A Commentary By Veronica Edwards
I literally failed first grade because, according to my teacher, I wasted valuable classroom time daydreaming out the window, talked too much and was unable to color within the lines. My future career prospects at the age of seven were bleak.
I did in fact survive first grade (twice), completed my MBA and am currently a doctorate student with a dual concentration in health care administration and organizational leadership. Having overcome my own challenges, I am optimistic about the future.
Repeatedly asked how I achieved high revenue growth in my own company, I eventually came to realize my company is an entrepreneurial puzzle wrapped in an enigma. The factors most responsible for success are the very qualities criticized long ago. I chuckle when I realize that the secrets of my success were revealed 40 years ago in a scathing old report card written by a very prophetic elementary teacher. Daydreaming in class has been frowned upon and discouraged.
Business, however, demands CEO’s daydream to visualize the endless possibilities of tomorrow. I spend a large percentage of my time, energy and resources gazing at my company and strategizing future endeavors to achieve a savvy competitive position.
I did not and I still do not consistently “color between the lines” and as I look around, our entire society is encouraged to exercise imagination. The use of iPads, iPhones and iEverything demonstrates the highly imaginative and adaptable qualities of our country’s younger generations. It is up to us as leaders of the business community to direct their attention to the opportunities. A student we support today in my industry of health care, even if just with words of encouragement, may one day save your life or the life of a loved one.
A redirection of labor into the health care sector is sure to benefit the U.S. economy especially given the fact that skilled health care specialists continue to be in high demand and short supply. I am encouraged and driven to foster future doctors, nurses, scientists and technicians and have instituted company scholarships for retired military and other students pursuing health care occupations.
I have chosen to ignite and encourage diverse generations to enter the medical field and to inspire the under or unemployed to embrace a second career. I am not an educator but adamantly understand that education can unfold new avenues. Have you ever seen an RN who previously worked in the oil fields, a pharmacist who previously walked the halls as a teacher or an insurance agent that went back to school to become a chiropractor? I have, and I hope their stories serve a beacon to those who dare to pursue rewarding medical careers.
Making the shift to a new occupation is a risky endeavor. I know from experience — I was downsized from an executive position within the telecommunications industry. During my first few days of unemployment I honestly assessed my skills and applied all my analytical acumen to determine how I would make a living. My experience in human resources and the dramatic growth of the health care industry led me to focus on medical staffing. With no medical experience, a modest savings, an MBA that enabled me to temporarily teach to pay basic bills and the internet as my library, I chose to embrace an entrepreneurial dream and build a business focused on health care staffing. Although I was in survival mode, I chose a particularly daring path that included transitioning and learning a drastically different industry. My friends laughed and politely pointed out the odds against my hallucinations of success especially in a field I knew nothing about. Despite passionate warnings I marched forward blissfully daydreaming about the possibilities.
My weaknesses from four decades ago have become my strengths. I survived first grade, brutal economic recessions and a second career which involved a transition from the wireless industry into health care. I’ve managed to grow my company, oversee its monetary portfolio and maintain 100 percent ownership during one of the worst financial crises in history. So what advice would I give other CEOs? Remember that during the toughest economic times the hardest skill to master and maintain is optimism.
Veronica Edwards is the CEO of InGenesis, a medical staffing firm based in San Antonio. Along with overseeing one of the fastest growing companies in America four years in a row, Ms. Edwards was recognized by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber as “Businesswoman of the Year” for 2011.
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