Prior to moving to Memphis, I was a member for a number of years of The Rotary Club of Jackson, which is the State of Mississippi’s largest service club.  Most readers are probably familiar with Rotary, but for those who aren’t, it is an international service organization formed in 1905 with over 1.2 million members worldwide. On July 12, The Rotary Club of Jackson will be celebrating its 100th anniversary with a special event and will have Rotary International President Gary C.K. Huang from Taiwan as a guest.  This will be a historic occasion to have a sitting RI president visit a local Mississippi Rotary club. One of the things I like about Rotary are its mottoes:  “Service Above Self and One Profits Most Who Serves Best.”


Scherry Gilliland

My interviewee this week, Scherry Gilliland, embodies these mottoes. She has been a member of The Rotary Club of Jackson since 1998 and as of Jan. 1, 2014, she is serving as executive director of the club. Scherry grew up in Brookhaven and graduated from Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Belhaven College. She shared, “I loved learning . . . and still do. Growing up, there were many opportunities to get involved in service activities. I was fortunate to serve in a number of different leadership roles throughout these years.” Scherry had an early interest in music and learned piano from her grandmother. She has shared her love of music for many years as a piano teacher and choir pianist. She also noted, “Raising my sons was the greatest leadership experience I have ever had. It was the lengthiest and the most important. During the years when I was preparing them for life, I didn’t realize that I was being prepared for my own future.”

In 1998, Scherry found her next passion, non-profit public relations and development. She has been a certified fund raising executive since 1998 and has worked with numerous organizations including Mississippi Children’s Home Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mississippi, Junior Achievement and Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi. In 2010, she was contracted to set up a 501(c)(3) organization that drills water wells in Malawi, Africa. I know for many, the thought of fundraising is overwhelming. I asked Scherry how she has been so effective and seemed to enjoy it so much.  She emphasized that she loves to learn people’s stories and see the real joy that comes from giving. Scherry, like other effective leaders, is a change agent and enjoys serving where positive change is needed.

A person of deep faith, Scherry said, “My faith guides every day of my life. My daily opportunities are God’s gift to me. What I do with those opportunities is my gift to Him.” She also shared that her advice for future leaders is to remember that every experience in leadership is preparation for your next opportunity. Don’t be afraid to take the opportunity that is offered to you…It is YOURS! If you don’t take it, someone else will.” Scherry’s passion is contagious. Her current role as executive director of The Rotary Club of Jackson allows her to share her passion with other service oriented leaders. In addition to other service activities, the club’s signature philanthropic project provides college scholarships for at least four high school seniors annually.

I have seen first-hand how philanthropic activities like these can impact lives. My sister, Meg Willoughby Swayze, was a beneficiary of the club’s generosity years ago when she was able to earn a master’s degree as a Rotary scholar. I am thankful for leaders like Scherry who are on the front lines of making a difference in the lives of our communities.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, June 26, 2014.] Read More

Author and speaker Denis Waitley noted, “Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience.”  One of things I have noticed in interviewing leaders is a common trait of a thirst for knowledge. They realize that learning is a journey and not a destination.  As Albert Einstein said, “I have found the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” In today’s competitive marketplace, one of the real keys to success is continually building your expertise. Regardless of your role, if you are on a path to becoming a true expert then you are in a better position to contribute and add value to the organization.

My interviewee this week, T. Doug Dale Jr., has been committed to building his expertise in the field of wealth management.  Dale, a shareholder at Security Ballew in Jackson, regularly appears in the financial media as an expert on trends in the financial world. Dale has appeared on Fox Business News, CNBC, CNN and Bloomberg and been quoted in media outlets such as Reuters and The Associated Press. Dale is a native of Jackson and rather than follow in the family trade of architecture, he knew as early as high school that he wanted to work in the realm of finance. Dale earned his business degree from Ole Miss and while in college, he interned at Security Ballew which is a wealth management firm founded by Matt Ballew. Upon graduation, Dale returned to Jackson and earned his M.B.A. from Millsaps College.


T. Doug Dale, Jr.

Dale took a full-time position at Security Ballew in 2005 and has been there ever since. He started as an associate with the firm calling on companies to help them with their retirement plans. Dale noted that Matt Ballew encouraged him early on to truly learn the fundamentals of wealth management. Dale did just that and has dedicated himself over the last 20 years to being a continuous learner in his profession. He noted, “I would have never guessed it in high school, but I have spent a large amount of time studying history in my career.” We discussed the famous Mark Twain quote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”  As a history major myself, I appreciate his approach. When we see the bubbles and busts that cycle through our economy, it important to learn from the past. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In addition to their wealth advisory services, Dale and his partners created their own fund, Consillium Capital Fund, LP for accredited investors in 2013. Consillium means “advice” in Latin. Dale regularly writes newsletters and updates for his clients and investors where he shares his observations based on his research and study. I asked him what has contributed to his success as a wealth advisor and he shared, “We have tried to stay conservative in our approach and to help our clients avoid the extremes in their investing.”

As advice for future leaders, Dale said that he would encourage them to not be afraid to call people to learn about what they do. When he was in college, Dale visited with many professionals to learn about their work. He also said, “I would encourage people start wherever they can in the organization and be willing to work hard to earn the right to move up.”  Dale also emphasized the importance of building and maintaining relationships. Who you know” really does matter in the business world. Dale’s commitment to his craft was inspiring to me. We all can benefit from becoming “experts” in our chosen work.

We just have to be willing to pay the price.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, June 20, 2014.] Read More

In the last five years that I have been writing this column on leaders, I have had the incredible opportunity to visit with leaders from around the state of Mississippi. I have been challenged and inspired by their stories. Each week I try to pass along the tips and wisdom I learn from these leaders. As readers have probably noted, I try to focus on at least one big idea that came from the interview.

When I talk with prospective interviewees, I emphasize that the purpose of this column is to inspire and motivate other leaders around the state. I do this because I believe leadership matters – in a big way. It is hard to understate the importance of leadership in an organization. Unfortunately, we talk about leadership so much in the business community we can sometimes take it for granted. However, as Dr. John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls with leadership.” The longer I live, the more I believe this to be true. Below are just a few of the big ideas that I have seen as recurring themes in my study of outstanding leaders.

Leaders Lead


Martin Willoughby

While this is stating the obvious, the point is that leaders take initiative. They don’t wait for a title. They see a need and act on it.
When the call goes out for help, they are the first to raise their hand. Leadership is about serving. There are countless ways in every organization to step up and serve. True leaders are servant leaders and are not in it for their own glory. For those wanting to rise in their leadership, I encourage you to begin today by seeking ways to contribute and add value. Titles will follow – leadership can begin immediately.

Leaders Know Themselves

The ancient Greeks used to emphasize the importance to “Know Thyself.” One of the key aspects I have noticed about effective leaders is that they know who they are. They are comfortable in their own skin and have a quiet confidence. They know their strengths and weaknesses and know how to play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. They are self-aware. Effective leaders don’t waste time trying to be something they are not. Authentic leadership comes from the heart. People follow that kind of leader.

Leaders Lead Themselves

Former IBM Chairman and CEO Thomas J. Watson Sr. noted, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” Similarly, Dr. Maxwell pointed out, “Learning to lead yourself well is one of the most important things you’ll ever do as a leader.” It is easy to think about leadership in terms of leading others.

While that is certainly important, true leaders begin by effectively leading themselves. They realize that they must continually be growing as a leader if they are to be effective. True leaders know they need to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. They are continual learners. Allowing yourself to become burned out does not help the cause of your organization. I believe that leaders who develop a lifelong commitment to growth and proper boundaries are the best suited to make a difference for the long haul.

I hope a few of these leadership lessons I have learned from my interviews will be an encouragement to you in your own leadership journey. Leadership is a journey, not a destination. May your journey continue to be a great one! I will continue to share leadership insights from outstanding leaders as we continue this journey together.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, June 13, 2014.] Read More

When I first began writing this column, my goal was to uplift and inspire leaders and entrepreneurs around the state. By interviewing successful Mississippians and sharing their stories, I hoped to make a positive impact. For those who enjoying learning from the experiences of outstanding Mississippians, I am excited to share with you about Mississippi Entrepreneurs by Polly Dement, which was recently published by Cat Island Books, LLC with University Press of Mississippi. I caught up with Polly to visit about the book in a recent interview:

MW:  Tell me a little bit about the book.

PD:  The book profiles outstanding entrepreneurs from around the state including legends who have passed on and up-and-comers.I interviewed over 100 people for the book which contains 70 profiles of 85 Mississippi entrepreneurs.

MW:  How did you become involved in this project?


Martin Willoughby

PD:  I grew up in Vicksburg and graduated from Millsaps College before pursuing a career in Washington D.C. I would regularly come back to the state and had always hoped to one day work on a project back in Mississippi. My conversations started with Tim Medley, who had been inspired by a book he saw while in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina on entrepreneurs in New Orleans. He began to think about how to do a similar book on Mississippi entrepreneurs. He formed Cat Island Books along with Paul Calhoun, David Martin, Mike McRee and Rowan Taylor to make that dream a reality.  They asked me to conduct the interviews and write the articles on the Mississippi entrepreneurs.

MW:   Tell me a little more your career and travels.

PD:  After Millsaps, I moved briefly to Atlanta and then found my home in Washington D.C. My husband, John Mayer, and I have spent most of our careers based in D.C.  I have always been interested in communications, and I have worked both in the public and private sector over the years.  One of my first jobs in Washington was working for the Senate Watergate Committee where I wrote profiles of the witnesses who testified.  I had the opportunity to write profiles on entrepreneurs for over a decade beginning in 1981 for the National Association of Investment Companies. I also worked for the National Commission on Children and Hager Sharp Inc., a communications firm in Washington, DC.  n 2005, my husband and I decided to take a career “time out,” and we traveled the country for three years in a mobile home before relocating to Sante Fe in 2008.

MW: What was it like working with the Cat Island Group?

PD:  I have tremendous respect for these gentlemen who shared a passion for trying to encourage entrepreneurs and Mississippians around the state. They had never published a book before, but they were entrepreneurs in their own right who had the vision, figured it out, took risks and enabled this book to be written. They carefully considered who to feature in the book as they wanted to make sure that the entrepreneurs represented the state geographically and a diverse mix of business and social entrepreneurs.

MW:   I understand that you will be doing some book signings.

PD: We launch the book in Jackson on June 3 at Lemuria then we will be traveling around the state for other book signings.  Many of the entrepreneurs will be joining locally as well and there are some special celebratory events.  People who would like more information on these events can follows us on facebook at Entrepreneurs.

MW:   How did this project impact you?

PD: I had an incredible opportunity to personally interview each of the entrepreneurs or those who knew them if they were deceased. I came away inspired by each of their stories in unique ways. Mississippians have much to be proud of, and I hope these stories will encourage people to reach for their dreams.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, June 6, 2014.] Read More

Butler Snow Advisory Services (BSA) is pleased to announce that Rick Gernert has joined as principal in their Nashville office. He brings more than 30
years of experience in the financial services industry.


Rick Gernert

“Rick will bring a wealth of experience to Butler Snow Advisory,” said Matt Thornton, President and CEO of BSA. “We are thrilled about the knowledge and value he
will provide to our team and our clients.”

Gernert most recently served as a founding shareholder of Iroquois Capital Group and managing director in its Investment Banking Group, as well as president of Iroquois Capital Advisors. Gernert has experience working with early-stage venture capital entities and has been an advisor to institutional investors and high net worth individuals.
Prior to his work at Iroquois Capital Group, Gernert was a managing director of Koch Ventures, a $150 million early-stage venture capital entity. He has also held the position of vice president of business development at EDS Corporation in Dallas, where he was responsible for internal mergers and acquisitions and its private equity investing.

Gernert holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi as well as Series 7, Series 24, Series 63 and Series 79 licenses.

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