What John Wayne Can Teach Memphis

December 9th, 2011   •   no comments   

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway” -Mr. John Wayne

When I think about my favorite movies, I think about the ones where the good guys beat the bad guys, movies in which the goodness and evil mix it up luring us as watchers to feel and think. But hey, that’s Hollywood where we’re not required to “do” anything, just watch and be entertained. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a parallel here in our city of soul and promise that we call home. Recently on Twitter, I saw a post by a Memphis City Council member that said:

“An optimist by nature, I’m in a real funk today. I have real doubts that #Memphis can get its fiscal house in order before its too late…”

After some back and forth on Twitter, that same councilman posted that what Memphis needs is, “more blunt reformers in city government that understand the new normal and era of less, and make decisions accordingly.

WOW! Powerful insight you can find on Twitter from lots of folks in the hustle of this new era. What struck me when I read this was not the, “here we go Memphis politics again,” but “uh oh, if he says this, then I’m worried” kind of feeling. It’s one thing to hear the sky is falling from the same old characters but quite another to hear this from someone who loves Memphis, contributes selflessly on many levels and is the example of what we need in future leadership.

Where have all the cowboys gone? I think that what we need is less posturing and more decisive action in this new age of digital, global and more free enterprise than we have ever had before. I think that Memphis leaders, those elected and empowered by us taxpayers out there trying to make it everyday on our own, need to adopt a new methodology of making decisions. Here’s my short list of recommendations:

  • Listen to the people who elected you and put their needs first. If I did what I wanted everyday verses what my clients wanted me to do, I’d be out of business. Our leadership needs more corporate style management approach. The problem is this: many of our folks running our city have never run a business. Sound familiar?
  • Make some unpopular, politically incorrect decisions if it means long-term value for Memphis. Saddle up and ride for the right reasons.
  • Please don’t use the media to duke it out with one another. We look like little kids fighting in the grocery store for everyone to see. Except now the grocery store is the Internet.
  • Just say no. We cannot spend more money than we have. If I did that in my business, again I’d be out of business. Where is our fiscal accountability and how will we fund the future and save for the rainy days if we make short sighted decisions?
  • Quit reinventing the wheel to solve problems. We have all these organizations doing all these same things. Can’t we consolidate this brainpower and figure out how to fix things? We have the Chamber, EDGE, Leadership Academy, Leadership Memphis, Memphis Tomorrow, IMPACT Memphis, Emerge Memphis… are we all on the same page with the same message or are we all in our little huddles doing our own thing?
  • If we do this, business will come here. We need more corporate organizations to move here. If we focus on revenue and economic development (jobs) many of our other problems will go away. We can’t use duct tape to hold the city together; we need proactive approaches to keeping companies here and attract more.
  • Did I mention the Internet? We need to ensure that Memphis’ digital footprint looks good out there. What we say inside influences what the world thinks and perceptions are reality when it comes to an image. Our brand should be guarded and nurtured and we can all contribute by posting positive. The Delta article on Memphis was a nice departure from recent national press. We have ourselves to blame for that negative press. We can be as loud and as positive as we want if we tell our own story and we should do more of that!

I too am an optimist by nature. I moved my office downtown three years ago so that I could be closer to the heart of the city and because I think S. Main is the coolest address in town. I employ 5-6 people, am fortunate to have the best clients, and recently got involved in a magazine called 4Memphis with a great group of local Memphis grown businesses. I am trying to make a difference and do my part. I am trying not to fall prey to the cynical and negative attitudes that I see and hear from people my age.

However, at some point, I think being optimistic without a critical eye is dangerous. My dad always said that if you put a good employee in a bad group, that employee will leave or ultimately be more like those around him. Opposed to that is if you put a bad employee in a good group, that employee will become more like the good. We have to be more like the good. It’s now or never for Memphis, in my opinion. We don’t have twenty years to fix things. Heck, we don’t even have five. Every day matters to us and it should to anybody trying to make a living here and raise a family.

To Mayors Wharton and Luttrell: You are good guys. We are watching the movie and we want you to be our heroes! We know that you are scared but saddle up anyway! It will be okay with us if you do something that is decisive and even unpopular with certain groups, as long as it is the right thing for our future. To the City Council and County Commission: Please quit the negative political crap and do your jobs. I really don’t care if you are male, female, black, white, Indian, Hispanic, Asian, etc. In case you haven’t noticed, the rest of the world is watching and the race card is retired. Most of us baby boomers are way past all that. It is not 1950 and it is time that we ALL embrace one another even when we disagree. We should honor our past but we must not relive it. We need to stop the infighting and work together for the sake of businesses needing to thrive here or move here! We have a GREAT city! Memphis has soul. Memphis is a city of entrepreneurs. Memphis has FedEx and let’s please keep her here! Memphis has the best downtown of any city in its class. Memphis has the best PEOPLE. Don’t run them off with your negative attitudes and political posturing. Instead, ride high in that saddle and do the right things, even when you are scared to death.

“Seek the Peace and Prosperity of the City in which I have placed you.” –Jeremiah 29:7

no comments

Leave a Reply