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One of the things I have truly enjoyed about hosting MidDays with Gerard Gibert is traversing the state of Mississippi for remote broadcasts. From the Gulf Coast to the Delta; from the Pine Belt to Appalachia, God blessed the Magnolia State with abundant natural beauty, and magnificent people.
While our citizens and landscape are truly precious assets, I’ve observed a common thread that ties us together: Mississippians love Mississippi. Whether talking to business and civic leaders, representatives of not-for-profit organizations, or local elected officials, this passion for community and state resonates.
Mississippi is known for producing some of the world’s finest authors – Faulkner, Welty, Grisham, and Stockett – to name but a few. What made each of these legendary writers exceptional is their unique ability to tell stories. Singer and songwriter Steve Azar, a Greenville native, who composed the recently adopted state song “One Mississippi” said the Hospitality State’s diverse culture and rich history inspire his musical works. Steve and his wife Gwen are great ambassadors for Mississippi, truly exemplifying our warm, “never-met-a-stranger” personality.
“To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi,” said Faulkner. I agree with the Nobel Prize Laureate, born in New Albany and raised in Oxford. The challenge is that many who cast aspersions on our state have never crossed her borders, much less attempted to understand what Mississippians already know: Mississippi is a great place to live, work, play and worship. Most importantly, I can think of no better state in which to raise a family.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of my business career as a CEO was pitching our company, Venture Technologies, to potential cashflow lenders to fund our acquisition strategy. The reaction from institutional investors in the heart of Manhattan, while I was telling our story and selling our value proposition, was particularly gratifying. Clearly, they weren’t expecting that such a quality company could be based in Mississippi, especially in the high-tech industry.
As part of those presentations, I would always ask decision-makers and underwriters if they had any reservations about investing in a Mississippi firm. It was never an issue. I’ll admit, it was a bit rhetorical, but a necessary box to check during the process.
Through the course of pursuing capital to fund expansion, it became crystal clear that check-writers weren’t concerned about our Mississippi roots. Rather, they were focused on protecting their investment and producing a return on that investment for their investors. Period.
“Gerard, what’s your formula for success?” they would ask. “It’s really simple,” I would reply. “We treat our employees right, so they treat our customers right. That treats the company right. I don’t need a Harvard MBA to appreciate that concept,” I would quip to a room full of… Harvard MBAs.
This application of the Golden Rule at Venture was merely a reflection of what is woven deeply into the fabric of Mississippi. Mississippians care about their communities, their state, and the country. But most of all, they care about their fellow Mississippians.
When prospective financial partners conducted a site visit to our headquarters and data center – often, their first visit to Mississippi – they were blown away. Mississippi showed out. From airport and restaurant staff to interacting with our team – they witnessed the Golden Rule in action. Make no mistake, their positive experience in Mississippi was instrumental in their decision to support our growth strategy. We leveraged that capital to scale Venture significantly, expanding to several other states and growing to be one of the largest private companies in the state. Thank you, Mississippi.
Though the mainstream seems obsessed with doom and gloom, I truly believe our best days are ahead and that Mississippi will lead the way.
Happy New Year!
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