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11 business leaders share insights into leadership, success

Creative Industries
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Those in attendance at the Power Breakfast heard from 11 thought leaders on what it takes to be successful. (Photos/Kim McManus)

Eleven area leaders, business executives and entrepreneurs shared insights recently during a Power Breakfast event held by the Business Journal. Below are some highlights from each one.

Make time for ‘first work’

The Rev. Bill Stanfield shared the distinction between “second work” ­­— a job or duty ­— and “first work” — personal time taken each day to reflect and be present. Stanfield, CEO of the North Charleston-based nonprofit Metanoia, advised to make time for “first work.”

For Stanfield, this means spending about 30 minutes each morning praying and meditating. He said his second work “isn’t nearly as good as it could be without taking time for that first work.”

“First work begins with what you do inside yourself,” Stanfield said. “It begins with the time you take to build yourself up, to train yourself, to center down. To build a sort of center of gravity within yourself, so that whatever you do going forward is really important and you can do it from a better space. Nobody ever asks me throughout my second work: Did you do your first work this morning? But I know whether I did or not, based on how the day has gone.”


Be authentic

Jon Yarian, founder of the creative agency Outline, said his agency is not in the business of making brands look better than they are or making them be something they are not. 

“We are very involved in the authenticity business,” he said. “I say that not as a moral or ethical argument, but because we know that to be what works.”

Yarian challenged businesses and professionals to push authenticity in all that they do in work and beyond.

“You’re not really fooling anybody, at least not for very long,” Yarian said. “Your behavior tells the truth about what you’re up to and the difference you will make. The value of your product or service becomes evident pretty quickly. ... So in your organizations, in your leadership, in your performance of yourself, I would encourage authenticity. Embrace who you are. Reveal it. Say what you actually think. ... Just be real.”


Cavazzoni’s list to live by

Marco Cavazzoni, a former Boeing Co. executive who launched the Lowcountry Aviation Co. in Walterboro, shared 11 pieces of advice. Below are some of them:

  • “The world will not stand still for any of us, despite our best wishes. Stay ahead of it.”
  • “Corporations and markets will require all of us to adapt to what they are. ... It’s really important to remain true to the test in the mirror, not to jeopardize who we fundamentally are. If a corporation or business asks you to do that, my recommendation would be: Get out.”
  • “Always speak the entire truth, regardless of the audience.”
  • “Always know people in low places in a hierarchical structure. ... Know the people that add value in an organization.”
  • “Help people achieve their potential. If you help people achieve their individual potential, they’ll help you achieve yours.”
  • “We spend two-thirds of our awake time at work. ... So you might as well like what you do and follow your passion; and if you do, hopefully it won’t feel like work.”
  • “It all goes by really, really fast, so enjoy the ride while you’re in it. Even though there might be issues, enjoy the ride.”
  • “Your work does not define who you fundamentally are. You are you, regardless of your work.”
  • A quote he heard from a businessman while on vacation: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Evaluate your values

“Are you a good boss? Are you proud of yourself? Would you like to work for you? How would the last waitress who took your order describe you?”

These are among the questions Blaine West, the recruitment operations manager at OneinaMil LLC, a Charleston-based recruiting firm, said employees and business leaders should ask of themselves and write down.

“Evaluate if you’re actually doing business that way and if you’re operating day to day through those values,” West said.

West also encouraged companies to invest in company benefits beyond the common 401(k), vacation days and health benefits; her suggestions included holding on-site meditation sessions or offering a mental health day without docking paid time off. She said such benefits help attract and retain top talent.

“Investing in your employees’ well-being, in the long run, will give you much greater return as a company,” West said.


Protesting to peace

North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess said the biggest challenges and controversies he has faced as an officer have taught him invaluable lessons.

In 2015, when Walter Scott was shot and killed by Officer Michael Slager, controversy and crisis erupted. North Charleston was thrust into the national spotlight.

Burgess said he learned from examples throughout history, particularly during the civil rights movement, that he should allow and assist protesters coming into the city. He credited that tactic with preventing riots and violence.

“In law enforcement, you have to understand this, and as an individual, you’re going to have times of comfort and convenience. ... You have another thing, too: crisis and controversy. We had to deal with that in 2015. One of the keys things I’ve learned ... even if you don’t like protesting, everyone has a constitutional right to protest. ... Controversy and discomfort are coming along as well, and you’ve got to be able to deal with both.”


Enjoy the plot twists

Laura Cannon, co-owner of Orange Spot Coffee in Park Circle, said her studies in the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at the College of Charleston helped her see how literature can mirror the unforeseen challenges and surprises in life and business.

She said people read to go on adventures; they enjoy the thrill of the plot twists that come along. She said it is possible for people to apply that sentiment to their lives.

“We are generally less thrilled when we arrive at these breaks, these plot twists, in our own lives. ... Faltering is uncomfortable, but the challenges it creates can lead us to places we couldn’t have imagined or planned to go. Perhaps we can try to see the inherent power of disruption to augment our lives for the better. Perhaps we can see it as a plot twist to a greater story.”


Look for the passion

Amy Livingston, Mount Pleasant’s tourism and business manager, said people need to find their passion, pursue it aggressively and be comfortable with failing and trying again.

Livingston noted there will be times when that passion for one’s work or job wavers. She said employees should then focus on what they do enjoy and home in on that, or decide instead it is time for a transition.

“It’s really easy though to find your passion when you’re doing something you want to do, but what about when you’re tired of your job? What about when you’re tired of that client or that project? You need to learn to look for the passion,” Livingston said. “Maybe you haven’t hit your ultimate career goal. But find good, find happiness and be present along the way. Surely there’s a task that can get you really fired up, and you can focus on that.”


Focus on the workforce

S.C. Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said companies should focus on hiring the best workers and creating an environment that makes them want to stay.

Newsome said that company executives should align themselves with the human resources department and that companies should have a defined culture in which employees understand their mission.

“If you’re not focused on being a great employer, I think that you’re going to lose out in that area,” Newsome said.

He added that a shift is needed to promote technical colleges and degrees as viable career options to high school students.

“How do we change the mindset that every kid has to go to college and get a four-year degree? How do we make technical education something that’s really cool? I would argue with you a lot of that has to do with the parents. It’s simply not cool for parents to tell their neighbors that their kids are going to technical schools. ... There are a lot of great jobs available through technical education. Ninety percent of our workforce is really what you would call a blue-collar workforce.”


Follow your instincts

Bill Hall worked in hospitality for 54 years before he opened Halls Chophouse on King Street in downtown Charleston in 2007.

“If you have an urge in your stomach or your heart to go into business today, do it. I mean that,” Hall said. “Don’t stay in the corporate world and be miserable. ... One day, I said, ‘I’m going to do it. I’ve always wanted to do it. I’m going to open my own business.’”

Hall said the past 11 years running Halls have taught him some core principles for success: Focus on customer service and the product, send handwritten thank-you notes to customers, listen to employees’ concerns and ideas, and review financial statements daily.

Hall Management Group, the family-owned and family-run restaurant group, now has seven restaurants.


Maintain credibility above all else

Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for The Citadel, spent 25 years in communications in the Air Force.

When he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, his communication skills were tested in a painful way after the Taliban took a U.K. aid worker hostage. The United States and the United Kingdom worked together on a rescue attempt; the aid worker died during that effort.

Dorrian’s role was to inform the media about her death, but he had incorrect information during those initial calls.

Once he learned that the worker’s death was accidentally caused by rescuers during the rescue attempt, he had to call those journalists again to correct the information. He said it was a horrible moment, but it taught him the value of accuracy.

“Credibility is the most important currency in communications,” Dorrian said. “It is absolutely the most important thing, and if you blow that for some short-term tactical gain, then long term, you’re going to be in the ditch and you’re going to stay there. ... Credibility is the No. 1 thing you want to preserve for your organization because that leads to success long term.”


Invest in technology

Mike McEachen, chief strategy officer with East Cooper Medical Center, said companies need to be investing in technology to better support their missions.

For East Cooper, this meant spending $4 million this year to buy several surgical robots to assist with less-invasive procedures and better patient outcomes.

“All those things help us drive quality of care,” McEachen said. “Patients have less pain. Patients have shorter recovery time. Patients have less complications with surgery. What that means is we can help support our patients from the bottom up with the highest level of technology.”

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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