Category Archives: Partners

11 Business Lessons of Our Time



I was cleaning out a bookshelf the other day when I cracked open the cover of a long-missing sketchbook, one I used for  note-taking when attending a lecture or professional gathering. The first page I saw got my attention with the first words written there:

A number of forces have turned things upside down.

Aahhh, I remembered. Early 2009, and the US Economy —and so many small businesses—were beginning to tip in crisis. Thousands of us gathered at Carolina Coliseum for a day-long lineup of motivational speakers, an event unrelated to the Recession, and yet inextricably bound to it. HP/Microsoft/Quantum’s Rick Belluzzo opened with this grand profession:

It is the most significant time of challenge in my lifetime.

In his energetic presentation, he went on to offer this counsel:

  1. Times of immense change create the greatest opportunity.
  2. Take advantage of disruption. Redefine.
  3. Think of yourself as an entity.
  4. Don’t be a victim. Things are difficult. Retool and reemerge.
  5. Always strive to make a difference. Make a permanent mark.
  6. Touch someone’s life. Believe today you can make a difference.
  7. Take on tough assignments. Risk is good.
  8. Be self aware and open to feedback.
  9. Be a leader. This requires authenticity and integrity.
  10. Take responsibility for your failures.
  11. Be soft-hearted in how you treat people. But be hard-headed about principles and results.

What powerful advice for an audience facing years of upheaval, I thought as I looked back at these notes four years later.

What powerful advice for life.

Inside Stories: Here’s What We’ve Learned

 If you don’t understand the finer points of tomato sandwich perfection or realize the necessity for a soundtrack in your life, don’t worry. Teresa Coles and Kevin Smith can tune you in to both of these things.

If you're not from the South, you may not realize what a game changer the right mayonnaise can be.

One of the best parts of working in the WECO is getting to know the other people who work here. You soon begin to see how everyone’s professional expertise is shaped, not only by education and lots of practice, but also by the little pieces of life that happened on the way here – both the serious and the whimsical.  

I recently read the partners What I’ve Learned sections of their web bios, and it made me wonder,  what other  WECOnian wisdom is out there?

Kevin Archie

Two heads really are  better than one.

Organization is the key to efficiency.

Kelly Davis

Mama always said nothing good happens after midnight.

When God closes a door, he always opens a window.

Catherine Doyle

The ultimate cure for a bad day is to drive with the windows down and the music up. Loud.

Maintain the relationships that are worth the work. Forget the ones that aren’t.

William Goodman

Be prepared.

Good things don’t come to those who wait. Good things come to those who work hard and never give up.

Andrew Norris (Our new Strategic Development Apprentice, yay!)

You don’t need to know everything about anything, just a little bit about everything.

Smart people talk. Wise people listen.

Michael Powelson

Never drink to feel better. Drink to feel even better.

Nate Puza

Stop procrastinating, and be nice to everyone.

Keely Saye

Never post anything to social media after two glasses of wine.

The day you stop learning is the day you become irrelevant.

Julie Turner

Always keep bacon in the fridge.

You have the opportunity to learn something new even if you’re just reading a cereal box.

Will Weatherly

Luck is mostly a concoction of brutally minute repetitions + long term perspective.

Teach your tongue to delight in bland, unsalted foods.

And what have I learned?

Nothing  happens the same way twice. – Narnia wisdom.

No matter how tired you are or how late it is, always wash  your face before bed. – Britney Spears wisdom.

5 Simple Lessons in Effective Communication

My husband and I were tooling around Ocracoke Island last summer when we came upon this sign. It caused such a shift in my brain I’ve remember it since.

The sign could have said: Children At Play  Or End State Maintenance Or even Nobody’s In A Hurry Here, Pal.

But none—not even the Ocracoke attitude version— would have gotten my attention as immediately. Why?

The sign offers five lessons in effective communication, all well demonstrated:

1. Get to the point.

2. Say just what you mean.

3. Use words real people use.

4. Be truthful.

5. Fight for simple.

So often, we marketers are guilty of over-complication and (worse) ambiguity. We would do well to remind each other clever is never the goal. Communication is.

Global Pro Bono? CreateAthon Worldwide? Believe.

“YOU are CreateAthon?

            “Well, uh, yes, I guess I am.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s really you! I talk to people in India about CreateAthon all the time!

That is what greeted me within 10 minutes of stepping into an evening reception at the Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted recently by Taproot Foundation. It was a moment that took my breath away, and the start of a 24-hour experience that filled me with the promise of good in the world like never before.

Joining me at the event in NYC was none other than  CreateAthon Chief Evangelical Officer Peyton Rowe. That, in itself, is enough to get me pumped up on the matter of all things pro bono. Then there were our friends from Taproot Foundation, A Billion + Change, and other swell folks from socially minded corporations we’ve come to know. I expected to see these flag-bearers for pro bono, and to once again be inspired by their leadership.

What I encountered was something altogether different.

I was surrounded by people from about a dozen different countries who were part of Taproot’s global fellows program. Then there were “intermediaries,” people throughout the US who lead programs designed to mobilize pro bono efforts in their respective industries and/or communities. Like CreateAthon.

Before we intermediaries were introduced to the global fellows, Taproot Founder and event organizer Aaron Hurst provided some meaningful context to us on why these people had come to New York, and why we had been invited to meet them:

Understand that most of the people you’ll meet today come from countries in which pro bono is neither encouraged nor tolerated. In some cases, they are not only putting themselves at professional risk for advocating the practice of pro bono, but also personal. They can go to jail for this.

“You’re here to get to know them, encourage them, and connect with them from now on, so they can be prepared to carry out this work when they go home.

That got our attention.

Then here they came, 22 of the most delightful people I’ve ever met. Between their broken English and my heavy Southern accent, we often had to repeat ourselves or help interpret each other’s sentences. But what transcended that awkward dialogue was the immediate, shared spark of something between us: the belief in pro bono.

There’s so much to say about this experience — perhaps I shall come back here and unpack all of my takeaways — but for now, I hope you’ll be inspired by three things I now know to be true, thanks to this global gathering of good.

Pro bono is going to become an industry, not a nice to do.

We can capitalize on it and make a living giving it scale throughout the world. What some may have once considered a pipe dream is now quickly becoming a force.

People are different. Their hearts are the same.

The power of human connections around a central cause has never been more palpable to me than in the last two weeks. All it takes is one moment, and an extended hand.

The impact of CreateAthon has only just begun.

Our 24-hour marathon model is being noticed in places far from here, not just in India. In France: “We now have a marathon model in place inspired by CreateAthon.

In the Netherlands: “Oh yes, we’ve heard of you. What a great program!

In Germany: “We love CreateAthon, and I am going to get you to Berlin to teach us how to do it.

Where do we go from here? Global fellows, corporate leaders, and intermediaries like us will reassemble for Global Pro Bono Summit II a year from now. In the meantime, we’ll be connecting with each other, one by one, sharing ideas and offering encouragement. We’ll also be working together on a number of initiatives coming out of the summit that will help to move the global pro bono movement forward in the next 12 months.

The last thing I know for sure?

If you have a little idea, it can be big.

Peyton checks in at our mod venue, Steelcase


Telling our stories, one by one

P and T reunite with our global bestie, Armin from BMW Foundation.

Heated debate among the panel of judges for best global pro bono plan

Champion of pro bono and lover of all things CreateAthon: Taproot Foundation founder Aaron Hurst

A Billion + Reasons to Believe

Earlier this month, we had the honor of officially welcoming A Billion + Change and the national movement for skills-based, pro bono service to South Carolina. Along with our friends at the Central Carolina Community Foundation, we hosted a gathering of 60 or so bright-minded business leaders with the intent of starting a dialogue in South Carolina on the benefits of skills-based volunteerism.

We Riggs folks are always up for a conversion about pro bono, and the Billion + breakfast was a great way to share our belief in skills-based volunteerism as a means of corporate social responsibility. But my new best Twitter friend Paul Klein unearthed a whole new perspective in his Forbes post this week by stating “social change isn’t the responsibility of business, it is the result of business.”

That’s what A Billion + Change is really all about: helping American businesses understand that the fastest and most profound way to create results in the community is to give employees the opportunity to put their best business skills and talents to work for nonprofits. In doing so, they help NGOs and NPOs build the kind of capacity and intellectual resources they need to build sustainability and move their missions forward.

We’re thrilled with the enthusiastic response from the A Billion + Change event, and we look forward to sharing more news very soon about the South Carolina companies that are taking the pledge to create or expand their own skills-based, pro bono programs. As always, we believe South Carolinians will rise to the occasion, expressing our collective belief in doing the kind of work that matters most.