I was recently interviewed by a Johnson Cook who is actively involved in the entrepreneurial community and runs Atlanta Technology Village, a collaborative technology organization that helps young entrepreneurs set flight. He approached me in an effort to continue a series of blogs about entrepreneurs and leaders in the making. We discussed the importance of practicing authenticity early on and often in order to build a successful business.
By Johnson Cook
Continuing the series of successful entrepreneurs sharing their thoughts on personal questions about how they build the person that builds their business. Scott Weiss is the CEO of Speakeasy, an amazing organization that helps executives and entrepreneurs communicate better in every setting. I’ve written about Speakeasy before here. Now some personal energy questions for Scott….
How do you find ways to help others and give back?
Mentoring. Given my 30 years in business, I’m privileged to know many leaders as young as college students and as old as retired executives. I am referred to often for a variety of mentoring opportunities from “how to interview for my first job” to how to become a more authentic and transparent communicator. I enjoy sharing past experiences, stories, and observations that help individuals at all ages move forward in various stages of their career and personal lives. I am committed to being accessible in this regard and generous with my time, as I am well aware of those that have helped me in the same way throughout my life and continue to do so.
What do you do as an entrepreneur to balance your most important personal relationships (spouse, kids, family)?
I was very fortunate early in my career before it was too late to have a mentor teach me about the value of “family time.” As a young executive at Turner Broadcasting, I was traveling every week while two of my three kids were very young…I missed a lot. Then came an epiphany delivered by my most trusted mentor, Terry McGuirk, current Chairman of the Atlanta Braves and former CEO of Turner Broadcasting. I had my missed my oldest child’s first day of Kindergarten due to a business meeting. I had consulted with Terry on if I had made mistake. Terry asked me how much I would be willing to pay to get that day back. We conversed about various prices before he finally said; “you know that regardless of how successful you become or how much money you make, you will never actually be able to buy that day back…ever. It’s just not for sale.” I will never forget that moment. From that day on I made significantly better choices to be with my family, and the business lived without me. I realized a very valuable lesson. No one is that important.
What gives you the most personal energy?
I recharge with self contemplation outdoors. I’m a bit of an introvert in that regard. I get recharged by quiet. I enjoy hiking, climbing, finding a desolate spot on the lake where I have a boat, anywhere that allows me to think, in quiet space, where the oxygen is pure, and I can fully immerse myself in everything that nature has to offer. I take this to a fairly extreme level once a year by participating in expedition with three of my best friends. We’ve been doing this for 12 years now. We’ve been to some amazing places including summits in British Columbia, the Grand Teton, Navaho Basin, and a 37 mile trek to Machu Pichu. It without question renews my personal energy.
What are your most proud moments regarding your own legacy?
I have many personal moments with my wife of 27 years, Marci, in which our proudest and greatest hoped for legacy lies with our three kids. However, with respect to my entrepreneurism, I have two.
First, I was responsible in founding Turner Private Networks during my tenure at Turner Broadcasting. This operating division oversees a number of “placed based media networks” for Turner, including the CNN Airport Channel which I created and launched and is now in 40 airports worldwide. Creating new media properties under the leadership of Ted Turner was extremely demanding, and I was successful at a very young age. But more importantly, I was making a real difference in furthering the mission of CNN in bringing news and information to the world.
Secondly, also while at Turner I became increasingly aware of how challenging it was for minority students to get jobs out of college in the television industry. As a result I founded a non-profit Foundation in 1994 in Washington D.C. that I named after another mentor of mine, Taylor Howard, a Stamford University scientist and inventor. I served as Chairman for the Foundation for its first ten years, and now the Foundation has grown to one of the most successful media Foundations in the industry supported by every major media organization from Viacom to Time Warner. The Foundation places 100 interns every year in media companies in which dozens of them become permanent positions, making a real impact in the industry.
How are you involved in the community?
My youngest child is passionate about baseball. I served as a community Coach for his teams from the age of 5 to 14. I met hundreds of great kids and families and helped teach the game and life lessons at the same time. It was extremely rewarding and I absolutely cherished the relationships I had with those little boys who became young men in the blink of an eye. As part of that journey I began volunteering for Cobb County in managing and taking care of one of the County baseball fields, which I still do to this day even though my son has moved on to high school and very serious travel ball.
What do you avoid because it drains your personal energy?
I’ve learned over the years that the one thing I find myself running away from because it drains my personal energy is arrogant and pompous people. I have major difficulty connecting with them and my desire to be authentic leaves very little room for common ground, so I avoid getting into those situations.