Jack of all trades
by Martin Willoughby
Published: September 23,2012
The Tony award-winning play “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” has been entertaining audiences since 1961. This play and the book by Shepherd Meade it was based on have a very catchy title. Unfortunately, too many people get into business looking for the shortcuts or easy path to success in business. I remember in the 199’s during the dotcom bubble everyone was trying to “get rich quick” with some new Internet idea. I lived in Silicon Valley for a period in the late 1990s and I did meet a few retired 30- year-olds; however, the reality is that success in business takes good old-fashioned hard work.
I recently visited with Bill Hankins, a commercial real estate professional broker with Cook Commercial Properties, who at age 74 is still enjoying great success in business. Hankins’ strong background in economic development and banking has allowed him to build a niche helping move properties for clients all over the state. In particular, he has a thriving business helping banks get distressed properties off their balance sheet. Hankins is a native of Greenwood and played football at Mississippi State on scholarship. During college, he worked for Hancock Bank and upon graduation took a position as director of community and area development for Mississippi Power & Light. This was the first of several opportunities he had to work in economic development. He then went to Deposit Guaranty Bank where he started their first economic development group and served as a director. Hankins then had the opportunity with some other investors to create the Bank of Jackson. At age 39, he was the youngest bank president at the time in the state. That bank evolved into Great Southern Bank and Hankins continued to serve in leadership roles before deciding to enter into the cellular business.
He shared, “I saw that there was an increasing demand for broadband wireless, so he formed Advanced Cellular Technology Group.” His business sense was right on and his pioneering company was bought by Wireless One, which was subsequently acquired by Worldcom. Hankins stayed on with Worldcom and served as southeastern vice president for broadband wireless data. In 2002, at the age of 64 he embarked on a new career in commercial real estate. Hankins noted, “While I was starting a new career, I was able to utilize my banking and economic development knowledge to accelerate my practice.” In visiting with Hankins, it was obvious that he had spent a lifetime studying and living out the principles of success in business. He emphasized, “I believe that one of the real keys in business is preparation. I encourage young business people to do their homework and to truly understand their business environment.” For Hankins, this means having a superior understanding of your product, your market and your competition. He continued, “After you have done your homework, then you are in a real position to develop and execute on your strategy.”
Hankins is a big believer in John Wooden’s famous quote, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Hankins has been a constant learner and student his whole career. This has allowed him to enter into multiple business arenas and be successful. He knows and appreciates that it is hard work that makes people successful in life and business. I am inspired to see business leaders like Hankins who stay active and continue to utilize their skills in the marketplace. I know that where there is drive, ambition, and willingness to learn that there is always opportunity for success and growth.
Up Close With William F. (Bill) Hankins
Title: Real estate broker, Cook Commercial Properties
Favorite Book: “I always enjoyed Dress for Success.”
First Job: “I was a concession vendor at the Cotton States Leagues Baseball Stadium when I was 12 years old selling snacks and drinks.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “I was very proud to be a part of bringing General Motors, Siemens and Frito Lay to Mississippi in the early 1970s.”
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