Question & Answers with Heritage CEO from recent interview with Charlotte Business Journal
Describe your leadership style and how you put that into action within your organization:
My leadership style is as a collaborative innovator. As a servant leader, I seek to nurture a culture of collaboration within our company that spurs innovation and positive, impactful results for our culture, clients and community. The heartbeat of our organization is found in our purpose statement, “As a veteran-owned business, we strive to be a valued resource that honors God by serving others.”
Describe a major change you’ve made as the leader of your company over the past year, how you handled that and how it impacted the business:
As our business has expanded over the past 10 years, we recognized that our banking relationship with BB&T/Truist was not responsive to our changing needs. After careful consideration, we made the move to United Community Bank last May. What an amazing difference we have experienced! The level of care and attention to our needs that the team at United provides is greatly valued and appreciated. Their support of our business model and growth initiatives positions us well to compete effectively in the various marketplaces we now serve (Charlotte; Raleigh; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; and Louisville, Kentucky).
Describe your top accomplishment of the past year:
During the past year, our company has funded the building of two schools in an emerging, third-world country in Asia that currently serves 194 girls and boys, ranging in age between 4 and 10, who were previously unable to receive a formal education. In addition, our ongoing funding provides two meals per day for each child and basic health care for each student and their families.
How are you prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in your company?
Among our five organizational core values is “Value the Individual,” which recognizes that every member of our team is unique and offers great value. Our diversity of talent, backgrounds and experiences make us better as an organization!
What is the top priority for Charlotte to ensure a strong business environment?
Charlotte must continue to develop a strong transportation infrastructure, improve educational opportunities for high school students that emphasize technical and trade skills in preparation for entering the job market, and provide affordable-housing solutions for all socio-economic sectors of our quickly growing population.
What was your first job, and what is one lesson you carried forward from that?
My first job was working on crab boats on the Potomac River with my grandfather and several uncles in rural southern Maryland. They truly loved what they did for a living and instilled in me a passion for serving others, a strong sense of urgency with the things I commit to and a work ethic that still gets me up before the break of dawn to prepare for a new day.
Who inspires you, and why?
Since I arrived in Charlotte from the Washington, D.C., area in 2005, Tony Zeiss, best known in Charlotte for his role as the president of Central Piedmont Community College for more than two decades, has been an impactful and inspirational leader that I greatly admire. From the moment I met him while attending my first Charlotte Rotary Club luncheon, Tony has shown me what a purposeful leader can do to positively impact his community for good and God’s glory. Tony’s leadership helped grow CPCC into an organization that has prepared hundreds of thousands of people to achieve productive and meaningful careers with area companies. His efforts have encouraged thousands of companies to move to Charlotte or expand in Charlotte because of the technical training offered at this world-class educational institution. Tony’s appreciation for Charlotte history has created a fantastic showcase of statues highlighting past community and business leaders along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and historical documentaries on our local PBS station. His leadership in launching the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., in 2017 is undoubtedly a capstone role to his storied career as a servant leader.
What is something you do for fun?
Since 2015, I have been traveling to Asia with the Mustard Seed Foundation to share “The Theology of Work” with high school and college-age students in emerging, third-world countries. Although these trips are rigorous, I find that they rejuvenate my mind and spirit while also refocusing and enhancing the results of my efforts within our business and community. My next trip is scheduled for this fall.
What is one of the best books you’ve read recently, and why?
God and Money, by John Cortnes and Gregory Baumer. This book challenges the reader to trust in God for our provision, offer gratitude for his blessings, and be radically generous in sharing those blessings with others now. Living with a mindset to invest in the needs of others in the present offers much greater joy and impact versus accumulating great wealth over a lifetime to be distributed at our death. Ultimately our assets, including our businesses, are not really ours; it is something over which we are given stewardship by God. Large or small, each of us is entrusted by God with resources that have the potential to positively impact our world, if we are willing to do so.
What is your best advice for future leaders?
Pursue a career with companies that have a great culture, a meaningful purpose and excellent leadership development programs. Seek mentors, with shared faith and values, to challenge and encourage you to pursue excellence as you develop as a leader in your company, family, and community. Find a faith community, with an excellent discipleship and small group structure, to serve and support.