WILLOUGHBY: Ray Harrigill credits family for high standards, strong work ethic
by Martin Willoughby
Published: March 29,2013
Over the years, I have been pitched a number of big ideas from potential entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, too many of these entrepreneurs had failed to “count the costs” of truly executing on their ideas. A “get rich quick” philosophy will not get you very far in life. The successful leaders I know understand the value of hard work and have a strong work ethic. This work ethic is usually instilled early in life by parents, coaches or mentors. President Calvin Coolidge noted, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
I have noted the particularly strong work ethic that Ray Harrigill, founder and CEO of Sunray Companies, LLC, has and how it has advanced his career. Harrigill is a native of Brookhaven and went on to earn his undergraduate and M.B.A. from Millsaps College. He continued his education at Mississippi College School of Law where he obtained his law degree. His last year of law school he began working for his father-in-law, Dr. S.L. Sethi as Vice President of a pizza restaurant group with 26 units. He shared, “I like to say I got a real world degree in people with that job. That experience was invaluable in that I learned how to effectively manage a diverse workforce from dish washers to supervisors.”
Harrigill credits his early experience and understanding of business to his parents as well as his father-in-law. His parents, Don and Susan Harrigill, were entrepreneurs and were involved in a variety of transportation related businesses, heavy equipment, a retail store and a funeral home. He noted, “I grew up in a family that expected hard work to achieve a goal and put in long hours to do so. I worked in their welding shop at a young age and started driving trucks at 15.” Harrigill said that when he began working for his father-in-law, he was given a tremendous amount of responsibility with high expectations of success. He said, “He drove me to succeed where I otherwise might have failed.”
As a leader, Harrigill strives to be to be consistent and fair to the people he works with. He told me he often shares with employees, “I can’t make the job they applied for any easier, but we can always treat each other with respect.” He always tries to give purpose to the tasks he asks of his people. He shared, “Engagement, focus and leveraging our human capital are what move our company forward. This understanding requires me to provide a clear focus about the needs of our company and the direction we are heading.” His leadership philosophy is to develop and support a successful management team by being accessible to his team, rewarding success and using mistakes as teachable moments. I really liked his advice for future leaders: “Vision alone is not enough. Real success comes from tenacity, determination and hard work. Above all, you have to work for the growth and development of your team.”
Harrigill’s hard work and determination have allowed him to build a very successful and diverse business organization which includes franchises for Bumpers Drive-Ins, Palm Beach Tans, Hampton Inn and Suites, Massage Envys and Koko FitClubs. In addition, he generously shares his time and leadership to a variety of community organizations. I am encouraged by Harrigill’s vision, drive and focus. I hope that we continue to encourage entrepreneurial leaders like Harrigill to take the “road less traveled” and build businesses and become an active leader in the community.
Up Close With Ray Harrigill
Title: Founder and CEO, Sunray Companies, LLC
Favorite Books: I generally read periodicals and on-line information related to new franchises, operations, finance, and the general economy. Non-business related material – I enjoy Greg Isles and John Grisham’s work.
First Job: “Paper boy for the Daily Leader in Brookhaven was my first job for someone other than my family. ”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “Seeing team members grow from an hourly entry level position to a salaried career with our company.”
Hobbies/Interests: “I mostly work, but I love cars and traveling and spending time with my twins, Max and Tori, and my wife Monica.”
Martin Willoughby, a business consultant in Jackson, is a regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. Willoughby can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.
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