From the editor: Last month one of WBENC’s Directors of Marketing, David Gifford-Robinson, made keynote remarks at the Greater Southwest Black Chamber of Commerce 2nd Annual Business Men’s Conference, an organization he was introduced to while serving as Chair of the Women’s Business Council - Southwest Board. He was asked to share his personal experience on being Purposeful. His remarks were candid and inspiring so we asked him to share them with all of you!
“Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose.” – Leonardo da Vinci
I’d like to share some thoughts about being purposeful. In doing so I’ll share about myself, and how it is that today I find myself in my purpose - not my job, or my career, but my purpose. My hope is that my words will help each of you to think about your companies, your careers, and your personal well-being to ensure you too are being purposeful.
So what does it mean to be purposeful? Webster's definition of purposeful is to have purpose, to be full of determination. So what is purpose? Purpose is something set up to be attained like an object or an outcome. Tony Bridwell in The Kingmaker says a person who is on purpose is intent, and that those who live a purpose-centered life know that a commitment to investing in others yields a greater return then a life centered on self. Some call this being a servant leader.
This idea of being purposeful I believe translates across the various aspects of one's life. Whether you're looking at expanding your business, reevaluating your career, or when networking, being purposeful enables one to be both a leader and a collaborator.
Here’s a little about my personal journey. I was born in Massachusetts, moved to Texas to attend college with the purpose of being a pre-med major and becoming a doctor. I was the youngest of six, and the first in my family to go to a four year university. A year and a half into school, and I was burned out on science and math. So I changed course, but in changing course, I had no plan and no purpose. I simply knew I didn’t want to continue on the path I was on.
While in college I waited tables like many college students. I ultimately graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Texas, and accepted a position in the accounting department at TGI Friday’s corporate offices. Fourteen years later after stints in franchise accounting, IT purchasing, loyalty marketing, local store or field marketing and beverage marketing, I left. During my years in Marketing, it was the first time I had a glimpse of having purpose. I loved what I was doing and what I was a part of, of what we were creating.
I went to work at Brinker International, first as a buyer in Supply Chain for ad specialty items. From there I moved to buy uniforms, then managed the Brand Image team and in 2007 happened into a role that would change my life. I applied for and was hired as the Manager of Supplier Diversity.
For the first time in my professional career I felt a strong sense of this thing I now know as purpose – I had a sense of why I was here and that what I was doing was meaningful to me on many levels. I was empowered to help grow the diversity of the suppliers in Brinker’s base by being inclusive of partners who looked like our guests, our team members and the communities where we operated restaurants. They were supplier partners certified as Women, Minority, Disabled Veteran and LGBT business enterprises.
Tony Bridwell calls this being purpose centered – that sweet spot when our giftedness is aligned with why we are here. It’s when our lives have greater meaning and we thrive not only in that area we are purposeful in – whether that be career or home life, relationships or spiritually, but in all aspects of our life.
And for a couple years I was there – living a purpose-centered life. And then came 2009 and the years that followed, with the economic decline, and the impact on discretionary spending and dining out. I saw the writing on the wall, and began adapting and taking on new responsibilities. Contract negotiations, compliance, and financial vetting of suppliers. I took on the responsibility of managing the team writing purchase agreements for food & beverage and the team cutting purchase orders for furniture and fixtures. While this was happening, not only was my sense of purpose with my career impacted, but I lost passion and my purpose in myself and my home life as well.
I reached the point in 2015 where I hired a personal coach (a WBE!); someone to help me find my way back to my path of purpose. What I learned during this self-reflection was that the idea of making a change in my work life at 50 is scary, and that it takes courage. Listening to my mentor I was told that courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s a willingness to lean into being vulnerable. I made that leap earlier this year. I left a job after 12 years, and am blessed to have found my purpose again.
Once again here was this “power greater than I” having a hand in me finding my way back to purpose. A call to Pamela Prince-Eason, President & CEO of Women’s Business Enterprise National Council led to a conversation about where my passion lay, which led to other conversations and ultimately an offer.
In March of this year, I started with WBENC as Director of Marketing. I can honestly say I have rediscovered my purpose and am purpose-centered once again. In my new role I am able to support the growth of women owned businesses. First, one of my key responsibilities is the Women Owned program, which was launched nationally in 2014 after foundational work done by Walmart. Secondly, I also have the good fortune to work with our corporate members. These are companies that understand that having a diverse supplier base that is inclusive of women who bring diversity of thought, expertise and products is good for business.
Certification isn’t only about a piece of paper that says you are what you say you are. At WBENC we call what we do our CORE. Certification is that C in CORE. It’s understanding what that paper means and how to put it to use. The O is Opportunity – it’s the annual tradeshows and networking events held both at National and RPO levels. The R is Resources. It’s proprietary information on industry forecasts, procurement trends, government contracting, and skill building. Resources also includes our affiliations with the many local and national strategic business organizations, advocacy organizations for minorities and women, industry-specific organizations, government agencies and trade associations. That E is Engagement. It’s how we at WBENC recognize and celebrate the successes across our constituents.
I would like to challenge each of you to go back to your business or sit at home tonight for a few minutes and ask yourself if you are being purposeful. Do your gifts and talents align with where you are in your journey? Are there organizations, certifications, networking and professional groups like WBENC that may be the door to your next level of purposefulness?
Success can be defined a lot of ways. Bridwell defines it as when Purpose + Talent + Resources come together to meet the needs of others. Are each of you being successful in your businesses and personal lives? If not, do you have the courage to be vulnerable and make the necessary changes? I did, and I think you do.