I recently read an article in CNN/Money that Mississippi ranked in the Top 10 of new entrepreneurial activity based on the Kaufman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. That was an encouraging statistic and a refreshing change from the usual news reports on Mississippi. I have worked with a number of Mississippi entrepreneurs over the years, and I am always encouraged by the vision and passion of these individuals. I recently had the opportunity to learn about another Mississippi entrepreneurial leader – Don Glidewell. Glidewell, CEO and founder of Think Anew, founded his IT managed services company in 2007 and now has over 20 employees and customers in 13 states.
Glidewell grew up Corinth, Miss., and faced some early challenges. His parents both struggled with health issues and his father passed away when Glidewell was a teenager. His career began with Caterpillar Inc., and during his ten year tenure with them, he was nominated by his colleagues to serve as team leader of seven different teams. He shared, “Caterpillar gave me the training, education and support I needed to be a successful leader. They also gave me hope and inspiration.” He moved to the Jackson area in 1999 to work for Magnolia Management – a long-term care company. During his time with Caterpillar and Magnolia Management, he honed his technology skills and went on to work for several other companies in the health care field.
Hurricane Katrina, which had landfall on Aug. 29th (Glidewell’s birthday), was a turning point in his life. He immediately volunteered to help rebuild on the Gulf Coast. He said, “When I got to the coast I saw the devastation – and it changed my life forever – both in terms of the tragedy – and the way people united and rallied to care for each other and recover.” During this time, it occurred to Glidewell there had to be a better way to communicate both during and following a disaster. He leveraged his extensive background in health care IT and began working on a disaster communications telephone system. Within two years, he had completed it and won contracts with 57 companies across the U.S. to implement it. From this, Think Anew became a leading specialty telecommunications systems provider.
This great start allowed Glidewell to lead his company to become a full service IT managed services provider with a 60 percent growth rate from referrals alone. Glidewell attributes his company’s success to the principles of laser focus, a passion for customer service, and hiring the best home-grown state talent possible. Glidewell emphasized, “In my opinion, our state has some of the best human capital in the world from the standpoint of ‘every day common sense’ and taking pride in caring for and doing what is right for customers – and one another.”
Having risen up from challenging circumstances, Glidewell has thought a great deal about how to elevate others. He shared, “I think a lot about how best to provide someone with hope. There’s no one element as hope stems from a combination of variables. However, a core ingredient is through education – not only ‘book smarts’ – but helping them see it is possible to rise from humbling, challenging positions and be successful and do great things.” He believes that as a business leader it is his duty to lead by example and allow fellow Mississippians to see first-hand that you CAN become more than the labels placed on you by others. He noted, “It starts with providing them some measure of hope!”
I agree with Glidewell’s thoughts. In fact, my goal in writing this column is to share Mississippi success stories that I hope will inform and inspire others. I am personally encouraged by Glidewell’s success, and I appreciate his servant heart and interest in elevating others.
» 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.