One of the key attributes of successful entrepreneurs is perseverance. This type of determination is not born out of wild-eyed optimism, but instead a burning passion to bring an idea or product to the marketplace. When I was working out in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, I was inspired by the number of companies that were being created with grand visions to change the world. While many failed in their bold attempts, I respected the founders’ mission-like approach to business. I recently visited with Joe Stephens, and was struck by his passion for the vision of a business he owns, NeuEdge, LLC.
NeuEdge provides services based on a ground-breaking, medication-free approach to addressing learning, attention, and social skills difficulties often associated with ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, asperger’s syndrome, and high functioning autism. They accomplish this through a regimen of daily physical exercises that are individualized for clients in order to stimulate the cerebellum part of the brain so that it becomes more efficient over time. The Dore program was developed in England by Wynford Dore who funded research to find a way to help his daughter, who suffered from severe dyslexia and became depressed and suicidal. Stephens met Wynfred Dore at an executive leadership program at Harvard and decided, along with some other business partners, to bring the Dore program to the United States in 2002. After facing some challenges that came along with rapid national growth, Stephens and his son, Neal, opened NeuEdge in Mississippi in 2009 to focus on bringing the Dore program to Mississippi. In addition to owning NeuEdge, Stephens also serves as vice president of business development for advanced healthcare management which provides long term healthcare services for senior adults including skilled nursing facilities, independent living centers, assisted living centers, nurse consulting, and billing services in Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina.
For Stephens, helping people improve their lives is a lifelong passion. He grew up in Magee and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in business. After college, he went to work with his father, Dr. James O. Stephens, in the mental and behavioral health business. His father was a small town family doctor with a passion for service and a strong entrepreneurial streak. Stephens shared that his father’s love for people and business led him to develop and establish Millcreek, the first private intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled (ICF/DD) children in Mississippi that was funded by Medicaid. Subsequent to that highly successful venture, his father also established the first psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF) in Mississippi to be funded by Medicaid. Stephens worked in these businesses before taking over the leadership when his father retired. In 1997, he sold the businesses to a national healthcare organization and stayed on for five years after the transition.
Stephens noted that his father had a big influence on his development as a leader and a business person. He shared, “My father had over 15 business startups to fail before his first successful venture and never once do I remember him demonstrating futility or surrender. He then went on to establish over 10 more successful companies.” Stephens has faced his own challenges with the same level of perseverance. The initial launch of his Dore program business in the United States was based in Dallas and suffered from leadership challenges and cash flow problems related to national expansion. Stephens had to move to Dallas for a year to step into a leadership role to “right the ship.” Despite the challenges, Stephens remains passionate about bringing this new treatment approach to the market.
Stephens’ advice for future leaders is to meet fear head on. He shared a quote by Steve Farber who said, “If the only reason you’re avoiding taking on a challenge is because the idea scares you, then that’s the reason to take it on.” Stephens encourages young leaders to “be scared often because avoiding fear will prevent you from doing something great!” His advice goes to the heart of the challenge for many potential entrepreneurs — a fear of failure. I know very few entrepreneurs who have not failed in at least one business venture. That fear can paralyze us from accomplishing great things. I have no doubt that Stephens will continue to confidently and successfully pursue his vision for helping people around the state.