Abolitionist Harriet Tubman once said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”  Most of us start out life with big dreams.   Too often the challenges, and even routineness of life, can cause those dreams to fade away.  However, some people are able to retain that ability to dream and often they go on to change the world. To truly make an impact, you not only need to dream big dreams, but also have the ability to turn ideas into action. Colin Powell noted, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” Whether in the business world, government, or non-profit sectors, great leaders point followers to ambitious game changing goals and motivate people to take action!


Stan Buckley

My interviewee this week, Stan Buckley, is one of those visionary leaders. He is currently Executive Director of BUT GOD ministries, a faith-based 501(c)(3) organization.  Prior to his current role, Buckley served as Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Jackson, one of the state’s largest churches.  Buckley, a native of Natchez, did not start out in full time ministry.  The son of a pastor, he pursued a career in law after graduating from Mississippi College School of Law.   After working as a lawyer for several years, he left the practice to follow a call to full time ministry. From 1995-2011, he pastored three churches including First Baptist of Jackson, and he went on to earn his Master’s and Doctorate in Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 2011, Buckley had the vision to found BUT GOD ministries with an initial focus on making an impact in Haiti. The organization focused on building a sustainable community in Ganthier, Haiti and has achieved remarkable success.  In the last three years, volunteers from around the world have partnered with native Haitians to start a medical/dental clinic that has seen over 24,000 patients, build over 50 houses, an orphanage, and a church.  Buckley shared, “In May of this year we began construction on a second Haitian community in the mountainous village of Thoman. This village is located about an hour’s drive from our current community where approximately 6,000 people live with no primitive housing, no electricity, no running water, no jobs, no medical care, and not much else.  The success of BUT GOD ministries in building sustainable communities has attracted attention from leaders from around the world including back in Mississippi.

Buckley credits his father Gerald Buckley who served as a pastor for 50 years in teaching him how to rally people to a cause.  “He was not afraid to take a chance, try something new, and risk failure. He also taught me to stand firmly for what is good and right and to respect, but not fear, others.”  Buckley advises future leaders to not be afraid to attempt something new or different. He emphasized, “Nothing great has ever been accomplished by the weak and the timid and those afraid to take a chance or those satisfied with the status quo. Spend your life doing something that matters.”  Buckley cited Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  I am inspired by leaders like Buckley who have the ability to dream big and the courage and perseverance to turn those dreams into reality.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, July 27, 2014.] Read More

If we are not careful, we can find ourselves living someone else’s version of our life rather than our own. Whether from a parent, spouse, friend or simply societal expectations, the pressure to follow a path in life that is not our own choosing can be enormous. In his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs emphasized this point to the graduates. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”   Jobs struck a chord with this speech which went viral on YouTube. I was reminded of this quote as I visited with my interviewee this week, Tyler Raborn, co-founder of Raborn Media. Tyler and his wife, Amanda, are young entrepreneurs on the fast track to success.


Tyler Raborn

Tyler moved around a lot growing up (over 19 times), but he finished high school in Metro Jackson before going off to Mississippi State where he majored in accounting. After interning with Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Atlanta, he decided to pursue a law degree at Tulane University. He excelled in school and worked as a law clerk as he plotted his career path as an attorney. However, sometimes life takes you in a different direction as Tyler soon found out.

While he was in law school, Amanda worked at a marketing firm in New Orleans where she specialized in social media. At heart, they are both entrepreneurs and so they felt the tug to pursue a different path.

In early 2013, they began to discuss and pray about starting their own marketing company. They shared a passion for technology, marketing, and helping people. They conducted significant research and planning and in early fall 2013 launched Raborn Media. By the end of 2013, their business had exploded with clients as their ROI oriented approach to digital marketing connected with many business owners searching for answers on how to grow their business. Tyler faced a difficult decision as he needed to focus full time on his growing company, but he still lacked one semester to finish law school. He made a difficult decision and chose to focus on his business and relocate to Jackson.

Tyler candidly noted, “In addition to the financial risk of starting a business, I realized that I was breaking a societal norm by pursuing this path.” He was on the track to be a tax lawyer, but that was not his passion.  He shared, “While I was interested in helping people protect their assets, what I truly enjoy is helping people grow their assets through effective use of digital marketing.” I respect that fact that an early age Tyler has taken the “road less traveled” and pursued his dreams.  Journalist Christopher Morley once noted, “There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in your own way.” It takes wisdom and courage to understand what you really wanted to do with your life and to vigorously pursue it. I think that is why Steve Jobs emphasized it to the class at Stanford. Faced with significant health issues, Jobs knew that life was short and that you have to sometimes block out the noise of the voices of others to make sure you understand your own inner voice.

Amanda and Tyler have clearly followed this advice and are charting their own course. I always kept my eye out for up and coming entrepreneurs, and I believe Tyler and Amanda are ones to watch.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, July 25, 2014.] Read More

I  often hear people say about a particular business or idea: “I thought of that a long time ago, but I never acted on it.” They indeed may have had an idea for a very successful business, but unfortunately, it remained just that – an idea.

Novelist Andre Malraux said, “Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – and to act.”

Unfortunately, the prize only goes to those who take initiative.  I subscribe to the theory, “Ideas are cheap; execution is expensive.”  Obviously, the reality of taking action is that there is risk.  However, as author Denis Waitley noted, “Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.”

Gary Watts, Founder and CEO of Broadband Voice, is one of those entrepreneurs that is not afraid to turn ideas into action.


Gary Watts

Watts grew up in Jackson and graduated from Mississippi College.  Upon graduation, he had the opportunity to own and operate a Dairy Queen franchise which he did for almost a decade. He went on to work in the sales division for a startup technology company, Unity Communications, based in Jackson. He was rapidly promoted to VP Sales in 2000, and in 2006,

Watts recognized that the next generation of telephony would be rooted in hosted VoIP solutions. That realization led him to start Broadband Voice to provide Voice over IP (VoIP) products and services for small to medium-sized businesses.  The company has now become one of the fastest growing VoIP technology companies in the Southeast.

Watts shared with me some words of wisdom for other leaders and entrepreneurs.  “Take chances. One thing that I do (probably to my wife’s dismay) is take chances. I’ve never heard of anyone growing and learning without some failure. And failure affords us opportunities that we might not otherwise experience.”  Watts candidly noted, “I walked away from owning a franchise in a situation that most people would have seen as a failure. But if I never had that experience, I would have never been able to establish the relationships and learn what I have to help build our growing business at Broadband Voice.”

One of Watts’ other key beliefs is that it is critical to operate a business with integrity.  He noted, “I’m a firm believer in running a business of ethical excellence. More and more, I see that honesty is becoming less valued, and it concerns me for our future. Our business and communities will thrive if we focus on transparency in our relationships.”  He also emphasized that trusting the people he hires is a key business philosophy.  Watts said, “I remain dedicated to choosing good people to lead Broadband Voice and allowing them to enhance their skills set within the workplace so that they are aligned to help lead this company to great things. Micromanaging leads to stifling the people within your business, which can lend itself to high turnover and an unhealthy business model.”

Watts is a great example of a leader who is not afraid to take a calculated risk and act.  Once he realized there was an opportunity in the marketplace to serve customers using VoIP technology he thoughtfully analyzed the marketplace and then with passion and persistence executed on his plan to deliver great service to customers.   Leaders like Watts remind me that true accomplishments occur when ideas are put into ACTION.

Read More

Whether in art, sports, academics, or business, we are inspired by excellence. We celebrate those who have the commitment to achieving the highest levels of success in their respective fields.  Aristotle once said, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” His statement reminds us that excellence is truly a choice.

We can choose the level of commitment we are willing to give to a task. Colin Powell once noted, “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” We see that it is striving for excellence in the little things that has the compound effect of creating a life of excellence.


Dr. Jason L. Walton

My interviewee this week, Dr. Jason L. Walton, brings that kind of passion for excellence to his new role as the sixth head of school at Jackson Preparatory School, which he assumed July 1, 2014. He succeeded Susan Lindsay, who served in the role since 2004, and retired this June after 40 years of service to the school that has founded in 1970 and is one of the leading private schools in the state.

Walton is a fourth-generation Mississippian who grew up in Greenwood and Hernando.  After getting his associates degree from Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Mississippi, he went on to earn his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Mississippi and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Education Leadership and Policy Studies.

Walton’s work experience includes serving as a classroom teacher in the DeSoto county schools, associate editor for the Peabody Journal of Education and a legislative staffer. Prior to joining Jackson Prep, Walton served as chief of staff/staff liaison to the board of trustees at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.  Inspired by the Presidential debate held at his alma mater Ole Miss in 2008, he personally pitched, built internal institutional support for, and orchestrated the strategy that brought the third and final 2012 Presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney to Lynn University.  This debate, held on Oct. 22, 2012, was viewed by 59.2 million households, had a $13.1 million immediate economic impact on Palm Beach County, and yielded a combined $63 million publicity value for the university, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach County.

Walton shared with me that his educational philosophy is best captured in one simple axiom… excellence without exception. He emphasized, “Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.” His philosophy aligns well with Jackson Prep’s mission, which is “Striving to educate and inspire students toward academic, athletic, and artistic excellence.” For future leaders, he encourages them to maintain a sense of wonder.  He noted, “I encourage them to cultivate a restless curiosity about everything that fascinates them in the world and then endeavor to search out and consume all the content you can about those things.”  I am excited about Walton’s return to his home state, and I know that he will make a positive impact on the students at Jackson Prep and the community in the years to come.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, July 10, 2014.] Read More

Follow your bliss. That summarizes the philosophy of 20th century author and mythologist Joseph Campbell. In his book, Reflections in the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion, Campbell said, “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living… I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” I bring up Campbell and this idea because I believe it is a very important concept for leaders and entrepreneurs. I find that successful leaders and entrepreneurs understand that they will be most effective when they live authentic lives and are true to themselves. I thank my interviewee this week, Coyt Bailey, for introducing me to Campbell and his work. Bailey is the owner of Mercury Aviation, a leading helicopter aviation company based in Flowood, Miss.


Coyt Bailey

Bailey is a Jackson native who received his undergraduate degree from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Out of college, Bailey followed his passion of the outdoors and worked for a number of years for Outward Bound. His travels also took him to Mexico where he was a teacher. However, he kept coming back to a desire to fly helicopters. When he looked into pursuing his training to become a helicopter pilot, he was strongly dissuaded from that path. People told him there were not any jobs and that he should become a fixed wing pilot instead. He followed this guidance and earned his pilot license in Oklahoma and flew for about a year, but he still wanted to pursue being a helicopter pilot. In spite of his detractors, he decided to “follow his bliss” and went to Oakland, California, to get his credentialing as a helicopter pilot.

Out of training, he landed a job doing traffic reports back in Jackson. For those in the local Jackson market, they will probably remember his tenure where he was Captain Coyt who flew with Chopper Bob for WLBT.

What originally started out as following a passion, has turned into a thriving business. Today, his company Mercury Aviation has nine pilots and provides helicopter services all over the country.  His company has expanded to serve law enforcement agencies, utilities, real estate and construction companies, and many others. As I interviewed him for this article, he was flying his helicopter across the Midwest to a project in North Dakota. He shared, “It has been an incredible experience to visit 48 states and view the world from 500 feet in my helicopter.”

It takes courage to follow your bliss. Bailey explained that his mother gave him books by Joseph Campbell when he was in college. He said, “She always believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.” He also credits his father, Buster Bailey, with modeling for him how to lead a successful business. He noted, “My father drilled into me from an early age the importance of integrity, honesty and compassion. He modeled these for me in how he ran his business.” For young entrepreneurs, Bailey advises, “Make sure you are passionate about your business. It will take much more work than you expect, and there will be unforeseen challenges along the way. If you are not passionate about your work, it will be very difficult to endure these challenges.” I was encouraged by Bailey’s story and the focus he has to follow his bliss for his life and career. I hope you will consider and follow your own bliss for your career. Life is too short not to.

Read More