POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/22/2010
Johnny Taylor Jr.
Johnny Taylor Jr. has built a career by going left when people expected him to go right. Educated in public schools in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he graduated from the University of Miami before heading to Drake University and frigid Des Moines winters. By 23, he had earned his master's and law degrees and went to work at one of the largest law firms in Florida as a labor and employment lawyer. After two years, he was recruited by Blockbuster Entertainment founder Wayne Huizenga to work as a corporate counsel and then as a vice president for human resources. He later worked for Viacom, Paramount and a U.K.-based food services company in human resources administration. A year ago, he received a call from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which already listed him as a board member.
Since April, he has headed the nonprofit organization, which secures scholarships for students attending the nation's 47 public historically black colleges and universities and six law schools. He spends three days a week in the agency's Washington office and two in New York City, then weekends in Charlotte with his fiancé, Francine Quitugua, and 5-month-old daughter, Taylor Dee.
Why he's successful: "Part of it that I feel so strongly about is that I had an amazing [kindergarten] through 12 experience. It prepared me with my reading, writing and arithmetic, but I was also convinced that I could be anything I wanted to be. We underestimate what that means. You take a young man and tell him for the first eight or nine years of his life that he can't [achieve] and [he] will believe it. My K-12 experience gave me the confidence to believe that I could do anything I wanted to do. ... Also, I have a dogged determination for what I want to do. I was valedictorian of my high school class. I went through the University of Miami in three years and got a bachelor's degree. I completed a bachelor's, masters and JD by the time I was 23 years old."
Biggest obstacle: "In my career, it was my youth. ... I don't need glasses, but I bought some and grew facial hair so that I would look older. I had several experiences where I was told that I was too young. I would walk into an office and I could see them thinking, 'He's ... too inexperienced.' Life is funny -- you are either too young or too old. People who crest between 45 and 55 are considered normal, but those who are successful early are considered too young."
First job: Taylor's father, Johnny Sr., is a real estate contractor and his mother, Dee, is a nurse. His first job was selling subscriptions to the Miami Herald. "I started when I was 13 and sold them until I went off to college. I made a lot of money and that contributed to my love of journalism."
Best job: "Working at Blockbuster Entertainment. We were growing something. It was a Wall Street darling at the time. It had a great brand and the work was so interesting. All of us were really young, so here I was, at 27 a vice president. . . . My youth didn't work against me. It was valued. I was able to do work that I never would have been able to do in an older organization."
Smartest move: Going from the law firm to Blockbuster. "People said, 'You're leaving to go peddle videos?' I took a pay cut. I was only two years into my career and I can tell you that not a lot of 24- or 25-year-olds would take a pay cut that early in their career, but it was a good move."
Biggest misstep: "I took a role in a company that did not value the function that I was going to do. They paid me very well and treated me very well, but they didn't value the work I did. ... Every day, it was like someone was questioning your value to the organization. ... If I had it to do again, I would not."
His legacy: Helping students at historically black colleges and universities to reach their full potential. "I spent the first part of my career in corporate America learning the tricks of the trade. Then I brought them back to my community, to the African American community, to transfer that knowledge to the next generation so that they will not make the same mistakes I made and they will be able to understand the rules of the game. ... At the end, I want people to say, 'He took 20 years of top corporate experience and said to the youth, "Let this work for you.'"
What lies ahead: Taylor would like to open a public or private charter school organization. "Life is so interesting and full of opportunities. I never thought that I would have gone to work for a food service company based in the United Kingdom. ... I never thought I would be the president of a nonprofit. It was not on my radar. What I do know is that the next move will be something that allows me to reach the next generation while I am still a contemporary to them. At some point, you are outside the window and you are like their granddad, not their buddy."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/14/2010
Ernie Allen graduated from the University of Louisville Law School, but chose a career in public service in Louisville and Jefferson County, Ky. -- including work as crime commissioner and public safety. His work made him aware of tragic cases of child exploitation -- the kidnapping of 6-year-old Etan Patz as he walked to school in New York, the Atlanta children who were abducted and murdered -- and he urged the Justice Department to create a national strategy. In 1981 he met John and Revé Walsh, whose public search for the abductor and killer of their son, Adam, focused international attention on violence against children.
The Allen and the Walshes joined forces, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was founded. Twenty-two years later, Allen is president and chief executive of the Alexandria-based operation, which helps thousands of children each year. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife of 25 years, Linda Broadus, and their two rescued pet cats.
Why he's successful: "All of the positions I have held have required me to bring people together, create partnerships and find creative solutions for difficult problems. For example at NCMEC, I convened a Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography composed of leading banks, credit card companies, Internet companies and others to eradicate commercial child pornography. The impact has been remarkable. The Treasury Department recently reported that commercial child pornography had declined from an estimated multibillion-dollar industry to 'effectively zero,' citing enforcement and the role of financial companies in shutting down payment options."
Biggest obstacle: "My biggest challenge when I first became president of NCMEC was to build a coordinated, national response to the problem of missing and exploited children. To succeed, I needed to build the trust and confidence of the nation's 18,000 different police departments, who did not always communicate well with each other. It took time, but we were able to accomplish that by working tirelessly behind the scenes to provide them with whatever resource they needed in a timely way."
First job: Allen grew up in a working-class family. His father worked as a machinist for the old Standard Oil Co. His mother was a court clerk. "My first job was working with various horse trainers on the back side of Churchill Downs. I walked the horses after they were trained, hosed them down and gave them a bath, fed them carrots and sugar cubes and mucked or shoveled their stalls .... I did not get paid .... My first paid job was driving a delivery truck for a local hardware store, which was a primary provider of building supplies for new-home construction sites. I also worked at Churchill Downs on [Kentucky] Derby Day carrying hot dogs, buns, cups and other items through the drunken crowd in the in-field to the concession stands -- not an easy task."
Best job: "I have held a lot of great jobs, but would have to say that my current position ... is the best. There is a scoreboard every day. We measure our success in terms of human lives. I like the ability to make a difference, to touch the lives of people, particularly children."
Smartest move: "Recognizing early on that technology would play a key role in revolutionizing the way America searches for missing children and that technology would also become a significant component of the victimization of children. The partnership that we have built with the technology industry has enabled NCMEC to obtain and use cutting-edge technologies to address problems as well as anticipate problems before they emerge."
His legacy: "In 1984, police could enter information about stolen cars, stolen guns and even stolen horses into the FBI's national crime computer, but not stolen children. That is no longer the case. More missing children come home safely today and more is being done today to protect children than any time in the nation's history. Our recovery rate today is 97 percent, compared to 62 percent in 1962.
What lies ahead: "There are still thousands of children who do not make it home each year and more who fall victim to sexual exploitation. An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing each year, more than 2,000 children every day. An estimated one in five girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before age 18. Every child deserves a safe childhood. A lot more needs to be done."
What inspires him: "I am inspired every day by average people doing average things but who, through paying attention and caring, help us find a missing child .... I see it all the time -- the motorist who hears an Amber Alert and alerts authorities, leading to a child's recovery; the shopper at a mall who sees a child being dragged kicking and screaming toward the parking lot and calls us ... Some years ago, a California woman on vacation in Mexico saw a little American boy all by himself on the beach and was troubled by it ... She called us. He had been abducted in North Carolina and taken to Mexico. The abductor was apprehended and the child reunited with his family. We have thousands of stories like that."
Advice to the aspiring: "Hire people smarter than you are and listen to them."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/ 1/2010
Anthony Wellington was young when his parents gave him his first guitar for Christmas. But instead of playing it, the then-aspiring scientist was only interested in taking it apart to learn how the components worked. A few years later, his sister's boyfriend loaned him an electric bass and he fell in love.
His first job was playing gigs out of a tractor-trailer rigged with a fold-out stage as part of the D.C. summer youth jobs program. Thirty years later, he's the owner of Wellington Music Services, which includes a recording studio, and is the bass player for a band headed by Victor Wooten, considered by many to be the world's preeminent bass player. With Wooten's band, he has toured Asia and Europe, appeared in shows with George Benson and Paul Simon, opened for Chick Corea and toured with Dave Matthews Band. Wellington, 45, also teaches 100 students a week at his Waldorf-based Bassology school -- including some who fly in from as far away as Singapore. He lives in Prince Frederick.
Why he's successful: Wellington counts among his musical inspirations funk legends like Bootsy Collins, and R&B icons like Larry Graham, jazz great Stanley Clarke and the late bass impresario Jaco Pastorius. "One of the things that helped me was that I was already an older person by the time I started doing music as a career. I was in my late 20s before I got serious about music. I came up with a concept that I call the mechanism of work, which I teach my students. I tell them that to work as a musician, you have to treat it like a job, not a hobby .... A lot of musicians are known for abusing drugs, not being punctual, not being reliable, so that affects their careers. I don't do those things. It's important for me to be professional."
The biggest obstacle he had to overcome: "I'm kind of hesitant to change ... I get into a comfort zone and then I don't want to change."
Why he settled on music as a career: It was because of a teacher at Oxon Hill High School. "Her name was Mary Cole. She did her graduate work at Miami, and she told me some of the jazz greats had gone there and encouraged me to go. I hadn't thought about music for a career because in that era, you weren't conditioned to think that something you loved could be a job."
His big break: "Meeting Victor. He's the most well-known bass player on the planet and I happen to be the bass player in his band. Before people heard me play, they knew who I was."
When he knew he had arrived: Riding on a train in Spain. "I was in a foreign country where very few people speak English, and I speak no Spanish. Somebody came up to me and asked me if I was Anthony Wellington. I realized that I was known outside my house. I always say I'm the biggest bass player in my house. If I'm in Belgium or someplace and somebody tells me I influenced them, it still throws me for a loop because I don't think of myself like that .... I'm 45. I have no desire to be a star. That life doesn't appeal to me."
First job: "Performing with the ... summer jobs program. I was making more than all my peers who were working at fast food restaurants and doing something I loved. They had gigs for us each summer. The guy who was managing us was a famous soul singer with a group called Sir Joe and the Free Souls named Joe Quarterman. His son Terrence played drums in my band, Hot Property."
Best job: "The best job is the one I have now, which is four jobs really. I'm a music teacher, I operate my own recording studio, I'm a local gigging musician and I'm a touring musician."
Smartest move: Expanding his business. "I have a soul mate who could always see the bigger vision that I could see. I was teaching in a music store and she told me that I should open my own school .... When you teach at a record store, you get locked into teaching someone their favorite song each week. When you teach at home, it's considered lazy and not professional, but when you take the time to set up an office and design a curriculum, it gives you credibility."
Biggest misstep: "I would say that I would have liked to have gotten serious about music when I was younger."
What inspires him: His mother, Willa Mae Evans. "No matter what I did and how bad a boy I was, she loved me unconditionally .... She put me through college. My mom was married and had a kid by the time she was 16 .... She had four bad kids by the time she was 20. She had to drop out of high school. She got her GED in June. It was the happiest moment of my life. She enrolled in college this fall. She exemplifies the fact that you are never too old."
What's next: "I'm writing an instructional book. I'm developing an iPhone app for Bassology. I have an April shooting date for an instructional DVD .... I hired a manager earlier this year. He's good at making me work diligently on the book and the record.
Advice to the aspiring: "The reason why I'm successful is that I can do many things well. There are so many ways to make a living with music. You can be successful at just writing, at just producing, at just arranging, just teaching or just performing. But I can do all of those things well, and by doing that, you enhance your chances of being successful."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 11/24/2010
Entrepreneur Paul Strzelec
Paul Strzelec and his partner, Dirk Liebich, founded their company, Digital Tempus, in 2001 to provide consulting and business intelligence to manufacturing companies looking to expand. But when the terrorist attacks shook the nation on September 11 of that year, they put the company on hold and decided to keep acquiring knowledge while working for others.
Strzelec had met Liebich, who lives and works near Dusseldorf, Germany, while both worked for the now-defunct Manugistics, the Rockville company that claimed credit for the term "supply-chain management." Strzelec expanded his knowledge of the practice at VeriSign, the Northern Virginia technology security agency. In 2008, he and Liebich re-established Digital Tempus after DuPont "came around with a problem that was meaningful enough to get Digital Tempus moving again."
Two years later, their company has 22 employees and a client list including McCormick, DuPont, Nalco Company and Church & Dwight. Strzelec, 40, is married to Amanda and they have four children: Bryn, 11; Jack, 9; Charlie, 7; and P.J., 3. They live in Gaithersburg, near the Digital Tempus headquarters.
Why he's successful: Because of his "intellectual curiosity" and "passion for pursuing knowledge and understanding how the world and businesses work ... What we do is help companies think through how they are working and improve the way they are working. If you have only surface knowledge, you can't solve things. We really get in there and roll up our sleeves and get engaged with the company to help them solve very difficult problems and change the way they work. I think persistence is the other piece of it. There are so many excuses and it's so easy to give up and never do what you started out trying to do. We don't do that."
Biggest obstacle he had to overcome: "I kind of jokingly say this, but I get teased for looking youthful for my age, so my youthful appearance has been an obstacle. Unfortunately, there is a perception that when you are young you are inexperienced. You have to get exposed to a lot of different things and gain perspective so that you can get a picture of how the world works. Some companies doubt that you can do that if you are young. When you are old and have gained perspective, it's called experience. When you are young and you are gaining perspective, its called naivete ... I have found, though, that looking at solving problems through a child's eyes and approaching things more naively and asking questions [whose answers are sometimes] obvious will help you get to the details to solve the problem."
First job: "I worked at a Mexican restaurant as an expediter, a person who stands between the cooks and waiters and waitresses. That was my first lesson in balancing demand and supply. I learned that there's not a lot of time to get it wrong. I was about 15. That was my first legal work job. Before that, I did the lawn-mowing thing for a while. I worked at the restaurant up to and through college. I learned that even those who worked there with vast experience needed to listen carefully to the customers to get the orders right and if they did not, they would get instant feedback. I learned the value of learning what the customer wants and delivering it flawlessly."
Smartest move: Joining the staffs of companies where he had the opportunity to grow into an entrepreneur. "In the world of Manugistics, there was constant pursuit of new opportunities that are still paying off. You didn't have to leave to get new opportunities -- you just had to seek them out at the company. A big move was presented to me with the opportunity to join VeriSign. I seized that opportunity ...This is the company that operates the core of the Internet and that provided me with the perspective on how to build a very exciting company."
Biggest misstep: Not thinking outside of the box. "Why I'm 40 and doing this and not 30 is that much of the time I followed conventional thinking in my career."
What inspires him: "I like watching people grow ...The other thing is watching people who overcome some very difficult challenges and achieve something that nobody would have expected they would. I'm a very big believer in persistence ... People who roll up their sleeves and work hard and solve tough problems, those are the people I rally around."
What's next: "We've got a great group of customers and we continue to add new customers. Adding new customers and refining how we add services in the areas of planning ... and growing globally, acknowledging that our work is mostly in North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We are about to grow into Asia Pacific and South America to give the customers we work with coverage globally."
Advice to the aspiring: Strzelec teaches in the executive program at Penn State University's Smeal College of Business, where he advises his students to "develop your capabilities ... Get into something meaningful and learn and ... don't be concerned about getting boxed in or that your first move will be your last move." And, "stay focused."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 11/17/2010
Entrepreneur Rob McGovern
Rob McGovern is on a mission to top his own success. In 1995, he founded the Internet job search site CareerBuilder.com, which grew into a $150 million company by the time he sold it seven years later for $680 million. After taking two years off, he launched Tysons Corner-based Jobfox.com, a top-five job search site that goes beyond listing jobs to matching suitable candidates with companies seeking to hire. McGovern, 49, is author of "Bring Your 'A' Game: The 10 Career Secrets of the High Achiever." He has two children -- Grant, 16, and Meghan, 11 -- is divorced and lives in Potomac.
Why he's successful: "I think success comes from staying intensely focused on the problem the company is trying to solve in the market.... I think companies get off track when they forget what problem they are trying to solve. I have been accused of being OCD [suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder] and I really think that means that I'm good at being obsessive about solving the problem."
Biggest obstacle: "Eighteen months ago, I was in a near-fatal car accident. I spent nine months in the hospital and recovering from that was a big obstacle .... I was on a business trip in Indianapolis and a 16-year-old kid passed someone illegally and I had a head-on with that kid .... I had a lot of broken bones, including both hips. I had a severe brain injury. I had to relearn to think. I was in a coma for a couple of weeks and I lost five months of memory."
How the crash changed him: "This was not a simple recovery. It was the hardest thing I've ever done -- more than a year of physical and brain therapy. The near-death experience re-centered me on what truly is important in my life .... It made me more grounded than I was before .... I really want my company to do well because I want it to contribute to society and for my employees to feel that they are making a contribution, as opposed to another quick way to make another buck."
First job: "When I was 11, I was a newspaper boy and I used to walk the streets at 6 a.m. imagining myself as a business owner. I think somewhere in my genetics, I'm a builder. Building businesses is what I'm really designed to do."
First full-time job: McGovern was born in Philadelphia. He went to a "Welcome Back, Kotter"-type high school, then the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied business. "My first job out of college was working at Hewlett-Packard .... I worked in Maryland and France. I was in both sales and marketing .... I left France to take a job with a company based in Washington D.C. called Legent that was eventually sold for several billion dollars. I was like the sixth most important person in the company, but the top five became phenomenally wealthy."
Worst job: "I was a dishwasher for the summer on the [New] Jersey shore.... I learned that I better get a good college education so I wouldn't have to do that kind of work."
Best job: "I worked at Walt Disney World as a summer job in college .... I drove the tram in the parking lot."
The genesis of CareerBuilder: "The Internet was just coming about in 1994 and my first reaction was, 'This is going to change everything.' ... People were looking for jobs, passing out résumés, and I thought it was a natural fit for the Internet .... I started presenting to potential investors and 40 venture capitalists rejected me. The 41st said yes. And that answers the question of the smartest thing I ever did, which was working with Peter Barris at New Enterprise Associates .... He was the biggest investor in CareerBuilder and Jobfox .... Our first corporate client was a defense contractor in Washington, D.C. Most of our clients were small software or high-tech companies back then. By the time I sold it, I had 425 employees and offices in 28 cities with a headquarters in Reston. Our clients included almost every major corporation in the country -- State Farm, Oracle Corp., IBM."
Why he sold his company: "I think that every entrepreneur has to always be mindful that there is a day when you should take your chips off the table .... And somebody made a really good offer for the company. I sold the company in two chunks -- one for $230 million and another chunk for $450 million."
Why he unretired: McGovern started Jobfox in 2004 with 10 employees. Today, he has 40 employees and does $15 million to $20 million annually in business. "I tried going to the golf course, but it was full of old guys who wanted to discuss whether they should have prostate surgery or not .... I learned to fly. I bought a plane. I wrote a book. And then I worked as a venture capitalist for two or three companies .... I sort of knew what I wanted to do. What was driving me was, could I do it better the second time? ... There are more than 20,000 job search places on the Web, five that matter -- CareerBuilder is number one -- and we're fortunate to be in that top five."
What inspires him: "I really like seeing my ideas change people's lives. There are about 20 million people who use CareerBuilder every month and ... it is important to me that 20 million people each month are benefiting from and idea I wrote down sitting on Bethany Beach in Delaware."
What is next: "A shrimp boat. You've seen the film 'Forrest Gump,' haven't you? ... Jobfox has a long way to go .... And when I'm done with this one, I'll go out and do it again ... from the deck of a shrimp boat."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 11/10/2010
AIDS educator Adam Tenner
Adam Tenner began volunteering with nonprofits as a teenager. After a favorite teacher died of AIDS while Tenner was in college, he focused on helping young people develop habits to keep themselves safe from the disease. He worked with homeless teens in Seattle, a city credited for its progressive work with HIV/AIDS, before heading east to the District, which has the highest rate of infection in the nation.
In 2001, Tenner took over as executive director of Metro TeenAIDS, which he calls the nation's only outreach program that deals exclusively with youths. Tenner, 43, is married and has an infant son. He lives in the U Street corridor in Northwest Washington.
Why he's successful: "I can remember at some point early in life deciding that having passion was crucial to a fulfilling life. And I still think that is true, whether in the job or outside the job. I bring tremendous passion for what we do. What I have helped Metro TeenAIDS to do is develop a vision for the future and a sense that [the AIDS situation in D.C.] doesn't have to be like this; it can be different and it can be better. And I am relentless around that mission."
Biggest obstacle he had to overcome: Tenner has to raise the $3 million it takes to run his agency each year, and that has become progressively more difficult in the economic slump. "In the early days, I had some difficulty because I was new. D.C., on a local level, is slow to warm up to new people. It took a few years of showing my face ... Also, there was a sense of 'Who is this little Jewish guy and does he really care about our kids?' It took a few years to build up trust. Now, you can come down any day and see kids from any of the local neighborhoods. Another obstacle was answering the phone and having angry people saying 'You owe us money.' Now the challenge is this constant tension between putting ourselves out of business and sustaining ourselves while we do it."
His first job: Tenner was born in Morristown, N.J., the oldest of two sons. His dad was in sales, his mother worked in retail. His younger brother is a salesman. "My first job was babysitting kids in the neighborhood, and I was terribly underpaid at $2 an hour ... Then I worked for a kids clothing store at the mall. I am from a very working-class family. Dad grew up in the projects. I always worked and I always felt it was productive to work. It was what you did. It was, 'You are 16. You have to work.'"
What made him start volunteering: "In high school, I had a very inspirational history teacher who dragged us out to get the experience of volunteering. He took us to a food bank and our only job was to put one paper bag inside another paper bag and you can imagine that as a group of teenagers, there was nothing more boring. Then one of the staffers came over and ... told us how important it was what we were doing. Doubling the bags made them stronger and they would hold more, so more food would reach families who really needed it. She made the connection between taking the simplest action and changing people's lives. I got hooked on volunteering after that."
Settling on a career helping others: Tenner went to Sarah Lawrence College, working his way through school in food services. After he graduated in 1990, he worked as a cook and considered becoming a chef. "I was working in restaurants and catering and then started volunteering and at some point something went off and said, 'You could do this for work.' In 1992, I took my first paid job with a nonprofit working with homeless kids in Seattle helping to provide them with HIV information ... I have always worked with outreach services that focused on teaching young people about valuing one's life, investing in yourself, helping them to navigate the difficulties of what it means to be a human being and providing that in a really supportive way for young people."
Learning the ropes in Seattle: "While I was working for the homeless youth serving organization, I rose in five years from outreach worker to program director. I learned grant writing and budgeting and all that good stuff. I left that group and worked for the health department for a few years doing HIV work. It was a much milder epidemic in Seattle than we have here. On a human level, size never matters, but it was a good learning [experience] because Seattle was so far ahead of the rest of country understanding ... what was really happening within the epidemic.
Moving to the nation's capital: Tenner was sitting on the board of the D.C.-based National Youth Advocacy Coalition in 2000 when he was offered the position of interim director. "I realized that I had fallen in love with D.C. and wanted to stay here ... I had been doing a bunch of consulting around town and I had heard that the Metro TeenAIDS director was leaving and I talked to them about being the interim director. They hired someone who ended up not staying and called me in to be the interim."
What he inherited: An agency in debt. "The phone was ringing off the hook with people wanting to collect. And we had about a $150,000 deficit of a $600,000 organization ... My promise was to help the organization or to close it as gracefully as I could. Nine years later, here I am."
Smartest moves: Cleaning house financially. "We got the vendors on a payment plan. The previous director had maxed out the credit, so we had to fix that ... I said, 'Let's prioritize and triage what needs to be taken care of immediately.' One other thing I did was to make sure that we always have young people on staff because the core of what we are doing is reaching young people ... Today, we've got 30 adults on staff, but we have 40 youth on staff."
What has changed: "Nine years ago, when we went to churches, it was primarily around the AIDS ministry and how they could help their parishioners. It tended to be very victim heavy ...We've seen an increase in the number of pastors who get tested from the pulpit and talk about the importance of taking care of yourself. Also, some churches now provide HIV education, some even within the context of Sunday school. There is a realization that there is nobody in D.C. who is not at risk for HIV if they are sexually active and a growing realization that giving young people the information they need to protect themselves is the right and moral thing to do."
What's next: Tenner is now working with schools on AIDS education and he pushed an initiative to allow teachers to dispense condoms after taking a training course. He'll continue to take his message to everyone from teens to government officials. "I have to sell Metro TeenAIDS, and what we do every day."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 11/ 3/2010
Cari M. Dominguez was a top executive at Bank of America's corporate headquarters in San Francisco when she was recruited to Washington, D.C. She held presidential appointments under both presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, who nominated her as the 12th chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She served in the Department of Labor Department under then-secretary Elizabeth Dole as director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, where she ushered in the Glass Ceiling Initiative, which sought to improve opportunities for professionals of color and women to move up the ranks. She also served as assistant secretary of the Employment Standards Administration.
She worked for two international executive search firms and served as president of her own management consulting company, Dominguez and Associates. She sits on the boards of Manpower and Calvert Investments' Calvert SAGE Fund, and earlier this year, published her first book, "Leading With Your Heart." She lives in Gaithersburg with her husband, Alberto, a human resources executive. They have two grown sons, Jason, 22, and Adam, 18.
Why she's successful: Dominguez came to the United States from her native Cuba when she was 12 after her father, an accountant, fell under suspicion because he worked for an American company. She spoke no English. Her mother worked at a hospital and her father as a kitchen helper. "What motivated me was knowing that my parents had sacrificed so much ... so that their children and grandchildren would live in a country where freedom and opportunity would be what would drive their success. When you have freedom and opportunity and you don't seize them, you do not honor your parents ... I wanted my parents to know that I appreciated that they had left their professions and a comfortable lifestyle to move here where they had to do manual labor so that their children and grandchildren benefited."
First job: Dominguez attended a small private school in Prince George's County and graduated from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. "When I was 14, I worked at a local college, Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, dusting pianos in the music department and putting paper in the restrooms. As I got older, I worked at Washington Adventist Hospital, where my mother worked, in central supply."
Coming full circle: Dominguez holds bachelor's and master's degrees from American University's School of International Service. "When I became chair of the EEOC, students from that college where I had dusted pianos came to my swearing-in ceremony and performed. Then they asked me to be their commencement speaker. I went from dusting their pianos to being their commencement speaker."
Obstacle she faced: "My own sense of self limitation. The biggest challenge is confidence. Sometimes your confidence is not strong, so sometimes I wondered, 'Can I do this?' or "Maybe I shouldn't try this because I'm not sure I can do it.' I found that I really had to push and stretch myself."
Best job: "I always look for jobs that stretch and challenge me in a particular direction where I want to be stretched and challenged. The experience working at Bank of America was very valuable. Also working at the Department of Labor under Elizabeth Dole and launching the Glass Ceiling Initiative for the whole country was very exciting. It's rewarding to know that it is still going on across political parties."
Smartest move: "Coming back from working at Bank of America to take the position at the Department of Labor because it gave me a platform to make a transformational difference in the lives of others. There were some who thought that I was going down. I did go down in terms of earning potential, but in terms of return on my investment in time and effort based on how much of an impact I was able to make and how much I was able to transform policies and practices, it was even more rewarding and fulfilling."
Her legacy: "I've always been interested by the potential to make an impact and to pursue opportunities that can leave a lasting legacy or make a lasting difference ... I've been in the private sector as a business owner, consultant and on corporate boards, and I've been in the public sector ... so I've looked at workplace issues from every conceivable vantage point. It's inspiring to know that I have had the kinds of experiences that serve to inform me so that I have been able to do things to give back and be helpful in the workplace."
What inspires her: "I am inspired by my family's story and how things have evolved. I am inspired by people who are role models, whom I admire, whose lives I look at, like [former secretary of state] Condoleezza Rice, and how she started. I am inspired by people who have unique stories, like Martin Luther King Jr. and all those people who have had some impact on my life."
What's next: Dominguez was interviewed as she was attending a conference in San Diego, where she spoke to top business executives about workplace issues. "Sitting here on this beautiful balcony enjoying this beautiful view makes me realize how much I am enjoying this place in my life. I'm trying to live in the moment, enjoy what I have and be thankful ... Divine guidance will inform me in the future as to what comes next."
Advice to the aspiring: "Work hard, but first, get a good education. Education really is the civil rights issue of our time. People can't exclude you if you have the skills and talent needed in the workplace today ... And know yourself. If you are a creative and innovative person, you are not going to be as successful in an environment that is very regimented, constrained and confined ... Be passionate about what you do. You can't leave a lasting legacy unless you combine your head and your heart."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 10/27/2010
Doug Laughlin was drafted into the military right out of college and he says his time in Uncle Sam's armed forces turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him, career-wise. A stint in public affairs at the U.S. Army's headquarters in Europe led to opportunities when he got out of the service to work on the advertising campaigns for the U.S. Army's "Be all you can be!" campaign, and later, the U.S. Air Force's "Aim High!" campaign.
Then, in 1995, at an age when most of his contemporaries were contemplating retirement, he bucked the advertising industry trend of consolidation and founded his own independent ad agency in Arlington. Today, LM&O Advertising, which initially focused on military and government accounts, has $153 million in annual billings, 70 employees and clients including the Army National Guard, Avis Budget Group and Sears Portrait Studio.
Laughlin, 68, recently received a silver medal from the American Advertising Federation. He splits his time between homes in Arlington and rural Virginia with his wife, Grace. They have two grown sons: Chris, who is president of LM&O, and Scott, who is a member of the board.
His big break: Laughlin earned a bachelor's degree in marketing from Kent State University in Ohio in 1964. He was working at an advertising agency in Cleveland when he was drafted. "At the time, a lot of the mid-grade lieutenants and others were in Vietnam, so they were backfilling some of the jobs they would have held with folks with experience, like me ... It wasn't traditional public relations, but it was handling press inquiries and various things ... It turned out to be a wonderful career-expanding experience ... When I got out, I went to work for N.W. Ayer, a New York City ad agency, which had the U.S. Army account. President Richard Nixon had promised when he campaigned to eliminate the draft, so there was this marketing campaign so that they could attract people into the service. We came up with the slogan 'Be all you can be.'"
From Madison Avenue to the nation's capital: He was recruited to work for the agency that became D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles to work on the account for the U.S. Air Force, then went to Bozell Advertising, where he headed the team that pitched and won the U.S. Army National Guard account. "The slogan that we came up with for that was 'You Can.' I worked at Bozell until 1992, when both my boys were in college, and then I started thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I decided New York City and an agency were not where I wanted to be. I was able to negotiate a deal with Bozell that I would go out on my own and they would be my first client ... In 1995, Bozell wanted to contract a little bit and I was able to work with them to acquire their Washington office, which became LM&O."
Why he's successful: "There's a side of me that always wanted to go to the next step. I was never satisfied with where I was."
Obstacles he overcame: "I don't think I had any serious obstacles until I launched LM&O. To have an ad agency in D.C. with basically one account, it was about convincing people that you are not a one-trick pony ... We would do small projects to get experience in certain areas, then ... leverage those into experience when the next big opportunity came along. We pitched and got Virginia Railway Express and did a good job of it, which caught the eye of Metro because both were in the public transportation sphere. The next time Metro was up ... we bid and won."
First job: "On the line at Frontier Steel Manufacturing. They made those metal shelves for warehouses and storage rooms. Basically, they were fabricated at this place, and I was on the line where after they got painted, we'd take them off-line and put them in boxes and warehouse them. It was 110 degrees and the greatest bunch of guys I ever met in my life. I must have been 16 or 17. That job taught me discipline."
Smartest move: "Taking a real hard look at what lay ahead when I was 48-49 years old and said, I'm not sure I want to continue this and having the guts to say, 'I'm going to do something different' ... It would have been easy to keep plodding along in the known and something that I was comfortable in, but I stepped out of my comfort zone and went in a different direction."
Biggest misstep: "When I got out of the Army, I sent out a number of resumes and got a number of job offers. One was from Procter & Gamble, which in those days was the [ultimate] in advertising and marketing. I turned it down. I think looking back that I was a little afraid. My confidence failed me."
What's next: "It's sort of the end of road for me. I'm 68. I've already conducted a transition for the boys to take over the agency and lead it into the future. I've given some thought to writing a book. I started out as a writer in public relations. I think there is probably something else in me, but I don't know yet what that is. My wife and I both love traveling, not Paris or Rome, but the byways of America. We've always enjoyed the open road, so there could be some substantial travel, maybe in a trailer. Of course, we'd pull it up to a Marriott at night."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 10/20/2010
Restaurateur Jeff Black
Local restaurateur Jeff Black learned to cook growing up in Houston with four sisters. At 13, he got a job in a restaurant doing everything from chopping onions to scrubbing toilets. By 17, he was waiting tables and tending bar. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where he also met the woman who would become his wife and partner, Barbara.
Today, they are the chef/owners of four restaurants -- Black Market Bistro, BlackSalt, Black's Bar and Kitchen and Addie's -- under the Black Restaurant Group.
The couple and partner John Linck, who started with the company as a line chef, are currently working to raise $200,000 through four events to benefit a project at the Children's National Medical Center for children with diabetes. He and Barbara live in Kensington with their sons Simon, 12, and Oliver, 10.
Why he's successful: Black, 46, grew up in a family with a strong work ethic. His father, Robert, had a construction and home repair business. His mother, Susan, was a receptionist at a glass-blowing company. "When my friends went to college, I stayed. By 17, I was getting experience in the front of the house and the back of house, cooking, waiting tables and bartending, so I found I had a passion for working in restaurants. At a very young age, I decided I was going to open a restaurant and just sort of pointed in that direction and moved forward."
His path to success: After graduating from the Culinary Institute, Black headed to D.C. looking for a job that would allow him to be near Barbara, who grew up in Montgomery County. He worked at Bob Kinkaid's now-defunct 21 Federal and Pesce, owned by Jean-Louis Paladin and Roberto Donna. Four years after coming to D.C., he and Barbara opened Addie's, which was named after his grandmother. "I get a lot of gratification from the restaurant process, from conceptualizing the restaurant and the menu to working with designers and contractors, to working with banks to put the financial package together. I am very proud of the restaurants we've built."
Obstacles he had to overcome: "Proper funding. It's just as dangerous to have too much money as not enough. If you borrow too much, you can get more debt than you can handle ... If you are under-financed, you can't finish the project and then you have to borrow money at a very expensive rate and you can't get out from under that. It took years to find the right deal ... Once you get open, you still have to maintain standards and continue to improve your product ... You're constantly climbing a mountain where there's no peak. I tell my managers all the time, 'We have to just keep climbing the mountain.'"
First job: "I think the restaurant was called Aldo's Italian Restaurant. I went with my friend who was interviewing. He was kind of verbose, and I was shy. The owner's wife said, 'I don't like you' -- to him, 'I like you' and hired me."
Worst job: "I worked for a while tending bar at this high-volume nightclub with a bunch of nightly drink specials. It was a real low-end, crummy, cheesy nightclub. I got punched one night. This guy was hitting his girlfriend, and I jumped over the bar and grabbed him ... The girl punched me in the nose and told me, 'Get your hands off my man!' I couldn't believe this woman hit me when I was trying to help her. I quit a few days after that."
Smartest move: Buying, instead of leasing, the buildings to house BlackSalt and Black Market Bistro. "Being an owner and not working with a landlord makes it a lot more front-loaded -- you need more money up front, but later your restaurant will appreciate at a higher rate and make more of a profit."
Biggest misstep: "We now hire managers exclusively from within the company. We've hired people from outside who have taken advantage of situations, some stealing, some mismanaging ... I'm inherently probably too trusting. I try to give folks the benefit of the doubt. A restaurant not run properly can get very expensive very fast and hemorrhage a lot of cash."
What's next: "We want to open a new concept restaurant on 14th Street Northwest -- Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. It'll be a 75-seat restaurant, and upstairs we'll have Black Jack, a whimsical bar. We've been with [Advisory Neighborhood Commission] folks. They've been super polite and enthusiastic ... The reality is there is no lunch trade on that street, so we need another revenue stream. Short of going into catering, our choice is to make it alcohol sales. That's what we're shooting for. We've [planned] the building to keep the noise down because it's heavily insulated. We're trying to be conscientious, and we think they'll know that when they get to know us."
Advice to the aspiring: Be smart. "For whatever reason, when someone goes out and makes a lot of money ... they feel they want to open a restaurant. Unfortunately, the ease of entry allows many who should not open a restaurant to do it ... It's not just cooking. It's not just service. It's not just the bar. It's the whole package -- negotiating the right lease, negotiating the contracts, how you work with vendors and interact with your staff. There are million details, and you have to take care of all of them."
POSTED AT 8:01 PM ET, 10/13/2010
Singer Justin Jones
After more than 10 years in the music business, Washington-area singer-songwriter Justin Jones is making headway. He and his band, the Driving Rain, recently wound up a tour with pop sensation Sheryl Crow. He's playing regular dates around Washington D.C. and is heading out of town for several performances. In between, he's tending bar at the 9:30 Club on V Street NW, where he was working when the club's legendary owner, Seth Hurwitz, offered to manage him and signed him to 9:30 Records. Jones recently released an EP entitled "Little Fox" and is working on an album to be released next year. He is married to Melanie, who owns the Urban Style Lab hair salon in Dupont Circle. They live in the District with their daughters, Stella, 3, and Georgia, 8 months.
Why he's successful: "It's taken years. I think a lot of people start out trying to do something they love and it soon becomes a beast of burden...My [relatives] all wanted me to finish college so I would have something to fall back on. In my mind, I felt if I had something to fall back on, that's what I'd do. If I didn't, music would be what I'd do for rest to of my life. Not a lot of people know exactly what they love. I was lucky to know at a young age what I wanted to do and I 'm doing what I want to do."
Obstacle he had to overcome: "This is not a very encouraging business. There is not a lot of reward for your work, even if you do a very successful show. A lot goes into shows -- acquiring equipment, holding rehearsals, writing songs and getting the venue. When it's over, you have to start all over again ... Your family makes sacrifices and it's hard to keep a band together when you're not making a lot of money. Nobody who is playing in my band now was playing in the band three years ago, but I would think that the ones who were there three years ago wish they were playing in the band now."
First job: "Picking corn. I think I was 8 or 9 years old. They would round up a bunch of kids in a pickup truck and we would go and pick. We got a half penny per ear. We worked from like 6 a.m. to noon. I would do that on Saturday and Sunday and I might get a paycheck for 85 bucks. That was big bucks back then."
Worst job: "I have had a few of those. I washed dishes in a restaurant when I was in high school. Jobs that I hate have a way of weeding themselves out of my life. I had the same job for most of my 20s, tending bar here at the 9:30 Club, but before that, I had other bartending jobs that I didn't like and I got fired ... A lot of people have a job and that's what they do. I have a job, but it's not what I do. I'm a songwriter, so I tend bar, not the other way around."
Best job: "The best job I ever had that I didn't want was tending bar at 9:30. The best job I ever had was playing music. If I didn't play music, I don't know what I'd want to do. I've been tending bar at 9:30 for eight years, so I obviously don't hate it."
What inspires him: "A lot of things -- nature, my children, my family ... fans, books, whatever."
What's next: Justin Jones and the Driving Rain is scheduled for more performances and an album. "We met Sheryl Crow on the last night of the tour. I played with a lot of people I haven't met. I played with Loretta Lynn and I didn't meet her. I played a couple of nights with ZZ Top and I didn't meet them ... I will say the Sheryl Crow experience was different than us traveling around in a van stopping for fast food. There were people to take the equipment, all this good food, nice hotels. That would be nice."
Lesson he's learned: "When you are playing in a band and playing music, people begin to believe that you will succeed. That is a feeling I've only known for the last three months. I think it is important to surround yourself with people who have a moral and ethical code that lives up to your standards, not those who are around you just to ride the wave. I'm not trying to come off like I think I'm a big star, because I don't. But I think that's important."
Smartest move: Dropping out of James Madison University, where he was studying early-childhood education. "It really focused me on what I really wanted, which was to play music. It got me moving in the right direction .... I think I thought I was going to be a teacher. I come from a long line of teachers. Now that I have kids, I'm glad I didn't do that. It's easier to put up with your own. My wife has sisters and they have several children. We go on vacation together. It's a great family stress inducer. Children are great and you gotta love them, but nobody's crying when they're all asleep."
Biggest misstep: Using drugs. "I wasted four years of my life. It's too hard for me to imagine if I'd be further along in this or not if I hadn't. I would take that back if I could."
Advice to the aspiring: "Pursue your interest in life. There is a great [Sam Adams] beer commercial that says this quote that if you love your job, you will never work a day in your life. Somebody else may have said it first, but that is a really great philosophy. I'm not advocating drinking beer for children, but it's a really cool quote. I think you should really try to live your dream."
POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 10/ 6/2010
Moving from point A to point B with Chuck Brown can be a challenge. Outside a Largo office building recently, a lawyer wanted to shake his hand. A delivery man chatted him up about his new record. A woman told him about how she used to get punished by her mother for sneaking out to see his shows.
"Her mother was probably in the place, too!" Brown said, laughing. "I love the fans. I love talking to them. A lot of people want to take pictures with me. I appreciate that. There once was a time when the only people who wanted take my picture was the police. Now, the police want to take pictures with me, too ... I try to always take time for my fans."
As the founder and designated godfather of go-go, the sound indigenous to Washington that fuses R&B, funk and hip-hop with rollicking call-and-response lyrics and thunderous percussion, Brown has served for decades as the genre's international ambassador.
Forty-five years after he first hit the D.C. nightclub scene, he's still a popular draw. His annual birthday celebration at the famed 9:30 Club on V Street is a perennial favorite concert event. He sells out most of his shows.
He has recorded more than 20 albums and sold 1.5 million copies since his first, "We the People," hit record stores in 1971. His biggest album to date was the classic "Bustin' Loose" in 1978, which went gold and featured the title song that made Brown famous.
Two weeks ago, Brown's latest CD "We Got This," was released. The first single, "Love," featuring Jill Scott, is receiving wide airplay locally.
To promote the record, Brown, 74, traveled to New York City last week to play along with the Roots, the house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." He played a free concert that was simulcast on WKYS at Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the Ronald Reagan Building in the District.
But the event that he's most looking forward to is scheduled to take place on Saturday, when Fairmont Heights, the tiny hamlet in Prince George's County where he lived for much of his childhood, will host Chuck Brown Day.
Brown was born in Gaston, N.C., but moved to Fairmont Heights at age 6 when his mother and stepfather, Richard Walton, came north looking for better economic opportunities.
"My father, Albert Moody, died when I was 8 months old. He had pneumonia and there was no money for doctors and medicine," Brown said. "So my mother used to work as a live-in maid to give us a place to live until she met my stepfather, who worked in the fields, in sawmills and did construction work ....We lived in a lot of shacks around Richmond when he worked for the railroad. I used to love to watch the trains go by. I would stand in the field waving and a man on the red caboose would throw me a bag of food every day -- potatoes, chicken, biscuits."
Brown's mother was an accomplished singer and accordion and harmonica player.
"Mama used to bring me to the church and other people's homes to stand up and sing," he said. "They used to say, 'That little boy can sing. He's going to be something someday.' They used to take up collections for us."
After they moved north, Brown played piano in church until he left home at 13 and "started getting in trouble." The temptations of the streets eventually landed him at the now-defunct Lorton prison, when he was in his early 20s.
"That's how I really got my life together," he said. "I got my high school diploma and learned that I was talented and became very serious about music. There was a dude down there, Bunny, who made guitars. I paid him five cartons of cigarettes to make me a guitar and I started playing it."
After Lorton, Brown set out on his own education, this time behind the guitar. Unable to play clubs because his probation prohibited him from appearing in places where alcohol was served, he played house parties. During the week, he worked various jobs, from cashiering to construction.
"The best job I ever had was a bricklayer," he said. "In those days, the wages were $5.50 an hour. That was a lot of money. It was very hard work, but it was enjoyable because it was artistic work.
"I used to love to take my wife and kids around the places where I worked to show them some of the pretty buildings I helped build. You know the White Oak Towers in Silver Spring? I helped build those. I helped build a lot of the buildings in downtown Bethesda."
Meanwhile, Brown had started to make a name for himself around Washington as an entertainer. He was invited to play with a band called Los Latinos. He later formed the Earls of Rhythm. He played the Ebony Inn in Capitoal Heights and the Red Carpet Lounge in the District, which in its heyday hosted acts such as Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.
In 1966, he formed the Soul Searchers band. It was during those days that Brown created go-go. "There were go-go dancers, go-go clubs, but no go-go music," Brown said. "So I created it."
Despite traveling around the world, "I break my neck to get back here," he said. "I am blessed that this is what I have been given the opportunity to do."