Young entrepreneurs learn from local business leaders

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Local CEOs Kyle Willoughby (Willoughby Roofing), Leah Bolin (Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce) and Shane Quick (Premier Productions) shared business knowledge with high school entrepreneurs this week at an event at Wallace State. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE – On Thursday evening, Wallace State Community College welcomed the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) for a discussion about business success. The CEO Roundtable event saw Cullman-area YEA! students, who are starting their own businesses, engage in a Q & A session with Kyle Willoughby of Willoughby Roofing, Shane Quick of Premier Productions and the chamber’s own Leah Bolin.

The business leaders answered questions and offered advice. Below is some of the discussion.

What are the most important decisions you make as a business leader?

  • Willoughby: Making sure all my employees have a paycheck.
  • Bolin: Hiring the right people to do the job I need done.
  • Quick: “Be as deep as we are wide.”  Doing due diligence: having the right people and the right knowledge, and being fully prepared to do the job.

What is one characteristic every leader should possess?

  • Willoughby: Fearless commitment to making sure everything goes according to your plan, and to supporting your people.
  • Bolin: Commitment and integrity, but mostly humility.  Humble leaders build up the people around them.
  • Quick: High interest level.  What you are really interested in is what you’re most likely to be world-class at doing.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a leader?

  • Willoughby: Scheduling, and making sure things get done.

What has been the biggest obstacle to success in your career?

  • Bolin: Doing business in my own community, and overcoming the perceptions of people who have known me since I was a child.

As a leader, how do you maintain success?

  • Quick: Love what you do, stay competitive, and mostly have an incredible team.

In your career, what has been your greatest success?

  • Willoughby: Handling little things on a day-to-day basis, and never becoming too content.
  • Bolin: My time at the chamber, and what I’ve been able to do with its programs.
  • Quick: Figuring out that I am where I am at any moment for a reason, and learning that the next great opportunity can find you right where you are.

What has been your greatest failure?

  • Bolin: A development project that I started 10 years ago failed, but it led me to where I am now.  Failure is not always a bad thing.
  • Quick: When I hurt someone’s feelings, or hold onto something that I need to let go.

What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?

  • Willoughby: Be persistent, and make sure your business plan stays on the straight and narrow.
  • Bolin: Don’t do it if you don’t believe in it, and always be willing to take risks.  Hire employees for character. You can teach job skills, but you can’t teach character.
  • Quick: Read as much as you can in your field, work hard, go with your gut, treat others better than yourself, find a mentor, and be yourself.

About YEA!

According to the chamber, “YEA!’s mission is to develop and deliver exciting, experience-based entrepreneurship programs to young people to enable them to transform their ideas into real enterprises that create economic and social value for a better world, develop the character or tomorrow’s leaders, and enable educational institutions to provide successful entrepreneurship and social innovation training programs for youth between the ages of 11 and 18 around the country.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/YEA-Cullman-Area-Chamber-of-Commerce-1637295246300118/.

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