Paul McNeill

Management guru Peter Drucker is attributed the quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  His statement is often repeated to emphasize the importance of culture in building a great organization.   Companies like Southwest Airlines or Zappos are some of the most well-known examples of companies that have achieved tremendous success by nurturing their culture.  Zappos CEO Tony Hseigh noted in a Harvard Business Review blog post, “Last year 25,000 people applied for jobs with us, and we hired only 250. Someone told me that statistically it’s harder to get a job at Zappos than it is to get admitted to Harvard, which says a lot about the strength of the culture we’ve created here.”

My interviewee this week, Paul McNeill, understands the importance of building a winning culture. McNeill serves as Senior Vice President-Wealth Management and Resident Director of Merrill Lynch in Ridgeland.   McNeill grew up in Oxford, England and moved to Jackson, Mississippi when he was thirteen years old. After graduating from Millsaps College, he began his financial career back in England.  However, he had the opportunity to return to Jackson in 1991 to join Merrill Lynch and has been there ever since.  After building a very successful wealth management business at the firm, McNeill was asked to become Resident Director and manage the local office in 2013.  McNeill decided to take on the position because of the confidence and faith he had in the team he would be leading, and because he could also continue to take care of the client relationships he had developed over the last 20+ years.

He shared, “My focus as Resident Director has been to create a great place for people to work.  I want our team members to look forward to coming to work each day.”  McNeill has been intentional about creating a great culture at the firm.  One of the ways he does this is to be very open and inclusive with meetings and decisions. McNeill recognizes that the only way to truly take outstanding care of clients is to take outstanding care of your team members.  While this may seem obvious, I have found in my business consulting practice that this principle is often not consistently applied. Too often, employers underappreciate and undervalue their employees and somehow expect them to deliver outstanding customer service.  Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work.  McNeill also noted, “I try to lead by example and not ask people to do things I would not do myself.”  This is another way to show people that you value them as individuals which is critical to building trust.

McNeill is active as a community leader and devotes time to organizations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (AL/MS), Mississippi Children’s Home Services and St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.  He also was recently named to the Board of Trustees for Millsaps College.  In an industry where people often move around between employers, McNeill has remained loyal and built a very successful business.  I am sure that his understanding of how to develop a winning culture will serve his team and clients well for years to come.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, May 30, 2014.] Read More

In my executive coaching practice, I often analyze with my clients the constant barrage of demands on their time. One of the most influential books to me on this topic is a short work by author Charles Hummel titled Tyranny of the Urgent! For a successful leader, there are always more demands on your time than you can respond. Unfortunately, the tyranny of the urgent can cause us to miss the truly important things we need to be dealing with. I think this is one of the most challenging aspects of modern leadership. The key for leaders is to remain focused on what is truly important and to continually remind others to “keep the main thing the main thing.”


Dr. David Shaw

My interview this week, Dr. David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development at Mississippi State University, has done a great job of keeping perspective on what is truly important and has had a very positive impact on the university and the state.
Shaw grew up on a family farm in rural Oklahoma. While at Cameron University, his life took a turn as he was originally planning to return to the family farm after graduation. However, as a newlywed he realized that the family farm might not adequately support his family, and with the encouragement of one of his professors he decided to pursue post-graduate education in agriculture. Shaw went on to get his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University.

After completing his studies, Shaw took a teaching and research position with Mississippi State and has now been there almost 30 years. Shaw has been involved in cutting-edge research including remote sensing technology. In 1998, the school received a $25-million grant from NASA to further this research, and Shaw was named director of the Remote Sensing Technologies Center. In 2002, he was appointed director of the Geosystems Research Institute, which focused on the spatial technology visualization of complex datasets and computational modeling in agriculture, forestry, water resources, climate, weather and oceanography.  In 2009, Shaw was asked to serve in his current position of vice president for research and economic development where he acts as chief research officer for the university.

One of the key points Shaw emphasizes as a leader is to “never let the urgent take priority over the important.” He believes in creating clarity about what is truly important and making sure team members are aligned around the real priorities. He also believes in finding the best talent and letting them operate in a zone where their passion, talent, and responsibilities intersect.  He understands that when people are allowed to spend most of their time in this zone they will be truly happy and highly productive. As a man of faith, Shaw has drawn inspiration from studying the great (and not so great leaders) in the Bible. In particular, he has been reflecting on the servant leadership that Jesus modeled.

During his time at MSU, the school has proven to be a national leader on many fronts. Dr. Shaw emphasized that there are exciting things happening all over the campus. In particular, he noted the national reputation that the university has developed in agriculture, engineering, and cyber security.  In his role, he also has the opportunity to work with business and political leaders to create opportunities for economic growth in the state.  He shared, “It is part of the DNA to be involved in economic development and be a positive change agent for the state.” Along with many other fine institutions and leaders in the state, Mississippi State and Dr. Shaw are doing many exciting things to advance the state of Mississippi and improve the economic prospects for the future.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, May 23, 2014.] Read More

I am excited to share with our readers this week about a topic I am passionate about — TED. No, not a person — I am talking about the global phenomenon known as TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. This week, I asked David Pharr, one of the coordinators of the first TEDx event in Mississippi, to share about this excited opportunity for the state.

MW: Tell the readers more about TED for those who may not be familiar.

DP: TED is a non-profit organization that was started in 1984 by an architect, Richard Saul Wurman. He believed there was a convergence of the fields of technology, entertainment and design (TED). The first conference featured demos of the Apple Macintosh computer and included talks by digital pioneers Nicholas Negroponte and Stewart Brand.  The second conference did not happen until 1990, but it took off as a community gathered annuallyTEDx_logo_sydney_022309 in Monterey, Calif., to hear talks by leading thinkers from around the world. In 2000, new media entrepreneur Chris Anderson took over the organization and has developed it into an organization having global impact.

MW: I first learned about TED by watching videos online of interesting people giving talks. Tell us about those.

DP: Anderson’s motto for TED was “Ideas Worth Spreading.” At each TED event, speakers are askers to give the best speech of their life in 18 minutes or less on innovative ideas. In 2005, TED started posting their highest rated talks on and shared them for free.  There are well over 1500 talks on the website, and they have been viewed by millions of viewers.  The talks are now in over 100 languages and viewed by people all over the world.

MW: My understanding is that in addition to the annual conferences, there are now TEDx events. What are those?

DP: To expand the TED concept and to bring innovation to local communities, TED in 2009 began to allow people to organize TED-like events in their local communities. The goal is to foster innovation and collaboration. Over the last five years, there have been thousands of TEDx events around the world and over 30,000 talks have been recorded.

MW: Tell us plans for TEDx Jackson, which to my understanding will be the first TEDx event in the state of Mississippi.

DP: You are correct. On Nov. 6 this year, the first TEDx event in the state will be hosted in Jackson. While it will be hosted in Jackson, this will truly be a statewide event.  I have been hoping for several years that we could bring this program to the state, and I was excited to get a call earlier this year that a group had decided to take the initiative to make this event happen. The focus will be on innovative healthcare, education, and the creative economy.

MW: Who is helping to organize the event?

DP: At this point, Maris West & Baker, C Spire Wireless and Jim and Donna Barksdale are the lead sponsors and the Mississippi Development Authority. Innovate Mississippi, the State Institutions of Higher Learning, and UMMC, are actively involved. To host a TEDx event, you are required to have an individual as licensee so I was honored when the group asked me to serve in that role. I was particularly excited because one the requirements is to attend the annual TED conference, which I was able to do in March in Vancouver — it was an incredible opportunity.

MW: How are the plans coming along for the event and how can people learn more?

DP: We are finalizing the venue for the event now as well as lining up the speakers.  The theme for the event is “Fertile Ground,” which is intended as a reference to the many opportunities that exist in Mississippi. There will be a mix of local and national speakers focusing on both local and global ideas. Seating will be limited so we will be accepting applications soon.  To keep people informed, we have set up a Twitter account (@TEDxJackson); a Facebook page (TEDxJackson), and we are launching a website (

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, May 9, 2014.] Read More

A few years ago, Keith McFarland wrote a book titled The Breakthrough Company, which was based on a five-year study he did of more than 7,000 companies. I like his book because it focuses on how middle market companies can achieve lasting success. Too often, business books are geared towards large global companies which has little relevance for small and mid-size businesses.  One of the key attributes of companies that break out of the entrepreneurial phase is that they surround themselves with networks of outside resources which McFarland calls “scaffolding.”  For example, one story he shared was about former NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, who started The Staubach Company real estate company in 1977.  Staubach faced some challenging times early on in his career, and he credits the support of his Young Presidents Organization (YPO) forum group for helping him work through the difficulties.


Kristian Agoglia

Whether forum groups, advisory boards or key consultants, there is much to be gained in having this kind of “scaffolding” as you build a business.

My interviewee this week, Kristian Agoglia, has built a successful vegetation management and disaster recovery company in New York and is now expanding his business to Mississippi. Kristian is a native of Long Island and grew up in a hard-working entrepreneurial family. He attributes the core values that his parents instilled in him as having a big impact on his success in business.

When Kristian was 15, he started a lawn service business, which was the predecessor to his business today, Looks Great Services.  By the time he graduated high school and went off to Liberty University, he had a thriving business, which he was able to continue even while in college and later graduate school at Regent University. In 1999, Kristian formally incorporated his business and the rest, as they say, “is history.” He has continued to grow his business and later added disaster clean up services as a service offering.

In 2005, Kristian deployed crews to Mississippi to help with post-Hurricane Katrina clean up. It was during this time that he met his wife who was from Columbia, Miss. After getting married, he decided it was time to start Looks Great Services of Mississippi, which specializes in vegetation management for utility companies and employs over 75 people in the state.  This past year, Kristian and his wife decided to relocate from New York to her hometown of Columbia.

As we discussed the challenges of growing a company, Kristian noted how he had always sought outside perspectives on his business. He shared a story of how he hired Bobb Biehl, a guest lecturer at Regent University, to advise him on his business while he was still in college. He shared, “It was a significant investment for me at the time, but it was worth every penny.” Biehl has continued to be an advisor to Kristian and his company. He noted, “I have always sought other people’s opinions and advice on my business to help identify blind spots, gain perspective, and improve my operations.” Kristian noted that over the last 15 years he has invested significant time and resources in seeking this type of feedback on his business and it has paid large dividends for him.

During disaster recovery projects, Kristian can have over 1,000 people working for him. His ability to scale quickly when needed is based on the quality of the team he has developed. He noted, “I try to help my employees find their strengths and focus their work on those type projects.” He continued, “My philosophy is to try and fit a round peg into a round hole.”  He spends a lot of time in the interview process to really get to know the individual. He wants to understand what truly motivates them and what they care about. Kristian’s commitment to maintaining his own “scaffolding,” his perseverance, and his perspective on the importance of people has him positioned for continued success in his business. Kristian is a welcome transplant to Mississippi, and I know he will have a positive impact on the state.

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

Thomas Edison once said, “I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent it.” Edison was a prolific innovator with over 1,000 patents in his name. I believe he captured the true spirit of an entrepreneur with his statement. Entrepreneurs are visionaries who are not satisfied with the status quo.


Bob Lomenick

While others see insurmountable challenges, they see opportunity. I have had the good fortune to visit with many great entrepreneurs, and I am always inspired by their desire to create positive change in the world. I was reminded of this Edison quote during my interview this week with Bob Lomenick, owner of Tyson Drug Company in Holly Springs. Lomenick is a true entrepreneurial success story.

Lomenick grew up in Iuka and went on to get his pharmacy degree from the University of Mississippi. After graduation, he worked for an independent pharmacy in Olive Branch and later for a high volume pharmacy in Millington, Tennessee. Early in his career, he learned of an opportunity back in Mississippi with the owners of an independent pharmacy in Holly Springs — Tyson Drug Company. Lomenick moved back and went to work for the owners and over a period of several years transitioned to be the owner. From that one pharmacy, he has grown over the last 30 years to three locations and began a pioneering medication adherence program.

From his customer interactions, he observed that patients were often having trouble managing multiple medications and following the proper dosing schedule. He noticed that many customers ended up in nursing homes simply because they could not manage their medications properly. Based on these observations, he created a program called RxSync to synchronize patient refills by combining strip packaging technology with a comprehensive medication therapy management process. Lomenick now serves thousands of customers with this program throughout the region, and he is recognized as one of the leading independent pharmacists in the country. In fact, he was named the 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Next-Generation Pharmacist Awards. Pharmacists come from all over the country to Holly Springs to learn from Lomenick on how to develop this type of innovative program.

Lomenick shared with me that he has always been one to take calculated risks. Entrepreneurs like Lomenick are never satisfied with the status quo. They are always looking to improve the way things are done.He shared that it took him a long time, but he has truly learned to trust his gut instinct.  This gives him the courage to act on “out of the box” ideas. As Apple® founder Steve Jobs said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Lomenick attributes his success to having great people and well developed processes to ensure consistency and accountability.  With over 30 employees, Tyson Drug Company has a family atmosphere with a passionate focus on the customer.  Lomenick leads by example and makes sure every employee knows they are important to the success of the organization.  In addition, Lomenick is a “roll up his sleeves” kind of leader that leads by example.

I enjoy learning of entrepreneurial success stories like Lomenick and Tyson Drug Company.   I believe it is important to see how other Mississippi entrepreneurs are taking risks and making a national impact.  I am excited to see how Lomenick continues to expand his business and innovate in the important realm of patient medication adherence.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, April 21, 2014.] Read More

A few years ago, authors Malcolm Gladwell(Outliers) and Geoff Colvin (Talent is Overrated)brought to the public’s attention the 10,000 hour rule for becoming an expert. They were citing the research of psychology professor Dr. K. Anders Ericsson in which he concluded that it takes about 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to truly become a master at your chosen endeavor. I bring this up because, as leaders, it is important to strive for excellence and mastery in your organizational setting. I was reminded of this research when I was thinking about my interviewee this week, Darden H. North, MD. Dr. North has not only enjoyed a long and productive career as a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with Jackson Healthcare for Women, but he also has established himself as a bestselling murder mystery and medical thriller author.


Dr. Darden H. North

North, a native of Cleveland, Miss., graduated from Ole Miss where he was editor of the yearbook (The Ole Miss) and vice president of the Associated Student Body. He went on to get his medical degree from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine where he also completed his residency. North has served in leadership roles in his profession including serving as secretary of the Mississippi Obstetrics and Gynecology Society, chairman of the National ACOG Junior Fellow Advisory Council and chief of the medical staff of both River Oaks Hospital and Woman’s Hospital.

Well into his medical career, North hung up his golf clubs and decided to pursue professionally the hobby of writing. His first three novels, available in print and e-book, have been awarded nationally, most notably Points of Origin in Southern Fiction by the Independent Publishers Book Association (IPPY) Awards. Fresh Frozen is in film development by Frank Vitolo and Scott Alvaraz, screenplay adaptation by Amy Taylor. Darden’s fourth novel Wiggle Room was published also in print and e-book by Sartoris Literary Group in summer 2013. North’s books have sold over 17,000 copies. Today, North still maintains a full-time medical and surgical practice while also writing and participating in literary panel discussions with other writers.

North shared that he was inspired by his mother who taught him to believe in himself and that he could accomplish anything if he set his mind to it. This is a powerful thought to sow into the life of someone. One of my mentors often reminds me that “What I Can Conceive and Believe – I Can Achieve.” Not surprisingly, North emphasized that he believes it is important to have faith and find strength in God when reaching forward and “to never become complacent with the status quo.” North has tried to be an innovator both in his medical practice and as a writer. He was a pioneer in the use of robotic surgery in both multi- and single-site techniques and is a national instructional proctor for Intuitive Surgical Gynecological Robotics.

Like other effective leaders, North recognizes that we always have more to learn. He said, “I look for new opportunities and encourage others to do the same.” He advocates actively seeking advice from others and having the courage to listen for the kernels of truth that lie in complaints and criticisms. As a leader, he tries to acknowledge the potential in others and encourage them to achieve to the best of their ability.

As I learned more about Dr. North and his accomplishments, I came away with great respect for his ability to master not just one craft, but two. I also appreciate the courage it takes to “create” and to put your work product out into the marketplace. As North enters a season where he is delivering second generation babies, I also expect he will continue to be a prolific writer and contributor to the state.

[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, April 14, 2014.] Read More

Brian Tracy in his book Goals! emphatically states, “Success is goals, all else is commentary.” He describes the ability to set and achieve goals as a master skill of success. I have found this to be true in the leaders I have interviewed over the years. For these leaders, goal setting is not a one-time event, but an ongoing habit. The true power in goal setting is WRITING THEM DOWN! Unfortunately, too often people simply have various aspirations in their head. I am convinced that forward progress really takes place when goals are clearly written down and you know when you have “crossed the finish line” in achieving them. There is a big difference in thinking to yourself “I want to get in better shape” versus having a written goal to complete a marathon in a certain amount of time by a certain date.


J. Frank Betts

J. Frank Betts, managing member of Eubank, Betts, Hirn, Wood, PLLC, has utilized goal setting to achieve significant results in his life. Betts grew up in Shreveport, La., and went on to play college baseball at Louisiana Tech where he was an accounting major. Betts, a CPA, teamed up with Thomas Ross Jr. and William L. (Bill) Eubank in 1970 to form their accounting firm. Since then, the firm has grown and prospered, and Betts has served not only as a leader in his firm but in his profession. For example, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) invited him to serve on the U. S. Auditing Standards Board. While he was on the board, he co-authored a publication that is still used today by the accounting profession titled “Guide to Auditor’s Reports.” He has served on the Governing Board of the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants, and he is the immediate past international chairman of CPA Associates International Inc., a world-wide association of accounting firms.

Betts noted that many people shaped his leadership, and in particular, his long-time partner Bill Eubank, who recently passed away. Betts noted, “Bill was an outstanding community leader and a fine leader in our firm and in our church. I learned a lot from Bill.” Betts believes that a leader should lead others by their own personal example and a leader should always attempt to treat others in the same manner that he or she would want to be treated. He pointed out that everyone is different so you have to recognize how each person needs to be lead. Further, he said, “Most of all you need to do a lot of praying that you are led by God to do right when you lead other people.”

Regarding goal setting, Betts shared, “Goals need to be set after much thought and consideration including obtaining advice from others and you need to communicate those goals to those you are trying to lead.” He further explained, “You need to measure the success with the goals and be able to change when changes are necessary.” Betts raises a very good point that goals are intended to help us measure our success so they must be specific. You also need to be fluid with them and know when they need to be adjusted.

Recently, Betts’ firm announced that it will be merging soon with another long time successful accounting firm – Haddox, Reid, Burkes & Calhoun, PLLC, which was founded in 1958 to form Haddox, Reid, Eubank, Betts, PLLC. The combined firm will have over 41 CPAs and continue as a full service accounting firm. Betts has served as a principled leader in this firm, church, community, and profession for over 40 years. I believe he serves as a great example of how consistent focus and goal setting can serve a leader well over the long term.I know he will be instrumental in transitioning the firm for the next stage in its future.

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Butler Snow Advisory Services (BSA), a leading strategic consulting and transaction advisory company, has added Troy A.
Stovall as its newest principal. Stovall brings more than 25 years of experience in technology, consulting, higher education, private equity and operations.


Troy Stovall

“Troy has extensive experience and a unique skill set that will help our clients identify opportunities that will propel them to the next level,” said Barry Cannada, Chairman of Butler Snow Advisory. “We look forward to this partnership and we’re glad to have him on our team.”

Prior to joining BSAS, Stovall founded and still serves as managing member of LeMaile Stovall LLC, a management consulting firm serving for-profit and nonprofit firms focused on strategy, operational performance and fundraising.

“We are excited to welcome Troy to the Butler Snow Advisory team,” said Matt Thornton, founder and Managing Principal of Butler Snow Advisory. “His experience and skill set are a unique blend for our organization and we are thrilled to have him on board.”

Stovall also previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Howard University and as senior vice president and chief financial officer of Jackson State University (JSU). In both roles, he led various construction, renovation, educational, and information technology projects including: a redesign of benefits at Howard University that resulted in a $9 million savings, co-leading the launch of Howard’s online executive MBA program, and leading more than $300 million in new construction and renovation projects at JSU.

Before arriving at JSU, Stovall was co-founder and CEO of GulfSouth Capital, Inc. and managing general partner of GS Ventures (GSV), LLC. At GulfSouth, Stovall was responsible for overall investment and fundraising responsibility for more than $100 million across three funds.

He has also served as a senior engagement manager at the strategy management-consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., where he was a leader in the group’s telecom practice. His other professional experiences include positions with Southwestern Bell, AT&T Bell Labs and Rockwell Collins Transmission Systems Division.

Stovall – a Houston native – is a frequent speaker on topics including venture capital, motivation, economic development and higher education administration. He has authored or contributed to published documents on wireless data, entrepreneurship, venture capital, economic development and activity-based costing.

Stovall was previously appointed to the Commission on E-Government and the Special Task Force for Economic Development Planning by Miss. Governor Ronnie Musgrove and the Southern Growth Policies Board Technology Council, and the Mississippi Governor’s Commission on Tax Reform by former Miss. Governor Haley Barbour.

Stovall holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a minor in mathematics from Southern Methodist University, where he graduated cum laude; a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University; and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.


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Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC (BSA), a leading strategic consulting and transaction advisory company based in the Greater Jackson area – has named Wesley Roberts to their team of professionals.

Most recently, Roberts served as a manager in the transaction advisory services department of Ernst & Young, LLP in Nashville, Tenn., where he managed and participated in financial due diligence engagements, particularly related to acquisitions by private equity investor groups and strategic corporate buyers. RobertsW-grid

“Wesley’s transaction advisory experience at Ernst & Young make him a perfect fit for our growing company,” said Matt A. Thornton, President and CEO of BSA. “We are excited to welcome Wesley to the team, and look forward to his leadership in guiding our capital markets initiatives. We are particularly encouraged to have him in Nashville, where we see exceptional financial and business opportunities.”

In his role at Butler Snow Advisory, Roberts will focus on transaction advisory services, which include capital formation, buy-side and sell-side representation, mergers and acquisitions.

Roberts holds a bachelor of business administration and a master of accountancy from the University of Tennessee. He is also a certified public accountant, licensed in the state of Tennessee.

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