Carolyn Hardy | What Racism Feels Like the Workplace and Why Corporate Diversity Programs Can Lack Follow Through

August 6, 2020
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August 6, 2020

Carolyn Hardy | What Racism Feels Like the Workplace and Why Corporate Diversity Programs Can Lack Follow Through

This episode is a straightforward conversation in which Carolyn discusses the racial challenges that she encountered throughout her educational and professional career, the lack of follow-through or lip service that can occur with corporate diversity initiatives, what needs to change to make them effective, and more. This episode challenged me to think about my own mental frameworks and the difficulty that certain people have to endure to advance forward.

My guest this week is entrepreneur Carolyn Hardy. The first episode I released for this podcast was with Carolyn, and that episode is one of the most downloaded podcast episodes to date.

If you listened to episode 1, you will hear how Carolyn said that her purpose has now shifted to help open more doors that should have been opened by now. I felt it was best to have a second conversation to understand better what she was saying in detail. Thankfully, Carolyn agreed to have this conversation.

This episode is a straightforward conversation in which Carolyn discusses the racial challenges that she encountered throughout her educational and professional career, the lack of follow-through or lip service that can occur with corporate diversity initiatives, what needs to change to make them effective, and more. This episode challenged me to think about my own mental frameworks and the difficulty that certain people have to endure to advance forward.

  • 2:38 Target on your back
  • 2:50 Don't give people ammo
  • 5:02 Don't let someone run you out
  • 5:26 Forced to be perfect
  • 7:45 Who don't you leave?
  • 10:02 Someone you would hate to lose
  • 11:04 Mindset
  • 17:50 Don't let them get in your head
  • 21:16 Always doing business a certain way
  • 26:00 Gatekeeper
  • 26:50 Skilled workforce
  • 29:31 Education
  • 30:25 Equal Opportunity
  • 30:33 No Lip-service
  • 31:34 Starts at the top
  • 33:28 Diversity on corporate boards
  • 38:05 Why do we keep doing the same thing over and over again
  • 41:08 What creates sustainability
  • 45:58 Smile, shake hands, then be sent to the gatekeeper
  • 46:20 Life is too short
  • 47:12 You can't take it personally

This episode is brought to you by Matt Haaga with State Farm Insurance.  Call Matt today at 901-443-4655, or email Matt at to see how he can help with your auto, home, renter's, business, and life insurance needs. Matt is licensed in the states of TN and MS.

Episode Transcript

00:00 Sam Coates: Carolyn, great to have you back. Appreciate you making time this afternoon.

00:04 Carolyn Hardy: Thank you. Good to see you again. And as they say, good to be seen, right?

00:09 SC: You bet, thanks to Zoom. One of the things that stuck out with me the most, and it's a lot of things and a lot of engagement, a lot of feedback that I got from a lot of people that listened to your interview, to the episode two which... Or episode one, I'm sorry. And if you hadn't done that, I'd encourage you to go back and listen to that before you hear our conversation today. But one of the many things that I took away, that challenged me was, when you describe the years in your career after getting your undergraduate degree and then going on to get your MBA and Master's in Accounting, you had a lot of long days. And there was a lot of... It sounded like a lot of time that you had to go after hours to do all this. I'm curious, can you talk a little bit about what was driving you at that time? Was that merely survival or were there specific goals or aspirations that you had that caused you to put in so many hours, and then also, to put in so many hours on getting your Master's in Accounting, on getting your MBA, and then all the other certifications and things that you got that helped you throughout your career?

01:16 CH: You know, Sam, I hadn't talked a lot about my early career that much, but I started out in Accounting with Smucker's and I was the first professional person at the location. Everyone else was pretty much a clerk. And you know, that in itself, you bring in a Black female, the only one, and you know how people view you as a threat right away. And I really felt that I was viewed by the office manager as a little bit of a threat, as a lot of a threat, and she wasn't gonna make it easy for me. And it just seemed like every step of the way there was a land mine or a trip hazard where you don't get positive feedback, or you have somebody that's looking for a mistake to happen. So if you going to protect your back, what you have to do is, I tell people "Don't give them ammunition to shoot at you". And so what I would do to make sure I didn't give anyone ammunition to shoot at me is that I would make sure that all of my work was done and it was done extremely well.

02:31 CH: And then in the evening I would spend the time, when everyone... Between 4:30 and 5:00 you'd be run over, everybody was getting out of there, right? I was just getting myself comfortable for a couple more hours of work, and I would sit there and I would actually keep working. And I wasn't working because I was behind on my work, okay, I was working to get ahead of my work. And I wanted to make sure I took the time to look over and make sure that it was as near perfect as it could be. But at the same time, it gave me an opportunity to review things that I wouldn't have time during the day to review. I learned how our sales system worked, which was not required for me, because I was a planning accountant at the time. I learned how our inventory management system worked at a level of detail that most people wasn't accustomed to.

03:22 CH: Because what I would do, I would take all the data and I would feed it into the system. Then I would look at how the numbers worked and if there was a story. The way you survive when you're in a, what I call a, unfriendly environment, you always have to be cautious of people. You're not giving them reasons to shoot at you. And, yeah, I was 20 years old and no mentor. I did not have a relative that had worked in corporate America at that time, so that was a first for us. And I was hell bent on being successful and surviving. I wasn't gonna let somebody run me out, okay. So, yes, I did work late hours, but it was probably more of survival. And then, it became over time, I found that it was really quiet. And so I got a lot of work done in the quietness, but it was, you know, when you're... It's one thing to want to be perfect, but it's another thing to be forced to be perfect. You know what I mean? I just felt like I had to be better than everybody else to survive.

04:24 SC: We're making this crystal clear. Racism or being a female, you had a target on your back when you came in at 20 years old?

04:34 CH: Oh, yeah. The way the office was set up, you couldn't even remember it on TV I'm sure 'cause you're so young, that you saw the desk lined up behind each other, that's how desks were in the office. On one side, you had a desk, then you had enough space to sit and then another desk. There was no partitions between them at that time, the other side of the room, the same thing, there were desks lined up. I was the only Black in the whole room, okay. And if Mr. Cole had a bad day, who do you think he came in the room and screamed at? He never screamed at anybody else but me. If he was having a bad day, he took it out on me.

05:08 SC: And you were 20 years old?

05:10 CH: I was 20 years old.

05:11 SC: Again, some of this has to... Because of my ignorance, and some of it I'm trying to make things crystal clear and ask questions to get the whole context.

05:18 CH: Yes.

05:19 SC: So if I ask anything that's offensive out of ignorance, I'm just saying I'm sorry up front. I don't mean it, I'm really wanting to learn. Coming in at 20 years old and feeling like you had a target on your back, I guess that was maybe your first time in a corporate setting to feel that way. But in general, can you describe what that felt like then and other times maybe that you felt that, to where it developed your perspective, to where you're saying, "I'm gonna have to stay late. I'm gonna have to dot every I and cross every T because I'm not gonna give anybody any ammunition to hold anything against me because I'm gonna do everything I need to do for myself or for my family, whoever that might be."

06:00 CH: Well, Sam, I'm gonna say the tragedy is a fact that some people would say, "Why didn't you leave?" Well, the tragedy is the fact that I thought every company was like that. You know what I mean? So you could say, "Well, Carolyn, A, you could've left." But, no, I didn't go. You don't leave if you feel the world is the same way. And I felt that wherever I went, I would have a target on my back. So I needed to try to survive where I was. And it wasn't surviving, because I was afraid that I wasn't gonna have a paycheck. Because when I went there, I didn't have a paycheck, okay. I just graduated from college. I was like most college kids. I was living you know, live at home. So it wasn't that. It's just that I had a mindset, I attended the University of Memphis, or Memphis State, right? And I had faced my share of discrimination there as well. And so, when I got to the job.

06:56 CH: Where I'd hoped that it wasn't that way, but I didn't have an internship, so I didn't have any experience to point at, to help me through the situation. But after dealing with it at Memphis State, I said, "It's come hell or high water. I was not going to let this gentleman wind me away." I was gonna leave on my terms when I was ready. And so what I did during the time, and when I say in my terms, I took the company's money that they offered, and I passed the CPA exam, I took the tuition reimbursement, and I was the only one in the office, nobody in that whole building, the tuition reimbursement program. I used it to get my Master's degree. And when I say on my terms, I say when I was ready, I would have enough education, enough experience and when I would stay there late, I learned more about the system than anyone else.

07:47 CH: So when I was promoted to plant controller when I was at Smucker's, I was one of the smartest plant controllers in the entire organization, because I took those hours at night to learn. So I took the negativity that I was faced with, and I took it to a positive in terms of, I'm gonna make the best Carolyn Hardy you've ever met. I'll create the best controller you've ever met. I'm gonna create somebody that you will hate to lose. I'm gonna be that ideal employee and what's interesting is, over time, the managers at Smucker's, we became friends. Now initially, what happens, Sam, in a hostile work environment is that even if managers wanted to be your friend initially, they would not, because they're gonna follow the top manager who's managing the place. They don't wanna get on his bad side, right? And so they'd rather either ignore me or just not say anything about what the plant manager was saying, but they weren't gonna come to my defense or my aid, that was not gonna happen because now they were concerned about paying their bills and getting their paycheck and all that stuff.

08:55 CH: So they weren't gonna lose their paycheck for Carolyn Hardy, somebody that they didn't know. They may have felt that it was wrong, they never said that they thought it was wrong, but it was an unusual environment. But you have to have a good mindset to not let somebody belittle you and not let them dress you down. And so I tell this story at times. I knew this guy had a low emotional aptitude, so as the new accountant, my job was to deliver the results of the operation, and so results are good and bad, right? There's nothing going in one direction. And so I learned that this guy was very immature, even though he was the gentleman running the place, so I decided that whenever I had to tell him bad news, I told him at 5 o'clock 'cause he would be there until about 5:15 or so.

09:46 CH: So I would catch him at 5:00, everyone in the office would be gone, I know this guy is going to scream at the top of his voice, he was just... 'Cause I've seen it too many times. So I walk in at 5 o'clock, I give the bad news, and I've been thickening up my skin all day, and sure enough, I got what was coming. He would just rant and rave. Now, the accountant doesn't... Today accountants isn't responsible for sales, am I right? We're not responsible for the waste that occured in operation. But why is he screaming at me? So in my mind, I would always say, "He's not screaming at me." I said like, "I'm just the messenger." You know they say, "Don't kill the messenger?" Well, I was killed many times [chuckle] I just came back. Okay? I did not take it personally. I felt that he had issues and I did my job. I walked in. I told him what I needed to tell him in a very professional way. I would ask him, "Do you have any additional questions?" I would say, "Well, I have some other work to do. If you need me, I'll be at my desk." You know what I mean? I was very professional. But no. I knew how he would react. So all the years he was there, and I was there. I always gave him bad news after 5 o'clock.

11:04 SC: As much as you feel comfortable, can you share an example or two of racism that you experienced while you're at the University of Memphis that proceeded this time that you're talking about right now, that kind of gave you a dose of what you experienced when you first started your career out of university?

11:24 CH: I'll never forget. I was in the summer school. I'm taking English. I wanted to get my electives out of the way so I could go over to the business building and never come back over to this side of campus if I could avoid it. So I was getting my English classes out of the way, and it was the summer, my second summer in college. So now I'm 21 and I'll never forget. I paid for an English class 'cause I was working part time so I had to pay my own summer tuition and I... Sitting in the English class, you got to the English class, summer school had just started, and like most kids, you go to the back. [chuckle] I get to the class and went to the back of the class. You don't wanna sit upfront and the professor comes in and he says... He looks [12:09] ____, And I wasn't the only Black kid in class. Okay? There were other Black kids in class. He said that... He suggested that the Black kids in class could leave because we weren't gonna be satisfied with our grades.

12:19 SC: The university professor said that? My goodness.

12:22 CH: Yeah. In his out-loud voice.

12:25 SC: Said you all should leave.

12:26 CH: Yeah. 'Cause you're not gonna be satisfied with your grade.

12:28 SC: Holy smokes.

12:30 CH: So everybody left except me.


12:34 CH: I stayed the whole semester and from that point forward, I sat up front on the first row. I said, "You know what, I may not be happy with the grade, but I'm gonna make his damn life totally miserable. The whole summer. I'm gonna teach this man to never say this again." And so the whole summer, he would ask a question, I would raise my hand. He would act like, I wasn't in class and I would do this, like here I am, "I'm in the front row. How can you miss me?" So he would never direct a question at me. But I was there, and I don't know whether I'm proud or ashamed of my actions, but I needed him to understand that, that was an inappropriate comment. You don't have to say everything you believe, but this guy was so comfortable in his own skin, and he had done it so many times, Sam, this wasn't the first time he had done it. Okay? He had been successful in getting Black kids to leave and I wanted to stop that cycle and I stopped it. I said, "No, today, this is your last day you're gonna say this". So that was my encounter.

13:42 SC: Good Gosh. Was your mother instrumental in giving you the ability... A lot of people leave. He does this terrible thing, says this. I don't know how many other classes he said that to, but then you go down front and you make the best grade you possibly can, you stand up for what you believe in, what's wrong, you're the only person in your class who decided to do that. Did your mother... I know in the first episode, you talked a lot about her and the importance and the value that she played in your life, but is that where you learned this toughness?

14:16 CH: Yeah, yeah, I learned it from her.

14:19 SC: What grade did you get in that class?

14:21 CH: I got a C.

14:22 SC: Is it a fair statement to say you would have gotten an A, as anybody else?

14:25 CH: Yeah, I would have gotten an A. I don't know whether... But I think I spent enough of my energy trying to make his life miserable. I don't know whether I deserved a C or not, but [laughter] I was so upset with him, but no, you're right, I didn't stand a chance of getting a decent grade in that class, and the fact that I got a C meant that it would should have been an A. That's happened before, you know what I mean? You just have to make sure that they don't hold you back. You just keep going. And you don't let them get in your head. I tell people all the time, that "The moment someone, I don't care what situation you're in, gets in your head, they win. You gotta keep them out of your head". I didn't let this guy get in my head. I didn't let him become the example of all people. He was him, and I didn't look at the university as being a bad place, I look at that professor as having issues that needed to be addressed. I don't know if any of the students complained. I didn't 'cause I didn't think it would do any good, to be honest with you, but we need to deal with him, and that is sad. And I'm sure there are other professors that way, but they're just smarter not to talk about it.

15:38 SC: Do you think things have gotten any better, stayed the same, or gotten worse as your career has continued to evolve and you've gone from working for a corporate company, being vice president of a corporate company, and now owning multiple companies right now?

15:56 CH: I think some things have gotten better and some things have stayed the same, I guess that's the best way to put it. When you say some of the things have gotten better, as you look at corporate America, some of the people in corporate America that's willing to embrace diversity and inclusion, they make it better. You look at some of the situations where people are... Their intent is for things to stay the same, and they don't want change, things have stayed the same. And when things get worse, they get worse when there's a downturn in the economy. A lot of people don't understand that, but what happens when there's a downturn in the economy, the pie shrinks so there's less opportunities. So when there's less opportunities, the competition gets to be stiffer, and that's when all of a sudden you see people in a more of a survival mode. They're not in an inclusive mode.

16:52 CH: So I've seen all three. The area that I've seen change the least, has been in the contracting space, doing business on the private sector, not the public sector. The public has tried to put goals and programming in place that is inclusive. People get upset about that. They have tried... Because you know what people say on the government side, that you're going to pay 5% more, 10% more in order to include a black or a woman or a black woman in the contracting space. In the construction space, it is a 200-300 year old industry that's been out there for a long time, and it's based on relationships. And a lot of those relationships go back to, "Daddy started the... Granddaddy started the company. We work with this group of subs and we've always done business this way," but if you've always done business this way, and that business tends to not be inclusive, figure it's time for a change.

17:53 CH: Now a lot of people say, "Well, why do I wanna change?" I actually heard somebody say this in an out loud voice, "My dad did business with this insurance company for the last 70 years, and we've known him forever, and I have no intension of changing it." And I said, "So there's a better product out there and a better opportunity." But this person was not even willing to accept a bid from a minority, because they wanted to stay with what their parents had done in the past. But if that's the case, we're never going to have equity, whether that's equity in wealth, equity in education, equity in health care, because we want everything to stay the same. That won't work, that can't work.

18:38 SC: You've talked a little bit about some parts where it gets better, you've talked about where it's stayed the same or gotten worse. Before you bought this company where you supply parts, fixtures, other products in the construction industry, were you aware of challenges that you were gonna face like we're talking about now, in really trying to grow your business, your product in the marketplace? Did you think about that before you bought the company, or is this just something you're connecting the dots on and you're experiencing now, so then it makes you tie it into other life experiences that you've had?

19:14 CH: When Jennifer and I talked about this company...

19:17 SC: Jennifer is your daughter, right?

19:18 CH: Yeah, Jennifer is my daughter. I did not expect the barriers to be there, over there. I was totally surprised at that because I had not... My interaction with the construction industry was on the side of the customer. When I was Vice President of Coors, we had groups that were doing construction for Coors, but I wasn't on the other side of that discussion. And interesting enough, Coors had goals that if you were a general contractor, they had to have at least 20% of women and minorities. And so as a vice president, I was always looking for ways to either help minorities grow, help women grow, because the performance of the facility was based on us hitting that 20%. And of course, the company wasn't happy with 20%. They wanted... That was your minimum. They expected you to exceed it. And we did things like tier-two goals, which meant that we've got a sub-contractor, he could actually have a goal for only doing 20% business with his suppliers at a tier-two level.

20:30 CH: I don't see that today. I felt really good about the work that we did at Coors. I mean, I hired an advertising agency. I connected a lot of different dots here in the community when I was the vice president for Coors. I don't see the big organizations doing that today. They have goals, but they don't say what their goals are, are goals for the whole United States. Well, you look at Sam Walton in Bentonville, Arkansas. I know he's dead, but you look at Walmart, Sam's Club, the Corporation in Bentonville. Do you think Bentonville is worried about Memphis, Tennessee?

21:07 SC: No, ma'am.

21:08 CH: Hell no. Bentonville is worried about making Bentonville a better city. And the companies there, Walmart is concerned about making sure that every dollar that they can put into Bentonville to make it a better place to live, improve the quality of life and improve the people, health, education, and so on. They're focused on that. What you hear from the corporations here in Memphis, Tennessee, and I've gone to those corporations. I'm not sitting here saying, I'm telling you something that I think happened, okay? I was there. I had the conversations personally, where that work, that contract and a lot of cases where it frustrated me is that I didn't get to even bid on the contract. The company did not get to bid on the opportunity because the gatekeepers is the same 100, 200-year-old gatekeeper. If you're not the subcontractor and you're the supplier and the sub has invited you in, but the sub's never worked with a black female or worked with anybody like me, why would they come in to work with me? What's driving them to do that?

22:15 CH: The big corporations aren't holding them accountable for it because they don't set tier-two targets and they don't see that that's a problem. And that's why you're seeing all the issues that's going on today is because a lot of people don't see that that is a problem. Nobody sees that the quality of education of our little kids is the problem. That's a problem, but all the same, we're gonna complain 10 years from now when we don't have a skilled workforce. Developing a skilled work force starts when the kids starts in kindergarten. And then every year they get progressively better, and then they finally graduate from high school and you have an amazing person who's ready, who contributes to the skilled workforce. But when you don't care at that early age or you are not making... You're not making sure that you have systems in schools and processes, and that we're making sure we're funding the education system the right way, so that we create that skilled workforce, my concern is that 10, 15 years from now, we're gonna say... Obviously say, we don't have a skilled workforce.

23:10 CH: The thing that I'm hearing today is like, "Okay. Well, we need to bring manufacturing back onshore because all the PPE that we don't have here, we're dependent on other countries to supply us." That's a real pipe dream. We haven't prepared the employees to be operators in manufacturing, but you don't wake up and start running equipment. I've been running plant for 20 years. You have to train people to be operators. You don't sit behind a desk one day and go start pushing buttons the next. That's one way to lose an arm, okay? [chuckle] No. We have to start training these kids now, if we want... If we truly want to onshore, re-shore our manufacturing, then we need to be investing in education right now.

23:56 SC: Alright, I wanna try to flush this out. Earlier in our conversation today, you talked about... That there is change where corporate executives, business owners... You didn't say the private sector, but I assume that implication is there as well, but where corporate leaders, business owners, private sector, whoever, when they embrace diversity and inclusion, that creates progress and change. You've also talked about how... With mandates within a corporate organization, that unless their requirements for Minority Participation is connected to not just the subcontractors, but also the suppliers, then it's not gonna fully create progress and change throughout the whole process. And then I also heard you talk about people miss and still miss how important it is with childhood education and formation, and how that is instrumental in us creating more opportunity and progress in our society today.

25:05 SC: So those are three kind of different comments, but they're all driving the same point and the same outcomes. What does it look like to you to actually create progress and change that incorporates diversity and inclusion across all races, men and women, in business, in our markets, but also where education is focused on the child's formation and development, is focused on... So then we have more of a skilled and capable workforce to supply and take care of the needs of a growing economy and a thriving country.

25:41 CH: I think that we have to have truly equal opportunity, true equal opportunity, not lip service, not someone standing in front of a podium saying, "We have it." I'm talking equal opportunity, where if a contract's out there, you have an opportunity to bid on it. You get to bid on a fair scale. That's equal opportunity. Equal opportunity starts businesses and grow businesses. And what that means is you have to have equal access to capital, because you can start a business, you're not gonna grow a business if you don't have access to capital. You're not gonna grow a business if you don't have access to the contracts or the opportunities. You're not gonna grow a business if you don't have access to the human capital, to good people. So when I say equal opportunity, we're talking a lot of different things. When we talk about the... You said, "Corporate and private " equal opportunity starts at the top. That's a top-down strategy. Inclusion, is a top-down strategy.

26:43 CH: It starts with the CEO. The CEO has to not accept excuses for why things are how they are. I made this statement years ago, if the CEO puts a business goal out there for his company and his vice presidents don't achieve it, and I used to be a vice president, then guess what? You can leave. In other words, they fire you. But when they don't hit the diversity goals, they don't hit the inclusion goals, any excuses come up as acceptable. "Oh, you know the cat was sick today, so we couldn't hit that 20%." "Oh Gosh, sick cat? Oh, I'm so sorry. Let's go, we'll take the 5%." No. If you didn't hit the 20%, then A, you're not gonna get a bonus. B, if you don't get it done next time, like any goal, I need to find somebody that can, okay? I need to find somebody... Like any other goal, what if a corporation here in Memphis didn't have sufficient growth and the shareholders weren't happy, what happens with the shareholders? They start... They want to fire the CEO... So the CEO better fire somebody else first, but what I'm saying is that in order to... For corporate America, in order to get inclusion and opportunity, top-down, they have to stop accepting any excuse that comes up. That doesn't work. You have to give inclusion and equal opportunity and equity the same significance that they give any other goal in the company. And I don't think that happens.

28:11 SC: What does that look like to develop a culture of diversity and inclusion, but then also of high performance, responsibility, accountability, engagement, to where the organization continues to move forward with diversity and inclusion?

28:26 CH: Well, if you have diversity and inclusion on corporate boards, then that board will be the voice of that equity and inclusion. But as long as your corporate boards continues to be 95% white male, what do you think? You may have one woman in there, or one black, and then you've got 10 white males. Even if they had an idea, the majority rules, am I right? Not enough voice. So you've gotta have a board make up that represents your community. You have to have that. And then that board is charged with making sure that they're asking those right questions about the business, about equity and inclusion, they get to ask when there is a promotion in a key position. They have an opportunity to participate in that recruitment, they vote on that position, and then you hold that person responsible. A board gets to set, a mixed board can push setting goals where there's tier-one and tier-two goals, am I right?

29:23 SC: Right.

29:23 CH: The right board, they can set that. Then all of a sudden when that CEO doesn't get his 10, $15,000,000 bonus, all of a sudden it takes on a different level of significance and importance. It starts at the top. That's why I said it, it starts at the top. We have got to look at change, the amount of change we need to make things... To get diversity and inclusion where we need it to be. It is such a big deal, it's such a heavy lift, Sam, it's not as easy as a lot of people think. It's not. We gotta figure out how we get more comfortable with each other. You know what I mean?

29:57 CH: Interesting, when I was in corporate America, and I was going for my first plant manager job, you know what I was told? That I would not become a plant manager if I couldn't make the CEO comfortable, sitting at the dinner table with me. It wasn't his job to be comfortable with me, it was my job for him to be comfortable. So I had to put the work in, and make the effort. He didn't have to make the effort, because he had the power to say, "Yes, she's in" or "no, she's not" So all the responsibility for acceptance in the organization was on me.

30:31 SC: From an educational standpoint, there's a lot of dollars going into the system, there's a lot of other organizations that have been started to empower and partner with our schools here and schools all across the country. And obviously, these are issues that are across the country, across the world, so it's not just here, where both you and I live, but specifically, what are you referencing regarding education and child formation in this conversation, what we're talking about with preparing our workforce.

31:05 CH: Well, let me tell you what, we're all concerned about Covid 19. We're all very concerned about that and all that, concerned for our health, concerned about our relatives and friends. But now is a good time for us to look at the education system. And maybe use Covid to the positive, if there can only be 12 people in the classroom because of social distancing, then put 12 in the classroom. I've always felt the classroom needs to be smaller anyway. Now, there is social distancing, you need to have less kids in the classroom. The teacher will develop a different relationship with that child in terms of what that child's capabilities are. I just think that there's a real opportunity to revamp our education system. I've always, and my kids hate it when I say this, but I'm gonna say it anyway. I've always felt kids need to go to school 12 months out of the year because that drain, the education drain they lose in summer time, they just lose too much, and there's just too much risk for them being without the guidance during summer time. If we're saying that our education system hadn't delivered in the last 20 years, why do we keep doing the same thing every year? You know, we know, what's the definition of insanity?

32:14 SC: Doing it over and over again, same results.

32:16 CH: Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome. You're not gonna get a different outcome. And so, no, I just think that we need to invest in our education system. We need to throw more money in. Every time there is a budget cut, we cut the teacher's salary, we cut what we contribute to the schools. And the teachers are managing our most important asset that's going to determine how well our future is or is not, our children. But we're putting the least investments behind the teachers, behind the children, it is almost an after thought. And then we are surprised at the results. What is there to be surprised about? It can't be any better. We should be surprised if it's great, because we didn't put the money in it to be great. Am I right? But we're surprised, then we get the results, we look through the numbers, "Oh, well, we had a 1% improvement." But we took away 3% of the funding for only 1% improvement. Okay, guys. You got what you paid for, as they say.

33:17 SC: One of the things that I had in the notes that I... And just through some preparation that I did prior to our conversation today, but I just... Which we've already touched on this, but you've already covered it and I didn't even ask about it directly. But there's just an uptick in corporate diversity roles, I know specifically in the United States. I don't know exactly about other countries throughout the world. But I feel like you've already touched on it and answered it, and if it's lip service or if it's done from a political perspective, then I guess it's fair to say that you would say that it's not effective.

33:53 CH: I would say that. I've been saying it for the last 10 years.

33:57 SC: And so, but what you're saying, what drives true change if the board of directors is engaged, well-represented and the priorities are clear, then that's gonna drive the CEO, that's gonna drive the organization, and that's gonna drive everything from the top-down. And I guess you're kinda talking about education as well. You're talking about any of these things that we're talking about today. When there's true buy-in, true representation and true engagement and clear priorities across the board, that's what's gonna do it. But if it's like within a family, within any relationship, if the things are not really done from the bottom-up, then it's not truly gonna be lasting, it's not truly gonna be effective.

34:39 CH: Change is not... If it's not top-down, if it doesn't become part of your culture, it is not sustainable, it's not. And I've never seen it sustained without top-down support. And it has to be measured. That's another thing. If you don't put in performance measurements, the qualitative and the quantitative measures, then how do you know that you've done as good as you can? When I've been on boards, when they say, "Well, best efforts." Sam, you don't have kids, but my kids would love for me to tell them, "Okay, whatever report card you bring home, I'm just gonna go with your best efforts." Okay. Would you accept that? No. Okay. So, but that's what we do. We don't wanna put a goal, because a goal that's measurable can be discussed and can be challenged. But best efforts said that I woke up and I asked a question, I made a couple of calls, and then I went on and did what else I had to do.

35:41 CH: And when I hear that term, that is the historical way or the historical word for "I'm not going to do anything." That's the historical word for that, best efforts. I don't accept best efforts in my business. Companies that are growing, that are successful, none of them accept best effort. When Wall Street calls them, Wall Street will say, "Your plan was to grow 5% or 2% or 100%" if you're a technology company. I've never heard Wall Street say, "I'm gonna give you 100% because you did best efforts." Am I right? Have you ever heard Wall Street say that?

36:21 SC: No, ma'am.

36:22 CH: Okay. Well then, why do we accept when we're setting goals for inclusion, for diversity we say best efforts? If we hear that again, we all are like, if there's a politician in office we should say, "Next time you say that, I'm gonna go out there and I'm gonna put ads out there that say don't vote for that person." Don't vote for them because all they know about improving our city... We're gonna ask them to improve where we are, and all the things that we've asked them to control and all they're gonna give us is what? Best efforts.

36:51 SC: How have you... I know we have a hard stop. But all the things that we've talked about and I appreciate how honest you've been and how honest you are. How have you taken all these experiences and I know it's probably been progressive, not just continuous. I can't imagine what it's like with the anger and just endurance. But how have you used these things to create change within your own organizations that you own and try to make the world a better place with what you're directly in ownership of or the boards that you're involved with? And what gives you hope just to keep battling it out day after day and keep creating positive value?

37:33 CH: You know, Sam, there are some organizations out there that truly wants to work with women and minority. There are some out there. Okay, I'm not naming... Since I'm not naming the bad names, I'm not naming the good ones either, okay? A lot of people who hear this would... I'm sure they're shocked that I didn't call out any names. I'm trying to be good. Okay? And the hope is that there are some organizations that honestly want to work with you. They give you a fair opportunity. They expect you to give them a competitive bid that wins. They expect you to give them a great service. So they don't let you off. A lot of people think that, "Oh, so they're accepting less." No, no, no, no, no, no. They expect you to be on top of it. And that's how my team, Memphis team's on top of it, totally on top. Love working with those folks.

38:24 CH: But then there're some that every month, every few months, we try to meet new people in the space, introduce the services, what we bring to the table, and they smile, they shake our hands, then they send us to the gatekeeper, okay? And you know the gatekeeper is the one that they're not gonna let you in. And so they send you to the gatekeeper, and there's never any business. And after you see that that gate has locked tight on it, [chuckle] you're not gonna get in, move away. You have to tell yourself life's too short to be barking up that same tree, that person isn't gonna change. And what they give you, what they offer you in terms of opportunity is going to be crumbs. And then they're gonna beat the daylight out of you for the crumbs. It's not worth it. For the little smidgen that you get, you're going to have to sacrifice your true business because you're going to give them so much service that you're gonna lose money.

39:27 CH: So you have to know when to walk away. And one of the chapters in my book says all business is not... One of the things I talk about a lot, is all business is not good business and that's a very true statement. You have to know when the business is not good business. All relationships are not good relationships, you have to be willing to walk away, and the key thing is that you don't take it personally even though it is personal. I don't want to tell you it's not personal, but it is personal but you can't take it personal because you do not want to, these type of negative things, to change your personality because it can, you can sour, you can become bitter. I refuse to let that change my life because I like being a happy person, I like being around people, I like laughing, I don't wanna live with the fact that there's people that don't like me just because of who I am, the color of my skin and the fact that I'm a female. I don't wanna... I don't have to think about that all the time.

40:16 SC: How do you... Just from a real practical standpoint, how have you learned how to do that?

40:21 CH: Well, I surround myself with people who are open-minded and that are unique like me. And when I say open-minded that's black and white. We get along very well, a lot of mutual respect, I respect them, they respect me. So it's just, if someone doesn't wanna be around you, you need to let them go, you don't need to be around them, that's how you do it. I had a gentleman, this was with my first company, and he did not like blacks at all, and I kept trying to engage him and so on, and he was a supervisor, he'd come over with me from Coors, and I could never get him on my side, I finally let him go. I hear that he never found another job. We were paying his bills whether he liked it or not, his bills were being paid, but he couldn't respect my business. You can't work for me because you're white and you work for my company, you're not doing me a favor. I write the check, and so this person couldn't buy into my goals, into the company. I felt that he was in pain, so I had to let him out of his pain.

41:29 SC: So what I'm hearing you say, especially here at the end, is you learned very early on that you were gonna have a target on your back, that you were gonna experience unfair, racist and unjust comments and actions, but you learned early on that you are going to have to go above and beyond constantly to have to protect yourself and to give no ammunition on anything people could use against you. And then I'm also... What I'm hearing you say is, now towards this part of your career, your purpose has changed but you're gonna fight, you're gonna be honest, you're gonna say things as you think they are, and you're gonna do the best, you're gonna build the best organizations that you can. And you're gonna have those uncomfortable conversations, you're gonna fight for people out there to make the world and our community a better place, but then you're also gonna move on too. And you know that there's people out there that are not gonna change, and then you know there is a lot of opportunity out there with other people as well, so it's just this balance, and intention of growth, endurance, being tough-minded, but then also call in reality for where it is and then trying to invest your time and resources and energy, in the best way you can, is that a fair statement?

42:50 CH: That's a fair statement, Sam, and I would hope that... I wanna use my next journey in my life just to make sure a lot of majority companies, I want to take all the experiences that I've had in corporate America and my business and help my children grow companies and make a contribution to the community in a substantial way. I see my companies... Well, there's the Smucker Company... I knew Paul Smucker who's a dad and his sons Tim and Richard. He was making sure that Paul created a company that he could pass to his sons. He worked himself to the bone, and that's my goal. I want to support my daughter while my health is great to grow a company that can have a major impact on this community. I wanna give her all the advice, all the guidance, all the connections, everything that I can, and there're other black business owners that wanna do the same thing. We talk about trying to create a skilled workforce, what happens when the skills of someone like myself that's been out there for 30, 40 years, is not used and is just allowed to die? It's not transferred to the next generation, that's a loss to our economy, that's a loss to our community. And so that's where I'm hoping... I'm hoping that by participating in the right corporate boards that... You know that voice we've talked about at the top?

44:15 SC: Yes Ma'am.

44:16 CH: I'm making sure that I'm holding those CEOs accountable to... When they say they can't find a minority of women to do business with, I tell them, I say, "Well, let me send you some names." And I do. I send them names and say, "Talk to these organizations, they've got the human capital, they've got the working capital, they got all the things that you need to do business with." Now, is there one thing they may not have, there might be one thing, but you know what, any company has that problem, even a majority company, nobody is perfect. Am I right? So why do you expect me to be perfect, why do you expect minority businesses to be perfect? So my legacy, I hope I go down continuing to be honest about my opinions, I hope I continue to breathe integrity into business processes. And I hope that I create another generation that is different than the ones that we've seen. God willing.

45:09 SC: Yes, ma'am. Well, I'm so glad we have been able to have another conversation. The way you left it on the first one, there was too much there and you were too blunt to not try to have a follow-up conversation on hashing it out more on what you mean and what's driving you today. So I appreciate everything that you've shared, I appreciate how honest you are, and I appreciate you coming on this afternoon and breaking this down a little bit more.

45:36 CH: Sam, I always enjoy talking to you. It appears that you don't mind asking those tough questions. You want the truth, you want to hear opinions, and that's the way it has to be, that's how you get good inclusion, that's how you get good information, that's how you get to really know someone. You get to know that real person, that's who you wanna know, you don't wanna know the fake person, am I right? You want a real person. And so I think you're asking those questions and out there doing those interviews and meeting some really good people and I think that's gonna help you on your journey.

46:07 SC: Thank you, that's very kind for you to share that. Hey, everybody thanks for listening. I hope you learned at least one thing today that you can apply to your own life. If you like the show please make sure and leave a review and be sure to tune in each week 'cause I'll be releasing a new episode, hope you have a great day.


John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber