Time management guru David Allen wrote a great book titled “Getting Things Done.” I really like this title because it speaks to one of the greatest challenges in business — execution! In my book “Zoom Entrepreneur”, I noted that the ability to execute is one of the five core skills of great entrepreneurs. There are many creative ideas floating around out there, but the real challenge is having the courage and commitment to actually make things happen. Great entrepreneurs can make success look relatively easy. It is like watching a great athlete in their zone — things just seem effortless. However, there is usually thousands of hours of effort behind those results.
I recently visited with Pat Lowery, CEO of Hurst Review Services based in Brookhaven about what it takes to build a great company and the ability to execute was a recurring theme in our conversation. Hurst Review Services was founded by Marlene Hurst and provides test preparation for the NCLEX exam for nurse licensure. Marlene traveled the country using her innovative teaching style to prepare nurses for this exam and built a sizable business along the way. In 2004, she decided that she needed to build a team around her to take her company to the next level. She hired Dr. Paul Johnson to be the CEO and Lowery was hired to be the CFO. Lowery is a CPA and has over 20 years of public accounting experience. While he served as CFO for the company, he also maintained his own thriving accounting practice — Patrick Lowery & Associates.
Dr. Johnson, Lowery and their team grew the company substantially. In 2004, the company provided 2,200 nurses training for the NCLEX exam. In 2012, the company will train over 28,000 nurses in 43 states. Lowery noted, “Marlene built an incredible product, and her drive and vision for the company has allowed us to seize the opportunity to make Hurst Review Services one of the top testing companies in the country for the NCLEX exam.” Dr. Johnson, who served as CEO for almost eight years, recently passed away, and Lowery assumed the role of CEO in July of this year and decided to transition his accounting practice to his partners. I asked Lowery what it was like to go through this transition, and he shared, “Dr. Johnson had many strengths, and I acknowledged that I was not him and that I would be applying my own set of strengths to the job. I also decided I was not here to radically change things, but to build upon the positive foundations of the company.”
Lowery shared with me that one of the common traits he saw in his successful clients like Hurst Review Services was an ability to execute at a high level. He noted, “Many people came into my office with a great idea, but very few had the relentless commitment to do what it takes to build a great business.” Lowery also shared that he has watched great companies build the team and infrastructure needed to grow. The reality is that it is hard to scale your business past the talent of your team and the sturdiness of your infrastructure. As one of my mentors has shared with me, “Don’t run ahead of your headlights.”
The decision to leave his practice and join the company full time was a major life change, but Lowery shared, “I am excited to work with such a great company and to help it reach its full potential. I am passionate about the product and service we provide.” Lowery’s wife, Celeste, is a nurse who went through the training years ago as a student and now works at the company as well. He noted, “My wife told me a long time ago that there was something special about this company, and I have learned over the years just how right she was.”
Lowery and his team at Hurst Review Services are a vivid example to me of how Mississippi-based companies can be national leaders in their industries. Sometimes we can have a negative view of our potential here, but I am routinely reminded of success stories like this one, and I know that for those who have the vision and dedication there is no ceiling to what can be accomplished.
Up Close With Pat Lowery
Title: CEO of Hurst Review Services
Favorite Books: “I enjoy all of Jim Collins’ books, and I enjoy reading fictional books like the Harry Potter series with my kids.”
First Job: “I went to work at the Sunflower in Wesson when I was 16 and worked there through college. It was a great experience in learning to deal with the public. ”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “I am probably most proud of seeing my team develop over the years. I have had a number of very talented people work with our firm over the years.”