This past weekend, I was
flattered to be invited to the University of Memphis FCBE Honors Banquet as the
evening's keynote speaker. I must say when I was first notified about the event
by Dr. Irvin Tankersley I was not only appreciative of the invitation to speak
but also a little confounded as well. As one of Dr. Tankersley’s former
students (Business Law), I guess he must have forgotten that I was not an
“honors” student at the University back in the 1970’s. In fact I graduated from
the U of M with a whopping 2.34 GPA!
But I did work my way through
school with various part time jobs (that included one year working for IBM) and
graduated in 4 years (May ’78) and was debt free. Very proud of that to this day! As I
told the students Saturday night, I may not have been a great student but I did
learn a lot about goal setting, discipline and time management skills while I
was at the University of Memphis. It was great experience that prepared me very well
for my future business career.
In addition I spoke about the
importance of being resilient in dealing with challenges and obstacles such as
the first big one I faced on “The Day My Business Almost Died” back in
2003. As I told the students it was the “challenge of a lifetime” when I
discovered that my accounting manager had stolen over $257,000 from the company
10 months after my brother John died. Unbelievable situation which almost put
ISI out of business. And the challenges kept coming four years later during the
“Summer from Hell” when we had to grapple with the deaths of an employee
and friend, major employee turnover (80% of the sales team quit) and my wife’s diagnosis
of breast cancer… all in a little over 30 days.
As I told the students, it is
all about how you deal with problems and crises that defines you as a
professional and as a person. In our case, we dealt with that horrific summer
of 2007 by rebuilding the company and doubling sales in the next four years
amidst the worst economy in 80 years. So proud of my team for that incredible
accomplishment! I closed out my speech by encouraging the students to develop a
growth mindset and embrace a lifetime of learning and to never, ever give up.
As I told them, if a goofball C student like me can be successful, they can