Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

The Business of Education

The uncharacteristically warm days these past few weeks had me climbing into the attic to retrieve my summer clothes in anticipation of the spring and summer days ahead. Grabbing what I thought to be a box of summer shirts, turned out instead to be old scrapbooks and albums.

First G

Mrs Hope – First Grade Class Finley Road Elementary, Rock Hill, SC  1966

Feeling nostalgic, I found myself perusing through a worn binder filled with grade school pictures and most of my early report cards. I laughed when I read the comments from my first and second grade teachers who cited “Billy is much too talkative” and “Billy is a really busy boy,” which was polite southern speak for “Billy simply cannot stay in his seat!”

The truth is I was a very bad student in elementary school and there is a real place in heaven for those teachers whose patience was extremely taxed teaching such an immature and talkative kid. It was not until high school that I hit my stride and found a love of history, political science, and writing. I have to admit, there are times I wish I could go back and thank those women who persevered with me. I wish I could express my gratitude to Mrs. Hope and Sellers whose names I still fondly recall fifty years later.

Education is the foundation of our economic and business development at the lake.  Perhaps no single issue impacts commerce more than our workforce development. The strength of our American economy hinges on our public and private school systems as well as post-secondary education and vocational training.

Recently in a Chamber meeting of Corporate CEO’s and entrepreneurs, they pointed to a lack of a skilled workforce as a challenge to their success. They stressed it is critical that we develop our talent and prepare our young people who will soon enter the workforce.

This Thursday, March 16th, the Lake Norman Chamber will have an opportunity to hear from both our current and incoming Charlotte Mecklenburg School Superintendents when we host our Education PowerLuncehon at NorthStone Country Club.  It will be an opportunity to thank Dr. Ann Clark for her service as well as welcome new School Board leader Dr. Clayton Wilcox.

The following day, Friday, March 17th, the Chamber will host a Focus Friday with our area Charter and Private Schools at the Chamber. Both events are a chance to hear how our educational leaders are developing our future employees.

This past week we have held School Career Fairs at both Pine Lake Prep (3/7) and Hough High School (3/8). It was a chance for area businesses to meet with students and help them prepare for their vocational future.

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Future Business Leaders of America – Hough High School

Joseph Addison once said, “I consider the human soul without education like marble in a quarry, which shows none of its inherent beauties until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colors and makes the surface shine.”

Looking at those handwritten notes from my teachers brought a bright smile to my face and a little tug on my conscience.  We can all mentor a student, provide a business internship, participate in a career fair, and donate to a school fundraiser. That is the responsibility we have to the future and the obligation we all have to the past.

Bill Russell

The above column appeared in The Lake Norman Citizen (March 1, 2017 page 39) as Take Time to Mentor a Mind of the Young.

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Millenials – Our Next Generation

Bill Russell introduction at the Winthrop University Men's Leadership Conference

Introduction at the Winthrop University Men’s Leadership Conference

In May, I had the opportunity to speak to our Hough High School Future Business Leaders of America at their year-end ceremony about leadership and commitment.  More recently, I was having dinner with a close friend and her nephew Brian.

Brian is a rising tenth grader and we touched on school, summer activities, and movies before our conversation turned to football. Brian plays linebacker for his high school football team and I listened intently as he discussed his sport.

It’s been a long time ago since I was a tenth grader but I still recall the fun I had in neighborhood pickup games.  When we couldn’t play outside, we crammed into my room and played electric football on an aluminum game board made by Tudor.  My players were hand painted to look like the Green Bay Packers and when you turned it on, the board would vibrate and hum sending the players bouncing in all different directions.

Today, Brian plays Madden NFL on a Play Station 3 with state of the art animation which looks like it is taking place in real time.  Technology over the last four decades has advanced so that today, Wii U has a glove you can slip on to play your favorite outdoor sport – tennis, golf, baseball – in the privacy of your home on a hi-def TV.

While I might be impressed by this amazing technology, Brian and the Hough High School business leaders, products of the millennial generation, are rather unfazed. The millennials are emerging as the largest generation ever (80 million strong today in the United States alone) and will soon dominate our retail and service markets as well as the emerging workforce which will shape commerce worldwide.

They are a generation for whom connectivity has always been a constant.  They grew up with the Internet, smart phones, and high speed computers where the world is simply a key stroke away.

Last month, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce held an informative luncheon on “Motivating Millennials.”  Deanna Arnold with Employer’s Advantage pointed out there are tremendous cultural changes taking place in the workplace with the emergence of the Y Generation and the millennials.  This is a demographic where everything is immediate and the Internet provides billions of options. While Boomers like myself are loyal to rules and policies, and Generation X simply blended in, the millennial generation is a product of their environment and their environment has always changed daily.

They have lived in a time where the next version of everything was simply around the corner. Have a new IPhone?  The next model is simply six months away with likely updates every month.

The millennials also grew up in a culture where there are no winners and losers.  According to Arnold, “Everyone gets a trophy.” While there is individual recognition, everyone is treated the same. One of the positives is that diversity in the workplace and community is simply not an issue for a millennial.  They do not understand why anyone would make a big deal out of differences.

According to a Reason-Rupe poll, Millennials are entrepreneurial with 55% saying they would like to start their own business and that they believe (61%) that hard work is the key to success.  Millennials also have a positive view of profit and business competition.

When it comes to politics, Millennials believe more strongly in state and local governments, but largely shun party labels.  They care much more deeply about issues than they do candidates.

There is little doubt the next generation of business and community leaders will rewrite the rules when it comes to business and commerce. Studies show that the Millennial Generation needs detailed instructions regarding outcomes. Once provided, get out of the way and let them get it done.

That night after speaking to Brian, I reflected on my encounter with the young business leaders from Hough High and thought about when I was in tenth grade with my life before me.  One of my mentors was the late Senator Bobby Kennedy who was just 42 when he left an unfinished life.

Bobby reminded us, “Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total — all of these acts — will be written in the history of this generation.”

Very soon, America will feel the power of her young people. The millennials are our legacy. Shaped by the experiences and culture of their time with a history that has yet to be written.

 

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Fraternity, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment