and Ben graduated among the most decorated players in school history — a two-time captain who was a four-time conference champion, two apiece in singles and doubles.

Yet it was the team aspect that mattered to Ben the most.

“You join the tennis team by yourself. People think of tennis as an individual sport, but high school tennis is a team sport,” he said. “No one player has the ability to impact a tennis team. You find success together. And that was the best part.”

Ben didn’t have an idea for a major until a chat with an undergraduate at a Virginia Commonwealth University orientation turned him on to economics. He ultimately decided to attend James Madison University and majored in econ.

“It felt like you could use a lot of real world examples to explain concepts,” Ben said. “In economics you learn about stuff that’s actually happening and why things are the way they are.”

Ben graduated from JMU’s College of Business in May 2022. It made sense for his next step to be in an office staring at spreadsheets on a computer. He tried that out, but it left a void, leading him to The Lee Group to find something more fulfilling. He initially spoke with Lee Group Vice President of Operations Sarah Fulton about seeking more meaningful work coming back to this sentence: “I want to do something that helps people.”

In January 2023, Ben became part of the team at Lee Group Search, where as an Executive Search Consultant, he partners with hospitality industry leaders and candidates nationwide to find the talent they need to grow and scale their business operations.

“We learn about the Golden Rule in kindergarten,” he says. “In its simplest sense, that’s what Lee Group Search is about – we treat each other and other people how we would like to be treated. We live the Golden Rule.”

Ben still plays tennis today although it’s hard to keep him off the links since he discovered golf. The ardent fan of NBA great LeBron James also enjoys spending time with his longtime girlfriend, Alyna, a first-year medical student.

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