At age 75, Curtis Jewell, chairman and CEO of EXCEL Management Systems, is going strong, but he's stepped back from the front line. He's coaching, but doesn't want to be the No. 1 sales person.
Over the years, he has made connections and tried to walk the walk. Jewell grew up in the country, in a southern household like television's "The Waltons."
"That integrity and taking care of your neighbor and you know, being involved in the community was just natural with us always," he says.
"That's the good news of being an entrepreneur all your life and coming from an entrepreneur family
- you don't have to hedge, you don't have to lie, you don't have to sneak, you don't have to take shortcuts," Jewell says. "Because you learn that you're going to win more than you lose by telling the truth."
Win more than you lose...
To Jewell, leadership is setting an example by taking risks and giving more than receiving. He doesn't try to litigate everything or get every little piece.
"You're going to win some and you're going to lose some," he says "But you'll win far more than you lose if you approach life, and people the right way. It's all in style. It's all in integrity. It's all in honesty and openness." Jewell gives his employees space, trusting them to do the right thing and complete what needs to be done, because people are basically trustworthy, he says. He also expects his executives to own their area of the business within the enterprise.
Jewell likes to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs, because so many people helped him. For example, Robert Lazarus Jr. of Lazarus department stores first brought him to Columbus in the 1970s to head up a community substance abuse treatment center. Lazarus had Jewell serve on numerous community boards, and he enjoyed rolling up his sleeves, serving a higher purpose.
Jewell says that race relations are still stove piped in Columbus, but as a businessman he travels in all circles and he wishes more people would get out of their comfort zone. "It's not necessarily due to malice," he says "It's just people are historically moving in the circles that they're used to, and they are overwhelmingly one black and one white. I don't like that."