Russell’s Ramblings

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

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

New House for Pi Kappa Phi (Epsilon Eta) at Winthrop


Pi Kapp

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Pi Kappa Phi’s chapter at Winthrop University now has a new home. In June, Pi Kappa Phi properties closed on the property at 360 Park Ave., just a block down the street from Winthrop’s campus, and down the street from the former Epsilon Eta House near what is now Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School.
Currently, ten undergraduate brothers live in the house, with room for house parties this fall and a great opportunity to help with recruitment efforts.

Also, this past spring, the new Housing Corporation was founded to assist the undergraduate chapter in the house operations. Together, the chapter and housing corporation have scheduled two events in August that you’ll want to consider attending.

House Workday

Sat., August 17 8 a.m. to 4 p.m
We need extra help in painting the house, pressure washing the siding and replacing rotten wood on the front porch and handicapped-accessible ramp, landscaping and gardening. Lunch will be provided; join the Housing Corporation for drinks afterwards. If you have any tools (hammers, drill drivers, etc.) bring them with you.

360_Park_AvChapter Open House

Sat., August 24 5:30 p.m.
Join the Epsilon Eta undergraduate chapter for an official open house at 360 Park Ave. Spouses and family members are welcome to attend. This will be the chapter’s opportunity to show off what a cleaned, fixed house looks like. Also in attendance will be Winthrop’s new president, Dr. Jayne Marie Comstock.

CLICK HERE to RSVP and to view a list of the house’s current needs


July 25, 2013 Posted by | Fraternity | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lessons I have learned along the way #6 – Knowing when to stop!

The following is the sixth a ten part series of “Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way…”

Knowing when to stop 

While I lead a non-profit Chamber of Commerce today, my first occupation after graduating from Winthrop University was serving as a marketing representative for Harper Brothers, an office furniture and supply company in Rock Hill (SC).  Sales isn’t really a subject you can learn from a text-book.  It really derives from natural and learned abilities, experience, knowledge of your product, customer needs and expectations and competitor information as well as good advice or coaching from a mentor or professional coach.

One of the first golden rules I learned from sales was that most people have a tendency to try to pack too much information into their delivery.  We tell them how to build a watch instead of just what time it is.  Sometimes the best sales approach are the simplest ones.    Public speaking is another area where people get caught up in their message and say way too much when they already have their point made.  When I was a teenager, I was terrified of getting up in class and giving reports at Northwestern High.  Eventually though, I overcame that fear through practice and experience.  In 1992, I addressed a convention with a 35 minute speech to 3,500 delegates.  That would not have been possible without practice and preparation.

Charlie Madsen and I meet before my final speech to the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.

I learned to craft talks on a subject and rehearse it over and over until I had the delivery just right.  Then one day, one of my mentors from the Junior Chamber (Jaycees), Charlie Madsen, gave me some simple advice.  “Bill, when you give one of your motivational talks, look around the room.  If you see them eating out of your hand, you know you got them hooked, finish it.  Don’t go into another story or make another point no matter how good you think it is.”

Charlie reminded me of the young politician on his first campaign speech.  He booked a big auditorium hoping for a great crowd, but he found only one man sitting alone  in a chair.  He waited and waited but no one else showed up.  Finally he looked at the lone guy and he said,  “Hey, you think I should get started?”  The man looked at the politician and said, “Sir, I’m just a farmer and all I know are cows.  But if I take a load of hay out and only one cow shows up, I’m still gonna’ feed it.”

So the politician reared back and gave him his best.  He talked on and on for an hour, then two as the farmer shifted back and forth in his seat.  Finally when the politician  wrapped up with his big delivery, he asked the old farmer just how he did.

Once again, the farmer pondered and then said, “Sir, I’m just an old farmer.  All I know are cows.  Of course, I do know that if I took my whole load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow showed up, I wouldn’t dump the whole load on him.”

Charlie winked at me as he made his point.  Your talks, speeches, and sales presentations are defined as much by your audience as your product.  I learned to tailor talks to groups using the people in the room.  Reading expressions to see whether my points had been made or needed to be expanded upon.

The bottom line know your product, know your competitor, most importantly know your audience, and finally know when to stop.

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For the love of the game

Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity

When I joined Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity at Winthrop University in Rock Hill (SC), the requirements were to maintain at least a 2.0 grade point ratio, to be able to “shag” dance to Beach Music, and to play a respectable game of golf.  While far from making the Dean’s list, I did manage to maintain the grades and become a better than average dancer.  However, my golf game has always been sorely lacking.  I’m not sure I could have imagined when I was in college how much the game of golf would impact my life.

While I do not play much myself, many of my friends and business associates do. As a matter of fact, all of the civic groups I have ever been a member of are reliant on golf tournaments as a source of revenue. Whether it’s the Police DARE tournament, Chamber of Commerce Captain’s Choice event in October, or a Rotary outing, our charities and service organizations depend on golf as an annual event to raise funds for their organization.

Recreational sports are extremely important not only to the fabric of a community but to business itself.  When our Economic Development Corporation is meeting with site planners for new corporations or larger businesses, our sports market and recreational resources are prominent in their decision making. NC DOC Secretary Crisco recently pointed out to our Lake Norman business leaders how important recreation is to our economic development and local commerce.

Visit Lake Norman, the travel and tourism development authority for our North Mecklenburg communities generated a net profit of $48.3 million dollars in direct tourism spending between July 2009 and June 2010 and recruited $11.9 in visitor’s spending. For every $1 invested in Visit Lake Norman, $24.26 went into the local economy.  It’s called putting heads in beds and perhaps few organizations do it better.

This past week, PGA America announced that the Quail Hollow Club of Charlotte will serve as the host of the 99th PGA Championship in August 2017.  The finest golfers in the world will participate at an international event held in our backyard – Charlotte.  To put this in some perspective, 50,000 visitors will attend for a week at a sports event seen in living rooms throughout 200 different countries. While they are here, these guests will likely travel to other statewide attractions such as the Outer Banks, Asheville, Charleston as well as visiting within our communities right here at the lake.  We are so fortunate to live in a region of the country with its proximity to the mountains and coasts.  Nestled on the banks of Lake Norman, we have the finest parks and recreational amenities in either of the Carolinas.

The PGA, in making Charlotte the destination for its Championship, comes on the heels of the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May.  Indeed, we are an area of the country that is passionate about sports! We love our football, take pride in our basketball, and are crazy about our NASCAR drivers.  We are both spectators and players.  We are a region that simply loves the thrill of competition.  Ours is a community that stretches from the Knights Stadium in Fort Mill to the banks of Lake Norman. A community that is bound together for the love of the game.

The PGA Championship will be played here in 2017.  But in a real sense, that Champion has been determined. It’s everyone that’s ever called the Charlotte region home and on an international stage Charlotte will wear her crown.


W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM Bill Russell is the president and chief executive officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,100 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s All Greek to Me

Chapter PresidentMention the word “Fraternity” and visions of John Belushi’s Animal House may come to mind.  Keg parties, togas, food fights, and hazing rituals are deeply etched into the public’s mind when it comes to the Greek system on college campuses.  I would be disingenuous if I said when I pledged a fraternity in college, I was searching for leadership development.  Like most college kids of my day, I was looking for a good time.  In 1978, Animal House played across the American landscape and college campuses took to “togas” like cold beer to a frosty mug.  Indeed, my first exposure to a fraternity was a Toga Party.

As a commuting student, I lived at home.  I still remember the look on mom’s face when I appeared out of my bedroom with a white bed sheet strategically wrapped around my body.  Greenery from one of her house plants topped my head, as I sauntered down the hall, with one of dad’s neckties loosely hanging around my neck, sporting my Ray Ban sunglasses.Chairman

Ours was the first national fraternity introduced to Winthrop University.  Having been a women’s college for most of its existence, it was a real culture shock to the Board of Trustees when fraternities petitioned to join the college campus.  I joined a group of young men looking to create a fraternity on campus.  And I joined looking for that good time.  However, over the next few years, that association with my new brothers shaped my character in ways I never imagined.  I held various offices in our chapter from Treasurer to Archon (President).  I represented the chapter at college functions, ran the meetings, helped recruit new members… and yes, answered to the Dean of Students for the pranks and situations college kids do get into. I really believe the Dean’s secretary had my phone number on speed dial.  All that said, the fraternity did shape the skills I would need later in life motivating, inspiring, and leading others.

s31367342081_6770In 1996, when I was hired as the chief executive officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, I set about to meet our community and business leaders.  Early on, I was introduced to Gary Knox, one of the Chamber’s past chairmen, who would later be elected to office as Mayor for the Town of Cornelius.  During the first meeting with Gary, we discovered that we had both joined the same fraternity – Pi Kappa Phi.  While he graduated from a chapter at UNC – Charlotte, our experience as Pi Kapps built an instant bond between us.  Ironically, it was his chapter when he was in school that participated in the chartering and initiation of my chapter in 1980, proving what a small world it really is!

Pi Kapp Bothers - Bubba, Bill, & Mark

Pi Kapp Bothers - Bubba, Bill, & Mark

As I mentioned before, the Greek system is much more than social interaction.  Our fraternity created an outreach program that serves individuals that need a helping hand.  Members of Pi Kappa Phi have raised more than $10 million, as well as thousands of man hours to renovate facilities that serve people with disabilities. 

Fraternities and sororities take young men and women and create leaders. 

Pi Kappa Phi - Epsilon Eta Chapter 2009

Pi Kappa Phi - Epsilon Eta Chapter 2009

Tomorrow those leaders will build communities.  It’s an American system modeled on an ancient civilization.  Yesterday’s philosophy working today to build a better tomorrow.  Bound together in brotherhood   –    Leaders by Choice.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Fraternity | , , , , , | 1 Comment