It may sound corny, but truly, my most notable gift and greatest aspiration is to be a change agent, and it has proven to serve me and everyone around me more than well – on both a professional and individual basis.
Change is hard. So, the question becomes, why would I choose to make my life’s work something I can count on to be difficult?
Because I inherently love people. I’m a natural connector and facilitator. I’ve just always been a relational guy, which I can easily attribute to my upbringing.
The formative years
I grew up in Columbia, Missouri, which is literally centered between Kansas City and St. Louis. I have older siblings, but the age gap is wide enough that I really grew up more as an only child, although now one of my business partners is my brother.
My parents were both educators at the collegiate level, my father as an art professor and my mom as an instructor of equestrian studies. They both worked their tails off, to make sure I always had everything I needed, and I wanted for very little. They gave me a great childhood with a solid foundation of faith, unconditional love and support of my pursuits. My parents taught me so much about hard work, treating people right and pursuing my passions, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t credit my brother’s influence for my success in the business world; after all, we know teachers aren’t in it for the money.
My early education took place at a small parochial school in a little town just outside of Columbia; I went to high school in Columbia; then I attended McKendree University, a small college in southern Illinois, where I played baseball, made some lifelong friends, and took away the invaluable lesson of discipline and a deep appreciation of learning.
But I also quickly realized that I was getting trained for just a job, and my entrepreneurial spirit was just too strong to settle there. So, by my senior year, I was looking for a career path where I had more control to influence my destiny, which led me to sales – first in insurance, and from there to other sales-oriented organizations. Even still, I was faced with limitations, which compelled me to seek something greater.
How I took charge of my destiny
I started a leads business, made some other investments that have panned out, and became a turnaround guy, helping businesses grow to success out of some pretty dire circumstances. And, I’ve discovered that unpredictability and a blank canvas are super attractional for me. Una is, perhaps the most notable example, because today we’ve revolutionized procurement for companies of all sizes.
Make no mistake, there has been pain that has come through growing businesses, learning about entrepreneurship, about who I am as a leader, recognizing my front-and-center weaknesses, and the ways I’ve impacted people around me, as well as the organization.
This drives me to be better: to my wife and kids; to my partners and team members; to friends and family; to myself; and to the community – with a special focus on empowering businesses by empowering Kansas City’s youth through involvement with Ronald McDonald House, Lead to Read, my local Church and a variety of other outreach efforts.
A winning approach to business
All my experiences have been humbling and have also served as reinforcement that a company’s core values and standards start at the top. So, I’m committed to creating and nurturing an environment of trust, where we encourage individuality and strive to provide the psychological safety that makes room for other peoples’ thoughts and gives everyone the opportunity to grow at their pace.
It’s also important to remember that we’re human, and we all make mistakes. And frankly, we can make mistakes because if people are making mistakes, that means they’re making decisions, and if we’re making decisions then we’re moving forward. The last thing we want to do is create bottlenecks through me or others, and not move forward and not make decisions because that’s what prevents growth.
Growth, in fact, is my biggest motivation. That people would come in the organization, whether they stick around for a year, five years, ten years, and they’re doing better coming out than they were coming in – financially, professionally; even skills they’ve gained; but the biggest celebration for me, is personally. One of our team members who has watched me as a leader, and has seen and experienced a lot of change at our organization recently said to me: “I didn’t understand the changes you were making, but I get it now, and I just want to say what I value so much is how patient you are.”
This strikes me as funny, because I don’t see myself as a typically patient guy. But I’m gratified to be a change agent.
Bloom where you’re planted
It all goes back to the notion that you should bloom where you’re planted, and wherever you land, be positive. It’s not easy to go low. It’s always easy to be negative and take the wide path. What’s hard is to suck it up. What’s hard is to persevere. What’s hard is to own something, or to not take credit for something even if you were the major influence behind it. I would say that’s called growth. If it’s awkward when you’re doing it, that’s a perfect indicator that you are learning something new. And I’m a lifelong learner, with a passion for helping other people embrace growth and change, which is integral to the success of any business.
Look, if this resonates, we should be having a conversation. Let’s connect and find out how together, we can be a powerful change agent for your company and your life.