As I interview leaders across the state, it is always interesting to hear about the people who played a role in shaping and developing these leaders. I have great respect for those who invest in the life of others. It creates a ripple effect.
When I was in college at Millsaps, my family fell on some financial hard times, and I was considering switching schools to complete my education. However, a family friend secretly provided a scholarship that allowed me to finish my degree. I did not find out about this until years later, but it had a profound effect on me. Paul D. Gunnoe, chairman of Gunnoe Investment Group, L.P., and CEO of Ortho Kinematics Inc., similarly had someone alter the course of his life.
Gunnoe grew up in Austin, Texas, but his mother was from South Mississippi so he spent considerable time as a child coming to the state. After high school, he played football at Sierra Nevada College in northern California. Gunnoe shared, “After Sierra, a Mississippi businessman who I had the great fortune of meeting, took me in, realizing that I was a young man who was just looking for an opportunity.” Bobby Dunlap of Dunlap & Kyle offered him a scholarship to the University of Mississippi. Gunnoe had the opportunity to take a walk-on position to play football, but he decided it was time to concentrate on academics and what he was going to do after college. After graduating from Ole Miss with a B.S. in biology, he attended nursing school at Pearl River Junior College in Poplarville.
While working as a travel nurse, he began assisting several staffing companies in recruiting and filling their staffing orders for hospitals. Shortly after that, Gunnoe and his wife started their first health care staffing company. Through acquisition and organic growth, they created one of the three largest health care staffing entities in the country. They also branched out into purchasing hospitals as well as developing health care software systems focused on various health care needs such as vendor management systems used in staffing and credentialing. After a successful exit of his business, he founded Gunnoe Investment Group, which focuses on health care companies, start-ups, turnarounds and acquisitions.
Mr. Dunlap, who built one of the largest tire companies in the country, also taught Gunnoe the core principle of providing the best customer service possible. Gunnoe said, “His success truly is an example of how always treating people (employees & customers) right and fair will pay off a million times over.” He also noted the influence of his parents who taught him to finish everything he started, to always do the right thing, lead by example and treat people as you want to be treated. As a person of faith, Gunnoe’s personal leadership philosophy comes from the Bible. He believes, “The greatest leader is the greatest servant. A leader’s duty is to serve those he/she leads and provide them the tools and opportunities to be successful.”
Today, Gunnoe and his family live in Oxford, and he continues to apply his principles to grow and build businesses. In addition, Gov. Phil Bryant recently appointed Gunnoe to the state of Mississippi Medical Care Advisory Committee. While Gunnoe certainly would have been a success in life whatever he went, Mississippians certainly have Mr. Dunlap to thank for pointing Gunnoe’s entrepreneurial energy towards building companies here in Mississippi. Perhaps the next time you see a young person with real potential, you may want to consider making an investment in their future. You never know the how far and wide the impact may be.
Up Close With Paul D. Gunnoe
Title: CEO, NewSouth NeuroSpine
Favorite Books: The Bible; Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson; Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose; any historical fiction
First Job: “Mowing lawns in my neighborhood, pumping gas at the gas station up the street.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “NewSouth NeuroSpine being named as one of Mississippi’s Best Places to Work in 2012, and changing a previous company’s turnover rate from 150 percent a year to less than 20 percent a year, and recognizing the financial results — from negative earnings to positive earnings during that two-year period.”
Hobbies/Interests: “I enjoy walking with my friends at night, visiting my grown-up kids (four total), who now live in different parts of the country and reading.”
Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.