There’s a lot of chatter here in Tallahassee about our wonderful “community” and I think that conversation is spot on.
But I think it should mention “people” more. You can have the best bars, culture, nightlife, and coffee shops, but without the right people, you can have great buildings but no community.
I recently spoke to a group of executives at the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Series event, and during the talk I couldn’t stop chatting and talking about the people in the audience. Almost every face in the crowd had a story I knew.
From bankers to recruiters, media to accountants, lawyers to apparel manufacturers, there were great stories and the room was full of winners I’ve been lucky enough to meet in my professional life. I have called Tallahassee home twice, the first time in 1988, and I was adamantly against it. But my mother was right. I really love it and the community (especially McRae) has welcomed me.
The second time around, it was a little more refined, although not as much. However, Tully welcomed me back in 2006. When I met Davison Dunlap at a Gayfers Teen Board event in 1991 (we were both teenage department store models, which was kind of a big deal), I knew he would take that first step 15 years later. Who expected that? my future career.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have told him he looked like Vanilla Ice when we first met (he had an eyebrow problem). He introduced me to Steve Evans in his 2006, who introduced me to Aegis, which became my life’s work.
I started as an account executive at Aegis and worked my way up to CEO by 2016. So many people in the room were also participating, so I wanted to share that story with the group and give them a shout-out and a shout-out.
We were also able to share some stories from our experiences during the pandemic. In 2020, everyone in the office said they were going home. That’s great, but someone has to stay with me at headquarters. Mike Harris, Keith Rachleff and Jeanne Dowling (all now senior executives) raised their hands. Show your respect. We did a 6-foot shuffle every day and maintained a professional distance while in the office.
No joke, I wrote a book about our company’s pandemic experience called “Professional Distance.”
To a young woman in the crowd who asked me at an event what books she thought would give me leadership inspiration. The answer is already out, so please read on. This is the story of Steve Jobs by Isaac Willamson, and not for the reasons you might think.
I can see why people loved Steve, but he was a CEO with a temper, and no one has time for that. CEOs who throw tantrums should be shunned, not celebrated. His partner Steve Wozniak was certainly cool when he came to Taree a few years ago. What I’m saying is that for the most part, we don’t see tantrum leadership groups in our corner of the woods, and that’s great.
Our company may be small, and our community isn’t the biggest, but they’re both great. That’s the important thing. It’s very important when you choose to make something your life’s work and choose the town to do it.
Don’t you think it’s ridiculous? I turned around and loved all the warm smiles as I rambled on that morning. They included my wonderful wife Jeanne, the Aegis family, my stepdaughter, my rooming clients, and the Tully Chamber team Melinda, Sue, Beth, Cory and Stu (thank you for coming).
I’ll leave you with a joke I told the group that morning as Chamber President Sue Dick. I started the event and, no joke, right after I said the punch line, I broke the PA and microphone. “It’s insane to park while Congress is in session. I saw a frog trying to park his truck in the valet lot and I said, bro, you’re going to be in trouble if you park there. Toad.”
Thank you, Tallahassee.
Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. Contact him at email@example.com.