Years in Business:
What’s the best piece of business advice you received when starting out?
When I first had multi-store P&L responsibility in Nashville, Tennessee, my boss would say, “we gotta’ cut the cloth to fit the body.” In other words, keep Operating Expenses in line with Sales. Not in line with what we wish Sales were, or even what we had forecast them to be, but in line with current reality. Sounds like simple, old-fashioned, and maybe even accounting-boring advice. But it can be extremely difficult, especially for a naturally optimistic entrepreneur. My business coaching clients have heard many times, “we gotta’ cut the cloth to fit the body.” As with many things, it’s easier for me to say than do. (Apologies to my CPA wife for coining the term, “accounting-boring,” which will almost certainly go viral.)
When did you last meet someone who inspired you?
Not yet today, but it’s early. Working with business leaders and entrepreneurs, I’m inspired almost daily. Each story is different and inspiring.
What’s the first thing you do every morning to set the tone for your day?
My first morning conversation is with my Google Assistant. She tells me about the day’s appointments, weather, and headlines. It feels very George Jetson. Can’t believe we don’t have flying cars yet.
What does success mean to you?
Success is helping others succeed.
Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night?
It’s an exciting time to work with business owners. The economy is great, and technology continues to dazzle. But the same was true in 2007. I try not to worry about what I can’t control, but there are a few troubling questions for small business owners. How can we attract and retain people in this job market? Is this economy the new normal? If not, do we have the fiscal discipline to adapt? (See my accounting-boring answer above.) Where will AI take us? Until Google and Alexa can understand perfectly good Southwest Virginian, I’m not concerned about evil robots anytime soon. But AI-driven business decisions? Algorithms that mine Social Media for the exact customer and new-hire we’re looking for? Keeping employees engaged with sophisticated Learning Management and assessment systems? That’s all happening today – mostly in big companies. Is our small business community ready to compete and thrive? Those questions (and Fan District bar-hoppers outside my window) do occasionally keep me up at night.
What tool, object, or ritual could you not live without in your workday?
I couldn’t function without a Cross gel pen and spiral notebook. I’ve tried many digital note-taking tools, but always come back to pen and paper. The downside is that 30+ years of notebooks take up a lot of storage space. But Honey, they spark joy!
As a leader, when did you receive a piece of tough criticism that was tough to overcome?
A CEO once called me “thin-skinned.” When that feedback hurt my feelings, I realized he had a point. It’s still a struggle. I often have to sing (loudly) “Let it Go,” or “Shake it Off.” My office mates don’t seem to appreciate it, which hurts my feelings.
What does the world need more of?
The world needs more respect for small business owners. They are the lifeblood of our economy and our communities. Yet the few who go on to build large, successful businesses are often vilified as greedy, dishonest, selfish “one-per centers.” That ignorance breaks my heart. Until you’ve worked a 70+ hour week without pay and then used a personal credit card to make payroll for your team, you can’t fully appreciate an entrepreneur. As people learn to respect small business owners for who they are and what they do, they will also think “Buy Local” before automatically clicking “Buy Now.”
What did you want to be as a child?
I always planned to serve in the military. My Dad and his five brothers all served – over seventy years, combined. After two years of Army ROTC at Virginia Tech, however, I opted out, to avoid relocating my family every few years. But the first twelve years of my civilian management career took us to six different cities in four states!
What characteristic do you most admire in other business owners?
Passion. For their businesses and their teams. It’s great if you find your overarching “purpose” in the world, the “why” you do what you do. But let’s not take that too far. A business owner who pumps septic tanks can be just as passionate as a tech entrepreneur seeking to change the world. Let’s celebrate those whose purpose is simply to build a thriving, growing local business. They make the world a better place.
Which of your personal traits makes you proudest?
I’m most proud of my commitment to personal development. I try to read or listen to at least fifty books every year, a mix of non-fiction and fiction.
When did you first realize that your business was going to succeed?
We had to succeed after my daughter Emma joined the company. She is much better at execution and follow-through than I am, and she’s not afraid to push back on my dumber ideas. Besides, if we failed, Emma might have to move back home while looking for another job, and I’d have to work for a boss. So failure is not an option.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
We believe that business leaders must drive Culture and Strategy in parallel. Hence, Parallel Management Company.
Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you first started out?
When I first started this business, I attended every networking event and joined every association that would have me. If I were starting today, I’d be more intentional with that time and money.
What’s the best thing about being a local business owner?
Having done business around the world qualifies me to make this statement: the Richmond, Virginia area is an amazing place to own a business. It’s a big small town. If you need help here, you just have to ask.
Parallel Management Company helps businesses of all sizes drive culture and strategy in parallel through state of the art assessment tools and training.