One of the most powerful things that a leader can do is to speak vision into an organization and individuals.  President Woodrow Wilson once said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”  Vision lifts our sights.  It helps us to reach for loftier goals and accomplish greater tasks. I often think about the verse from Proverbs “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  I find that organizations without vision are simply going through the motions.  It is the ability to translate vision into action that truly distinguishes great leaders. Author Joel Barker noted, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”


Dean Wendy B. Scott

Wendy B. Scott, the new Dean of the Mississippi College School of Law (MCSOL), is one of those leaders with the ability to turn vision into reality.  She experienced the power of vision first hand as a child growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where her family settled after her father retired from the Army.  As one of three daughters, she was heavily influenced by her mother who spoke vision into her life.   Dean Scott shared, “From a young age my mother poured herself into me and my sisters and cast a vision for us that we should grow up and be successful professionals making a difference in the world. To this day, she continues to speak encouragement into my life.”  Dean Scott has certainly lived up to her mother’s vision.  She went on to get her undergraduate degree at Harvard and her law degree from New York University Law School.

With her academic credentials, Dean Scott could have pursued many career paths.  She chose the path less taken to follow her passions to make a difference.  She worked for nine years in employment law helping those less fortunate.  She worked at the Legal Action Center of the City of New York, as an associate at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard in New York City, and directed litigation as the associate counsel for the Center for Law and Social Justice, a community law office in Brooklyn, New York.  During this time she began teaching law at Hunter College, Brooklyn Law School, and CUNY Law School and discovered how much she enjoyed working with students.

She decided to pursue teaching full time and served in administration and as a professor at Tulane and North Carolina Central School of Law before joining MCSOL.  In her new role, Dean Scott is meeting with faculty individually to hear their vision for the Law School.  She shared, “One of things I have learned as a leader is that the vision for an organization has to be a collective one.”  She has a passion for excellence and is a firm believer in the power of the team.  Dean Scott noted, “My predecessor Dean Jim Rosenblatt built a great team, and I am fortunate to inherit such a talented group of leaders.”  She believes in recognizing and rewarding successful teamwork and has emphasized that to the staff.  For young leaders, she encourages them not to simply chase money, but to truly consider their dreams and passions and have the courage to pursue them.

Dean Scott brings a wealth of experience and a vision for making a difference to MCSOL, and I know that she will be a positive influence not only on the law students, but also the community and the state.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, September 4, 2014.] Read More

One thing I have noticed about truly effective leaders is that they are able to keep good  perspective and know how to effectively handle stress.  They are “cool” under pressure.  We tend to think in extremes as it relates to stress.  The goal is not to eliminate stress from our lives or we will never grow.  Sports psychologist and executive coach Dr. James Loehr noted, “Stress pushes us to expend energy emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Then comes a period of recovery and healing—and growth.”   However, too much stress with no perspective can lead to trouble as well.  Author James Allen said, “The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.”   My interviewee this week, Mike Morgan, is one of the most effective leaders I have ever observed in keeping perspective and remaining calm in the face of uncertainty.

Morgan, a Clinton native, served as CFO, and later as President, of Bomgar Corporation until he recently accepted a position as a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.  Morgan received a bachelor degree in accountancy from Ole Miss and later a MBA from Mississippi College and a Certificate of Professional Accountancy from the University of West Florida.   Morgan, a licensed CPA, began his career as an auditor with Arthur Andersen and later worked for LDDS Communications as a Corporate Development Manager.  Prior to joining Bomgar in 2006, Morgan had served as CFO for Touch One Communication, Trinsic, and American Healthtech.


Mike Morgan

Morgan shared, “Stress management doesn’t get enough attention as a leadership quality.  At every level of the organization, you have employees that really care about what they are doing and employees that don’t care.  The ones that care feel stress, because they want to do a good job.  Those are the ones that perform and rise up through the organization.  They get more responsibility, so they feel more stress.  There is a healthy level of stress that keeps us pushing forward.  But there is an unhealthy level of stress that kills performance and can consume people.  A leader has to recognize the level of stress of his high-performing employees and help them keep it from becoming unhealthy.”

Morgan also emphasized that perspective is also important for a leader.  He noted, “Being able to discern what really deserves your time and attention, and helping employees discern what really matters is a big part of leading.” Morgan shared with me additional wisdom for future leaders, “Employees need to know you believe in them and you have high expectations.  They will want to live up to the expectations.  When its game time, you don’t hear coaches nitpicking every little flaw of the team.  The pregame talk is all about believing in the team and setting high expectations.  On Monday you review the film and make some corrections, but pretty quickly you are back to building folks up.”

Morgan helped entrepreneurial founder Joel Bomgar lead Bomgar Corporation through eight years of high growth which led to a successful recapitalization by TA Associates in May.  After helping with the transition, Morgan decided to pursue teaching full time.  He had previously taught part time as an adjunct professor at Mississippi College and Holmes Junior College.  Morgan shared, “I am very excited about the opportunity at USM to work with students and help prepare them for their future. In my brief tenure so far, I have been very impressed with the institution and the quality of students.  They are going to keep me on my toes!” I am excited that these students will benefit from not only Morgan’s expertise in finance and accounting, but also as an extremely effective and balanced leader.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, August 29, 2014.] Read More

Mississippi, the home of literary greats such as Faulkner, Morris, and Welty, arguably has had more than its fair share of people talented with the gift of words. Joe Stradinger, Founder and CEO of Edge Theory, and I recently discussed this cultural history.  We joked that perhaps the soil is richer here in Mississippi.  Joe’s company is tapping into this tradition in a very exciting and unique way. They are marrying innovative technology with the rich Southern tradition of conversation to achieve measurable results for companies in the realm of social media marketing.  Joe grew up in the Mississippi Delta and earned his accounting degree from Mississippi College before traveling the world as a business consultant with Arthur Anderson.  In 1998, he started, an online Christian music site, which was an instant success and was acquired by Gaylord Entertainment shortly after its launch.  After working for Gaylord Entertainment and launching Gaylord Digital, Joe went on to success in real estate projects before returning to his knack for technology innovation.


Joe Stradinger

As social media was just ramping up, Joe saw its potential and was on the leading edge of thinking about how to apply it to help businesses grow.  He consulted with companies like Viking Range and Home Away on how to authentically engage and connect with customers.  Joe’s research and work in this field led him to launch Edge Theory (formerly known as Leadify) in 2012.   Joe noted, “I realized that the true power of social media is not in likes, follows or favorites.  Instead, social media has the greatest impact and the greatest return from the indexing of content that occurs daily across hundreds of search engines and content aggregators, effectively raising authority and disseminating content to thousands of people who will never like nor follow a business’s social media accounts.” He continued, “Companies pursuing authentic conversation (beyond the overt repetition of self-promotion) can connect with thousands of people before they ever think about a company or search for a product or service. Every day, a business can connect consumers with their interests.”

He contrasts traditional search engines where people already know what they are looking for with what he does which he describes as a “Find Engine.”  Interestingly, he helps companies connect with customers before they are even customers.  Joe calls these “pre-customers.”  His company does this by helping clients create and engage in conversations with these pre-customers around their passions and connecting them with his client’s location, features, & unique value.  Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale recognized the potential of this new company and now serves on the Board of Directors.  The company is quickly scaling its business and now has offices in Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York in addition to their headquarters in Jackson. They have clients on three continents which include well-known brands as Neiman Marcus,, Mayo Clinic, and Travelocity as well as Mississippi based Trinity Apparel, University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Mississippi College.

I am always on the lookout for great companies on the rise in Mississippi, and I was excited to learn of Edge Theory’s aggressive plans for growth.  Joe’s energy and passion are contagious.  In addition, I was struck by his pride in his Mississippi roots.  As he travels the globe evangelizing for his company and this innovative marketing model, he is often asked how he could create a company like this in Mississippi as opposed to the normal technology centers like San Francisco, Austin, or Boston.  When he explains Mississippi’s history and knack for the art of conversation, he is able to say, “There is no place I would rather be!”

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, August 22, 2014.] Read More

Native Mississippian and motivational guru Zig Ziglar once said, “Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.”  Based on my observation of successful leaders, I would wholeheartedly agree with Ziglar’s conclusion.  These leaders have discovered their true passion and are living “on purpose” with focus and determination.  Mission driven individuals inspire others to greatness and to make a difference.  My interviewee this week, Patricia (Patti) Gandy, is the type person Ziglar was referring.  Gandy is living out her passion each day as the founding Director of the Mission First Legal Aid Office which was established by Mississippi College School of Law and Mission First, Inc. to provide legal services to qualified residents of Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties.


Patti Gandy

Gandy’s resume is put together almost as if she was destined for her current role. However, she is quick to explain that there was no grand plan, but instead, a faithful commitment to doing each job well in her journey.  A native of Jackson, Gandy received her associate’s degree from Hinds Community College and soon found herself employed as a receptionist for a law firm which led to her becoming a legal secretary.  While still in her 20s, she went on to become president of the Mississippi Legal Secretaries Association.  As she approached her thirtieth birthday, she decided it was time to complete her undergraduate degree which she did in business at Mississippi College.

To pay her way through school, Gandy freelanced as a legal assistant and ended up helping connect other legal assistants with job opportunities. Upon graduation, she decided to create a business (The Gandy Agency) to provide legal assistants to law firm.  She built a thriving business over an eight year period.  As she considered the next decade of her life, she decided to go to law school at Mississippi College School of Law where she was a top student. Upon graduation, she clerked for the Mississippi Court of Appeals before practicing with Butler Snow, LLP for a number of years. In 2006, Patti accepted the position of Mission First Legal Aid Office.

Gandy shared, “I reflected on what I was passionate about and realized that I truly enjoyed helping the poor and needy.”  She continued, “As I look back, I realize that God was preparing me for each opportunity.”  Leaders like Gandy understand that leadership is journey, not a destination.  Based on the role model of her father, Gandy sought to be a good steward of the job at hand and strived to be a servant leader.  She said, “My Dad also taught me the importance of connecting with his employees on a personal level and being genuinely interested in their lives.”

She bases her leadership philosophy on trust and respect. Today she works with hundreds of professional volunteers to help them live out their faith by using their skills to help the poor with legal aid.  Last year, the organization and its volunteers made a difference in the lives of over 1,500 people.  The organization has been a big success and complements the work done by Mississippi Volunteer lawyer Project and similar organizations.  Gandy’s main focus is on recruiting, motivating, and encouraging the volunteers and keeping the organization aligned with its mission.  She regularly speaks to communities around the state about how to set up similar programs.  In 2014, Gandy was recognized for her accomplishments and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by The Mississippi Bar.  I am encouraged by Gandy’s commitment to excellence and her courage to follow the path of an “on mission” life.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, August 15, 2014.] Read More

In February of 2005, I was practicing in a two person law firm when my law partner and good friend Jesse Harrington passed away.  It was a time of great difficulty, and I considered what path to next take in life.  I distinctly remember someone sharing with me to not make any drastic changes for at least a year.  That was great advice. Towards the end of that year, I had the opportunity to get to know a young talented attorney named Patrick McCraney.  Patrick was several years younger than me, but had a great resume as an Ole Miss graduate and a law degree from Washington & Lee.   He had recently served as President of the Jackson Young Lawyers and was building a reputation as a real estate and business lawyer.


Patrick McCraney

The son a prominent Jackson physician, Patrick was the youngest of four high achieving siblings.  Out of law school, he had an entrepreneurial drive which led him to explore some different avenues to combine his love of the law with his passion for business.  Some may describe that entrepreneurial drive as an affliction, if so, it is one that I have suffered for most of my life.  With a similar drive to help businesses grow and prosper, Patrick joined my law practice and over the next several years built a thriving practice. Except for a brief stint as a general counsel of a real estate company, Patrick focused on building his client base and continuing his leadership development including being a part of the inaugural class of the Mississippi Bar Leadership Forum and serving in leadership roles with Young Business Leaders of Jackson and the Capital Area Bar Association.

When I stepped away from practicing law day to day and assumed my current role with Butler Snow Advisory Services, Patrick took the leap to form his own law firm which today is McCraney, Coco & Lee, PLLC.  It is with great satisfaction that I have watched him develop as a leader in the law and build a thriving law practice.  I know first-hand how challenging it is to start a practice from scratch and juggle the demands of taking care of clients as well as running the operations of a law firm.

Patrick credits his parents with modeling for him the qualities of a leader.  He noted, “My father demonstrated consistency, priorities, faithfulness, discipline and compassion.  He had zero fear of being ‘unpopular’ in our world if that meant doing what he believed was right for our family or our well-being/personal development.”  His mother also assumed multiple leadership roles in the community, and he shared, “She clearly demonstrated that leadership roles were to be embraced and you should serve when called upon if at all possible within the context of your schedule and priorities.”

For future leaders, Patrick encourages them to “Be yourself!”  He shared, “You can certainly learn from and emulate others, but everyone’s leadership style is unique.   Lack of authenticity is very transparent and easily detected.   As much as people are drawn to authentic leadership, they are equally repelled by disingenuous actions and attitudes.”  Patrick also emphasized the importance of being a good listener and noted, “You can’t truly lead others when the only perspective or viewpoint you hear is your own.”   With four young children and a law practice to manage, Patrick keeps a very busy schedule; however as modeled by his parents, I expect that we will see continued commitment to leadership in his profession and the community.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, August 11, 2014.] Read More

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.

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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.

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