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Leadership Lesson #2: Help Your People Become All They Can Be

About four years into our company, a young woman named Debbie Wampler, about twenty-years-old interviewed to be our receptionist/operator. She was high spirited and a go-getter. Learning quickly was her strength and asking, “What else can I do?” became her mantra. I really liked her. Mike saw the same thing, a positive, dynamic young woman who could really grow with our company. Mike set about mentoring her. It was then we found out that she came from a very poor family and she was on her own.

Mike asked her, “Have you ever thought about going to college?”

She said, “I would like to one day.”

So we set about to make sure she enrolled. Mike guided her through the financial aid maze, gave her $1000 to get her started with books, tuition, and other needs, and about eight years later Debbie graduated with a degree in marketing. Halfway through her studies we put her in charge of marketing. Debbie was sharp, she understood computers and she had a great intuition about people. More than once she would take me aside and say, “I think you need to be aware of so and so. They don’t appear to have our passion.”

I wished we had moved quicker on some of her observations as she was usually right on!
Debbie now had the confidence to take on major marketing tasks and did a stellar job on a small budget. By this time we had reached IMPACT Group’s 10th anniversary. She came in one day with tears in her eyes and said she had been offered the top marketing job for Mary Engelbright Enterprises. Mary Engelbright was an internationally known St. Louis artist who licensed her cups, shirts, paintings, to shops around the world. And our Debbie landed that top marketing job! Mike and I could not have been any prouder of her than if she was our own.

Today, Debbie is married with children and we see her occasionally at the coffee shop, always greeting us with a hug and a kiss. I am proud that we invest in our people. And proud that when they have the opportunity to move on to bigger challenges, we congratulate them and thank them for a job well done!

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