Go the extra mile to build the habits for greatness

by Martin Willoughby

Published: May 16,2010

Tags: habits, Martin Willoughby, MBJ column

We each have the opportunity for greatness.  Regardless of our backgrounds, challenges or limitations, we ultimately have the power to choose how we approach our life and work.  It is easy to have a laundry list of excuses of why we don’t give things our all.  “I have a bad boss.”  “I don’t get paid enough to do that.” “My co-workers aren’t doing their jobs.”  These are just a few of the many ways we can rationalize poor performance.

Pursuing excellence is a choice that allows us to rise above mediocrity.  Based on my own experience, I have found that the greatest challenge to achieving excellence is that it is hard.  There are no shortcuts or quick fixes.  It plain and simply takes hard work and persistent effort.  Four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell stated, “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” What strikes me about that quote is the reference to the attention to detail in the little matters.  We all like game day, but are we really willing to pay the price in practice? For an entrepreneur, trying to battle the odds to achieve success in business, this is an important maxim.

Clint Herring, founder of Kerioth Corporation, has utilized this principle to build a very successful real estate development and management company.  After Herring’s family broke apart at an early age, he was raised by his aunt and uncle in Arizona, and at the age of 16, he lived on his own.  Herring learned the real estate and construction business by working hard as a teenager in construction and learning from the bottom up.  He married his high school sweetheart, Terri, and they moved to Starkville, Miss., where Clint played football for Mississippi State University.  However, he did not live the typical college life.  Building upon his construction knowledge he learned as a teenager, he began a construction company and had as many as 15 employees helping him while he was in college.

A trait that Herring learned early on was an attention to detail and the ability to tackle difficult issues head on.  With no safety net, Herring managed the risk of starting and growing a business by outworking his competition.  Herring observed, “Most of us work hard until things get real challenging, then we tend to quit.  I have found that if I will push on with that little bit of extra effort then that usually will be the difference between success and failure.”  Herring shared a great practical application of this principle.  Each day he tries to identify the tasks that he least wants to tackle or are the most difficult,  and then he tackles those first before he moves on to the things that are accomplished easily or he really wants to do.

For Clint and his company, his efforts have paid off.  His company currently owns and manages over 700,000 square feet of property including Meadowbrook Office Park in Jackson and The Township at Colony Park, a mixed-use new urban live/work/shop development in Ridgeland.  Two of his three sons now have joined him in his business while his third is finishing up an M.B.A. at Tulane.  He is also now a co-owner of The Club fitness centers and is developing at the Township an innovative Live Life Well Center, which is a joint venture between The Club and St. Dominic’s.

When I consider Herring’s philosophy of life and business, it reminds me of reading about the countless hours of grueling training Mississippi native and football all-star Jerry Rice put in each offseason to prepare him for greatness.   As my old coaches used to say – “No pain, no gain.”  Whether starting a business or working as an employee, we each have the ability to rise to greatness and develop the habit of success by striving for excellence in all we do.

Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson. He can be reached at mew@msbusinesslaw.com.

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