Sharing their Vision: Advice and perspectives from celebrated visionaries in our communities, that lend context to business, philanthropic, and holistic pursuits
Jan 23, 2017 04:38PM ● Published by James Houck
Over the course of several years, we’ve been afforded the time and wisdom of many forward-thinking pillars within our communities; individuals who have made unique, positive marks in many circles—be it business, the arts, philanthropy, politics, or education, and often in combination—that have reverberated beyond their initial sphere of influence. They are Visionaries—actually, they have been celebrated as What’s Up? Visionaries in past issues of our publications and this year, we pegged several to offer their take on success, achievement, business philosophy, ethics, community involvement, and, even, the meaning of life.
The goal of this project, as has been the goal of each series of Visionary articles in years past, is to inspire others to take the baton, if you will; to carry the flame upon a torch of goodwill that has been passed from generation to generation, to create opportunities in our communities, all for the betterment of the places we call home.
You can join the discussion by emailing your own thoughts and responses to the following questions and perspectives by emailing Editor@whatsupmag.com and including “Visionaries” in the subject line. Your letter could appear in an upcoming publication.
Our responding Visionaries this year include: Cathy and John Belcher: Annapolis-area philanthropists and former tech/gov executives Dick Franyo: Founder/owner Boatyard Bar & Grill and of many charity events/endeavors, including Bands in the Sand Paul Reed Smith: Founder/owner Paul Reed Smith Guitars Chrissy Aull: Founder/director of Wye River Upper School John Wilson: Eastern Shore developer and owner Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, among other properties Lou Zagarino: Hospitality executive, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Rob Levit: Founder of Creating Communities, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering underserved communities via arts education Martin “Chip” Doordan: Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis Board of Commissioners and past-President of Anne Arundel Health System Carroll Hynson, Jr.: Annapolis-area entrepreneur and philanthropist Gary Jobson: U.S. National Sailing Hall of Famer and current Chair of Anne Arundel Health System Board of Trustees
On the Topic of Business
When and how did you personally know with certainty the career/business path you would ultimately take?
“My first 30-year career was in investment banking. When I was really young I had a paper route and caddied at a local golf club so I had a little extra money. My dad suggested I look at the newspaper, do some homework, and buy a stock. It was like 20 shares of Southwest Forest Industries. It went up a bit and I was hooked on the investment business. That led me to major in economics at the University of Virginia and finance at the Harvard Business School and running investment banking at Alex Brown & Son. For my second career of starting the Boatyard Bar & Grill I wanted to do something that was in line with my passions—sailing, fishing, and the Chesapeake Bay. I always enjoyed a bar and grill type atmosphere and explored many in my travels. I also wanted to show myself I could succeed at something else and that I wasn’t a ‘one trick pony.’”—Dick Franyo
“I have a pattern of following the trends and needs in my family’s life and matching career/business paths to those needs. Although I began a career in insurance because my family was involved in insurance, I left that when my then five-year-old son was demonstrating educational needs about which I wanted to be informed. I went back to grad school and earned a Masters in Special Ed, which then took me quickly down a path of classroom teaching, and when he needed a high school, Wye River Upper School was founded in 2002. I consider my job to be a privilege to affect kids’ lives in such meaningful ways.”—Chrissy Aull
“For many years, I thought my path was to be a famous jazz guitarist and composer who performed at festivals, received composing commissions, and shaped the future of music. On some level, I achieved those goals—having tasted success in each of those areas—but something was holding me back…I knew I had a deeper passion and potential to reach many more people through my creative energy. At about the same time as all this was creeping into my consciousness, I was asked to work with adults with severe mental illness at Arundel Lodge. Since then, I have never turned back. All of my creative energy is now focused on bringing art, music, poetry, and movement to hundreds of children and adults per year through the school system, Creating Communities (the nonprofit I direct), and my speaking and training work for regional colleges and businesses.”—Rob Levit
What does hard work mean to you?
“Hard work means taking thousands of baby steps towards your goal. I think of it as the continual motion of learning and getting results for the jobs that I have been assigned. It’s okay to take a Sunday afternoon off and watch a football game. It’s okay to go out to a dinner on Tuesday night and it’s okay to spend Thanksgiving with family, but it’s not okay to be in the same place at the end of year four that you were at the end of year three and not have worked.”—Paul Reed Smith
“Making a list of everything that needs to be accomplished, and the chipping away at completing each task. The hardest work is making complicated decisions on issues that are not black and white.”—Gary Jobson
“There is only one way—hard work is the surest route and the only option. It’s about commitment to your task and giving it everything.”—John Wilson
“Hard work means commitment and sacrifice and satisfaction. My accomplishments have been hard-earned, and I am happy and proud to see the results of my labors.”—Lou Zagarino
“Hard work has three components and hard work to me means personal effectiveness: Perseverance; Work Smart, Choose Wisely; and Take Time For Reflection.”—Rob Levit
What defines leadership in your opinion/what constitutes a great leader?
“A great leader has a clear, well defined mission and includes everyone involved in setting the goal. Words count and should be used wisely. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.”—Gary Jobson
“Leadership and respectful listening go hand-in-hand. The ability to take advice from those around you inspires great leadership. Being in charge is not an entitlement to being right. Surround yourself with skilled people and trust what they communicate. Listening, communicating, anticipating, and planning are all part of the goal.”—Lou Zagarino
“Leadership is big to be successful. Leaders respect their employees, listen to them, generate energy, and have all joined in the success. Clear delegation remains important.”—Cathy Belcher
“Leadership is the ability to articulate goals/objectives and being successful in bringing others along.”—John Wilson
“Be accessible. Know all of his/her people on a first name basis and understand very clearly their needs and concerns. Get down and dirty in the trenches rather than issuing directives for others to do the heavy lifting—don’t ask others to do what you wouldn’t do. Be self-aware and understand that you, too, have major blind spot that many others see. Have a powerful vision that is people-centered. Be strategic. One of my favorite quotes is by Michael Porter: ‘The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.’”—Rob Levit
“Setting a clear vision and strategy. Looking after your employees and leading by example. Always looking over your shoulder and playing a bit scared. Having some big ideas. Constantly creating prudent change. Setting clear commitments for the organization. What is your organization committed to? You’re never as good as you think you are when things are going well.”—Dick Franyo
“Strong belief that leadership is all about trust, intuitive behavior, and the ability to attract the best possible folks to the team.”—Chip Doordan
Does/did you/your business have a “golden rule” or code of ethics to abide by?
“Put people first. Serve people. Care for people. Provide value to people beyond what is expected. See a theme in here? Putting people first guides all of your ethical decisions and keeps you focused on what’s important—people.”—Rob Levit
“Be accurate, be grateful, stick to the plan, and early planning is crucial.”—Gary Jobson
“The customer is right, respect your customer and employees as you do your family.”—Cathy Belcher
“Do everything the right way. Look after our employees, customers, and suppliers. And give back to the community to the maximum that we are able to.”—Dick Franyo
“I know many businesses that have a set of golden rules. For us it’s just a few rules of the road: we always do the right thing even when others are not; really care about those around you; and be passionate/work hard/have pride.”—John Wilson
“Make each person, whether a customer, client, or guest, feel welcome. A smile and a kind word speak volumes and go a long, long way in extending hospitality.”—Lou Zagarino
“My golden rule is fairness but with caution, especially as I grow older.”—Carroll Hynson, Jr.
Please offer a perspective of what it takes to succeed within your industry and/or position and maintaining relevance/longevity?
“Loyalty…it works! Loyalty to customers, vendors, employees, and colleagues. There is a reason why ‘good will’ reflects value on a financial statement.”—Lou Zagarino
“To succeed in the high tech business you must be a visionary, believe in your new direction, and ensure up front a business plan that can be believed by your shareholders and your management team.”—Cathy Belcher, on behalf of John
“Relevance and longevity, in most cases, depend on your ability to maintain your focus on a product or service and understanding its place in your market. With that awareness in front of you, it’s about marshalling and utilizing assets; then with this knowledge, attracting others with a blend of experience and enthusiasm and giving them the tools to succeed.”—John Wilson
“Be a subject matter expert. Do what others can’t or won’t. Know your client”—Rob Levit
What was your approach to conceptualizing a business plan and how did you, literally, put it together? Were there any tools of the trade that helped you organize it?
“Business plans always start with Vision and Mission; key then is to get all the stake holders in the process to end up with a Plan that all are committed to accomplish.”—Chip Doordan
“A degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University School of Hotel Administration formed the basis. Experiencing hands-on diverse hotel experience, and working up from the bottom, doing it all aided my ability to see how things really worked.”—Lou Zagarino
“Learning to ask good questions and say nice things about others have helped me build up my business. I am in the business of creating something out of nothing. It is great fun.”—Gary Jobson
What advice would you offer budding entrepreneurs with regards to targeting a specific startup business and discovering its viability (or not)?
“Many founders of new businesses are not realistic in what they see the worth of their company. John talks about a multiple of earnings and not revenue. New start-ups need clear two-page teasers and 40-page Confidential Information Documentation to attract investors.”—Cathy Belcher, on behalf of John
“Do your homework. You will either benefit from the good discovery process you commit to or suffer when you don’t. You absolutely need the tenacity to believe your idea will work when other are skeptics. Let the skeptics direct you to diligence which will serve you well. Never give up and conduct yourself with humility and grace.”—John Wilson
“Stick with your fundamental mission. Be loyal to people around you. Study the reasons for success in other areas of business. Solutions are often analogous to your business.”—Gary Jobson
How did you initially fund your own business startup and what advice would you offer entrepreneurs seeking funds?
“Our first business was funded with my small savings and a SBA loan. One of my mistakes was to grant lender control of our plant and inventory despite its significant growth over time. So I gave up the ability to fund growth without early loan pay off. I am a big believer in early stage funding with community banks. So, don’t let initial investment/debt tie up future needs and do not accept funds from a source, which has no more to give, or from any one source which has the potential to be too powerful in the future.”—John Wilson
“Moving up and being promoted while making deals was a beginning. Making good partnerships with trusted investors combined with working really hard and overseeing all the minute details are key to successful development.”—Lou Zagarino
How often does or did SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) play into your business’ agenda and why?
“I think over time you are addressing the SWOT components every day. It may not be a sit down and formal exercise. However it’s what you work on 24/7.”—John Wilson
“Every year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I do a personal strategic plan. As you might imagine, I use better, more interactive and creative tools than the hackneyed SWOT analysis. It’s a decent tool, but strategy requires a deeper and more fundamental set of reflective practices.”—Rob Levit
“The Board of Trustees completes a Strategic Plan every five to seven years. That always includes a SWOT.”—Chrissy Aull
What causes are most important to you personally?
“My church and the local development programs to assist the underprivileged are most important to me.”—Carroll Hynson, Jr.
“Children. I see so much potential in children through Anne Arundel County Public Schools and the nonprofit I direct. It’s a sin—and I mean that literally—to prevent children who are low-income or under-served from having the opportunities to create, grow, and thrive in this very difficult world we live in.”—Rob Levit
“Anything impacting health. This affects everyone: individuals, families, businesses, society. No one is immune. It is extremely important to keep the family intact.”—Lou Zagarino
“Healthcare, education, and environment. I serve on boards that serve our community in all three areas.”—Gary Jobson
“[We] see health care as the most important. I took on Hospice of the Chesapeake and John took on Anne Arundel Medical Center. We invest both dollars, as well as time to support the organizations’ needs.”—Cathy Belcher
“We focus a lot on the environment—saving the Bay—and educating and caring for children. We have created events where we can leverage our efforts to have the greatest effect possible. So many in the community do so much. I am proud to be a part of such a giving community. There are so many great giving back institutions—we wish we could help them all.”—Dick Franyo
“Health Care, Domestic Violence, and betterment of individuals with intellectual disabilities.”—Chip Doordan
What, in your opinion, is one of/are the more pressing issues within our local community that need(s) to be addressed?
“We need to be more forth-coming in our understanding and aggressive in establishing treatment for mental health/addiction issues.”—Lou Zagarino
“[Issues] tied to Anne Arundel Medical Center and Hospice of the Chesapeake include the work done with the Belcher Institute at Hospice of the Chesapeake and open heart surgery and mental health services at Anne Arundel Medical Center.”—Cathy Belcher
“Race relations and poverty.”—Chip Doordan
“Being very prudent and thoughtful in creating a more inviting City Dock area.”—Dick Franyo
What does community development mean to you?
“Seeking vibrancy, and attaining and maintaining a vibrant community takes commitment and citizens focused on living through positive actions. It’s about working for and attaining specific projects and goals. Maintaining is really about positive momentum forward.”—John Wilson
“When we came to Annapolis, we decided our commitment to the community would be the best of health care, support the arts, and help in ensuring the historic aspects of Annapolis.”—Cathy Belcher
How does one truly make a difference in their community?
“I think you make a difference when you focus on projects or initiatives. If you work toward philosophies or a general mission it’s often at the expense of action. So, choose some goals with tangible outcomes and work toward them.”—John Wilson
“You just need to get out there. Talk to people in your community and be available to share your talent and offer a lending hand. Join and serve.”—Lou Zagarino
“Give your time and resources not until it hurts but until it makes you feel good.”—Dick Franyo
What, in your opinion, are the most valuable tools needed to build community? Money? Volunteering? Political compromise?
“The money, talent, and skills needed to build community blended with the politics are all in front of you. So we are back to the leadership—articulating the vision and getting others to follow. So the most important tools are really great leaders; finding them and supporting them.”—John Wilson
“It is pretty clear that all and none of these elements are greater than the other. We are often intolerant to those who have differing opinions from ours, but we must remind ourselves of the greater good and our responsibility to serve.”—Lou Zagarino “All of these plus well thought-out strategy and political will.”—Dick Franyo
“Depends on the problem at hand; always requires open dialogue, but most important is leadership to make something happen toward ultimate decision making. Get it done!”—Chip Doordan
If you’ve founded a charitable entity, how did you choose your cause and what steps were needed to make it a reality?
“I started Creating Communities through the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County. We are ten years in with a great board, awesome programs in public housing and AACPS, and even with all the ups and downs, it has been amazing. Do not start a nonprofit unless you need to—do not replicate services that others are already providing or need assistance with. A teen in the area started a charity to donate clothes to the homeless—even though numerous organizations like Light House and others do this exceptionally well. Did someone advise the teen that they have to follow by-laws, have liability, workers comp and directors’ and officers’ insurance, and file documents with the state and federal government? I seriously doubt it!”—Rob Levit
What is the secret to your success?
“Ability to choose the right folks to make up the team, a conscience, and hard work.”—Chip Doordan
“Loyalty, responsibility, and trust. Knowing others realize the job will get done without excuses and to the best of one’s ability.”—Lou Zagarino
“Secret to success ties to hard work, enjoy what you are doing, and believe in your cause with passion.”—Cathy Belcher
“Be a visionary, see the success, work hard, stay humble, go with grace.”—John Wilson
“In my experience, vision…something that you think and/or see that might be a possible positive change for the future. To make that vision a reality could take ten minutes, a day, a year, decades or multiples of decades. Recently I just commissioned something that I have been thinking about since I was 18. That’s over 40 years of working towards an idea. The key to achieving your vision is to move, even in baby steps, towards it and stay after it.”—Paul Reed Smith
Where/whom/what do you draw inspiration from?
“Anywhere and everywhere! For products, inspiration might come from a guitar show, feedback from a dealer, speaking with customers, talking with someone internally here at PRS, or talking with an artist whether they play our guitars or not. I try to keep my eyes wide and my ears to the ground and look for what sparks my imagination.”—Paul Reed Smith
“I draw inspiration from all that is done really well. Great architecture, fantastic ideas, wonderful stories, innovative products, beautiful creations, the success of others.”—John Wilson
“I have always looked around at many and tried to find certain qualities in so many successful people that I could emulate.”—Dick Franyo
“Historical events and people; learn from the past, project the future.”—Chip Doordan
In general, what excites you and how does one avoid the pitfalls of routine (or is routine a good thing)?
“Excitement comes from success in developing solutions, growing businesses, and looking forward to new opportunities to tackle. For us, international travel is key to excitement. We have been in over 100 countries together and have learned so much in life.”—Cathy Belcher
“Routine always is part of the process. Exciting is taking the journey. From here to success. Exciting is the taste and smell of it. When you see it in color, it’s already success!”—John Wilson
“I really enjoy a new and challenging project. Sometimes it is something that I am involved with directly or helping someone else. It is very rewarding to see all the pieces of a puzzle come together. A well-managed routine is rewarding also. I still have enjoyed the services of the same doctor, accountant, and attorney for nearly 40 years.”—Lou Zagarino
“Be an outspoken contrarian. If the pack is all heading in the same direction it’s usually toward a cliff! Study and act upon different ways of doing things. Don’t assume ‘way we’ve always done it’ is the best way. It’s usually not.”—Rob Levit
“I think routine is a great thing. I have a factory full of people that stick to a routine every day. They do heroes work: the same thing lovingly over and over again with intense pride in the craftsmanship.”—Paul Reed Smith
What does happiness mean to you?
“Fulfillment is happiness…identifying opportunities in your life is happiness. Happiness is seeing others who are really happy.”—John Wilson
“To be successful together in developing opportunities that support our businesses, as well as support to the community.”—Cathy Belcher
“Family and friends. I have had some of my same friends since the age of four. You can’t get very far in this world without good friends. I hold my family close and touch base with my friends very regularly.”—Lou Zagarino
“Happiness is love of my fellow man and my family.”—Carroll Hynson, Jr.
In your opinion, what is the meaning of life?
“It is hard to understand how we got here, but we are lucky and should use our time wisely.”—Gary Jobson
“Includes making the best of every minute for ourselves and the community at large. We want to experience as much as we can on a global basis; i.e. don’t waste time but make the most of every minute.”—Cathy and John Belcher
“Doing your best…and understanding that is all that you can do.”—John Wilson
“What you experience in life really changes the meaning over time. Everything and every experience in your life have meaning. The smallest thing can have the greatest value. It does not have to be huge to be appreciated. Happiness is not a constant, but lies in moments. Growing and not stagnating; learning something new; giving of oneself; and acceptance without judgment all lie in the pursuit of fulfillment. The experience of being the best one can be. Life is a very winding road and certainly not a straight line. Just have to get up every morning and handle the turns.”—Lou Zagarino