A Priceless Gift!

Little did I know that the scholarship meeting at my church would produce a gift that I would come to love and ultimately find priceless. At this meeting, I met a young woman, Karla Denyce Smith. She had recently moved to the DC area and we were attending the same church but different services. This meeting brought us together.

KarlameDCAfter talking for a while to each other, we realized a mutual friend had told both of us to contact the other. But until this meeting, neither of us had- each busy settling into new jobs. After our meeting concluded, we decided to go to brunch and continue getting acquainted. And that became our Sunday routine for years- church and then brunch. We had so much in common- only children whose fathers were deceased; close relationship with our mothers whom we cherished; active members of the A.M.E. church since children; earned doctoral degrees (Ph.D. and J.D.); committed to serving; loved to eat out, shop and travel; both single and never married.

 I became the “big sister” and we did life together-  professional growth, faith building, matters of the heart, social activities, holidays, and community service. We each stood by the other at our weddings.


Then one day we started down an unchartered path together. Karla was diagnosed with cancer. There was surgery and chemo. There was good news… remission. Then there was recurrence … radiation … more chemo. Through it all, Karla continued to ‘smile’ and maintain her positive attitude. During our last visit together, she said, “Just because you are sick, you don’t have to look sick.” And she didn’t. No one would know just by looking at Karla that she was fighting for her life.


This weekend was one of my most difficult. I had to say “see you later” to my dearest friend of 35 years. When I think of Karla, I think of a friend whose spirit was kind, caring, generous, and loving. When I close my eyes, the image I have of Karla is one of beauty, grace, professionalism, and excellence. When I reflect on what I know about Karla, I know that God was the head of her life and in Him she trusted. I know she had found her soul mate, Byron Fuller, and loved doing life with him. I know family was important and always at the Center of her life. I know she gave unselfishly to all that she committed to… her church, sorority, professional associations,  the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Links, Incorporated. I know that she never failed to reach back and lift others up or reach out, cheer, and encourage others forward. I know she ran her race well, never gave up and faced her challenges with a positive outlook. Karla lived life to the fullest. Through my tears, I was able to smile, know that all is well, and one day Karla and I will get to spend more time together in our heavenly home with our Father.

Karla’s friendship became a priceless gift!

As a business owner, one of my major responsibilities is to continuously examine ways to keep costs down and increase revenue so that my company realizes a reasonable profit. During one self-assessment period, revenue had decreased while costs had increased. Needless to say, if that continued, sustainability of the business was in jeopardy.cost-center Upon review of the costs, it appeared there was one major cost center that could be reduced and provide the latitude needed to sustain the business while  directing attention to increasing revenues. As a result, the decision was made to relocate the business and subsequently reduce overhead costs significantly.

In order to accomplish this, I pulled out my existing lease and reviewed the renewal terms.contract It clearly stated that the lessor needed to be notified 120 days before the beginning of the next lease period or the lease would be renewed automatically.  I immediately counted three months from the date and marked my calendar to submit my letter at least 2 weeks before that date.  Plans were then made to relocate.

One month prior to moving, a letter was received from the lessor stating that my lease had been renewed for another year. “That can’t be correct,” I thought. Someone has made a mistake. When I followed up, the office informed me that ‘my notification letter was late.’ How could that be? I had marked my calendar and sent it two weeks earlier. The contract put-on-calendarmanager indicated to me the date, which marked 120 days and it was not the date that I had on my calendar. After the call, I pulled out the lease, reviewed it again, looked at my date and the date the lessor was indicating it should be, and then realized that it was indeed an error. The error was on me, in that I had marked 3 months (90 days) instead of 4 months (120 days). And even though I had submitted it earlier than the due date, it was still late. missed-deadline

I called the sales agent who had originally worked with me on the lease and was told that the contract always stands. But I could advertise my space and see if I could get someone to lease it. He would work with me to do the same. Unfortunately, no one was interested. The window of time was narrowing, my move plans were in motion, and the contract manager was saying there was no option other than for me to continue my lease or discuss it with the owner. Then appealing  my case to the owner was my only option and an appointment was made.


I was nervous about the meeting because after all the years of leasing from his company, the owner and I had never met. Consequently, unlike the sales agent, he had no idea of who I was and similarly I didn’t know him. When the door of the conference room opened, the owner entered with my file in hand. He was all business , methodically went through the facts, and then asked me “what was this meeting about?” I then explained the situation at hand: the current state of my business, self-assessment process, my decision, my review of the lease, submission of my notification letter, and my actions to secure a tenant.  mymistakesI affirmed that my letter was late and that I had made the mistake of counting three months instead of four.   “And  so what are you asking of me?” he queried. To which I replied, “to let me out of my lease.” He laughed and said “I thought that was what you wanted.” He then went on to say that he could count the number of times of his hand that such a request had been honored. But he looked me in the eye and said that it was also the first time he had come to such a meeting and the tenant was not screaming at him, making demands even when it was their fault, and not acknowledging their mistake. While I don’t know you, what you did today speaks to your character. I will get with the sales agent and contract manager and get back with you. For now, “don’t worry just stay focused on growing your business.” I left with hope that my request would be honored.

Then months passed and each month a new bill arrived with late fees adding up. I would forward the bill to him with a cover note that I was awaiting his response to my request. Then finally, the long awaited response.

I apologize that it has taken so long to get back to you since our last meeting.

I wanted to relay to you that in the 50 year history of this company, the number of leases that we have terminated could be counted on one hand.  That said, I also wanted you to know that during our meeting, I was so very impressed with how you were handling your setbacks in such a professional and straightforward manner that I felt that your request was certainly worthy of consideration.  To that end, I have asked our office to wipe your account clean and to terminate further obligations.

I wish you nothing but the best.

Please remember us when you are rich and famous, as there is no doubt in my mind that success will be yours.

Needless to say I was overjoyed and relieved. The lesson taught many years ago by my mother to “always tell the truth no matter what the outcome might be” was indeed a valuable lesson. truthmatters2





The Golden Rule

Instead of heading to meet my fiancé for a fun-filled weekend, I was on a plane headed to Oklahoma City planning a corporate audit of the company’s clinical services. Joining me were all the lead quality improvement professionals across our rehabilitation fields and company divisions. There was much work to be done to complete the audit in a timely manner and make our report to the Corporate leadershipaudit

Over the next ten days we worked tirelessly examining patient records, clinical documentation, interviewing patients, and facility personnel. Our evenings were spent reviewing data collected, identifying additional data needs, and planning for next steps. Exhausted,  everyone departed for home confident that we had completed successfully the audit, identified what was working, areas needing improvement and had developed sound recommendations.

After arriving home, immediately the audit report was finalized, circulated to the team for review,  and feedback. Then it was about preparing for my meeting with the Company President. Our audit had identified processes that could be improved, but more importantly it recognized the need for people development. Our direct service providers needed training in areas that put our company at risk.  Our supervisors weren’t as effective as they could be in managing and utilizing assistants and aides. Investing in our people would minimize future risk and increase productivity, patient, and customer satisfaction.The people development recommendations came with a  hefty price tag in that we were the largest employer of rehabilitation professionals next to the Veteran’s Administration. My job was to convince the President of the company benefits that would be derived as a result of its investment.   As an officer of the company, I was aware of the need to meet our  return to stockholders’ projections.  I had to make sure that the proposed cost  of our recommendations would not jeopardize that commitment. Our chairman always reminded us that “our word is our bond.” So I ran our numbers by the Chief Financial Officer. auditreportAfter integrating his feedback, I was confident that the audit report was comprehensive, accurate, and justified our  recommendations. Next, it was time to share the audit report with the President.

The President looked over the report, listened attentively to my presentation, asked a few questions, and then indicated that the recommendations were too costly. He then asked me if I knew about the golden rule. Why of course, as a child my parents had taught me “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But what did that have to do with the company and my recommendations? (I thought) Seeing my puzzled look, the President realized that we were not talking about the same rule. He then said, “I think you may not have heard about the golden  rule I am referencing- “He who has the gold sets the rules.” rememberThe President was right, this was a new rule for me. At that moment I realized so often conflicts I had experienced in decision making had resulted from my lack of understanding this rule. If a person who has the gold differs in perspective from those making recommendations, then the person with the gold will always rule! In that instance, I recognized the importance of “having the gold.” Later, I launched my business  in pursuit of building a company that creates the gold so that I could begin setting my rules. Today, my attention is directed toward growing a B.E.S.T. movement that “brings out the B.E.S.T. in people and organizations.”   I get to set the rules!




Sweet 16

Annually in my home town, the Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. hosted a Jabberwock Extravaganza. It was an event that most of our community supported. performances-2Groups began preparing performances for their competition as soon as the theme was announced. My Godmother was always actively involved and that meant for as long as I can remember, I was right there in the audience enjoying being in a special section. My childhood dream was that one day I would be crowned Miss Jabberwock.

Then it happened, I turned 16 and my Godmother thought it was time for me to enter the Jabberwock Pageant. This contest was all about raising money for the organization’s scholarship fund.  Winning the contest was my goal. I was determined to make my dream a reality- “being crowned Miss Jabberwock.”

My first thought was to come up with a new strategy to raise money beyond just asking people to take out ads for the souvenir journal and purchasing tickets for the event. All the contestants and their sponsors would be doing that. I wanted to do something different.  But what could it be? Finally, I had an idea and shared it with my mother to get her feedback. She thought the idea would generate money and was fully on board. I couldn’t wait to contact one of my dearest friends to see if she would be willing to be a part of my plan. After I explained to her what I needed, she agreed to support me. Then I made a list of other friends who might also be willing to join my fundraising activity. Each person I asked said they were willing to support me after getting approval from their parents. Next was my aunt, who was known for raising the most money for her church group. I gave her a call and she was all in to assist me not only in selling tickets but identifying a sponsor. There was one last but important detail that I needed to confirm. Would my piano teacher be supportive?  When I explained my idea and asked her what she thought, she replied “Why that is novel. I think you just might have a winner.” She cautioned me that to pull it off I would need to practice daily and memorize my music. If I was committed to doing those things, she was willing to get me prepared. Without hesitation, I agreed. My teacher selected the songs that I would play and then I began preparing. My friend began rehearsing her songs too. I was excited to present my first piano recital. And to have my friend as my guest soloist.

Now to promote my recital, required getting tickets printed and designing flyers that could be disseminated to local churches and businesses.tickets My friends then helped me disseminate them. I visited people at their homes and made a personal sales pitch.  Tickets were only a dollar. So people often bought several. Before I knew it, all of my 500 tickets were sold.

The day of my recital, I performed to a packed church, my friend sang beautifully and there standing with me were all of my friends serving as ushers. ushersBetween ticket sales, patrons, and sponsors, I exceeded my goal. Now I had to wait and see if my effort would be enough for me to win.

The night of the Pageant finally arrived.  I was excited more than ever because Lena Horne was in town. The word had spread that she would be crowning Miss Jabberwock. And the winner this evening of Miss Jabberwock is…..


My name was called and I stepped forward as Lena Horne crowned me Miss Jabberwock! This was indeed my “Sweet 16!”

There were several lessons that I learned from this event about winning  winningthat I have carried with me over the years.

Winning is the result of…. not being afraid to dream big and try something new; getting feedback from others about your ideas;  developing and executing a strategy; engaging others to support you in your effort; spending personal time with people whose support you need; preparing diligently; and staying focused.


Forgotten- At the Bottom!

 The CEO, HR VP and I headed over to the site of our new facility for a walk-through. building

As we entered the building, the HR VP explained that the third floor was the top floor and the most important in the building. He immediately pointed out the office suites of the Chairman and CEO. While pointing out his office space, we learned the dimensions of the VP offices and that each had a window view. All direct reports had a nice size office with windows too. I was excited to hear this because I knew my team would be happy given they were working currently in cubicles. Walking through the floor, the offices of the VP of Finance, Regulatory Affairs, and their direct reports were identified. Then we stepped on the elevator and headed to the second floor.  Offices of the  VP of Information Technology and his team were identified along with the new hardware and data systems. Finally, we were on the bottom floor. The HR VP then turned to me and pointed out my office and my direct reports offices. Immediately, it was easy to recognize that the office size was not comparable to the VP offices seen on the previous floors, and my direct reports offices did not have windows. shock

I was shocked and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How would I ever explain to my Department that we were on the bottom floor, while the other departments were at the top?

Upon returning, the HR VP and I had a  previously scheduled meeting. Excited about showing off the new building, he immediately engaged me in conversation about it.

HR VP:   “So what do you think about the new building?”

Me:   “I wouldn’t take my mother to see it.”

HR VP:   With a look of disbelief he asked, “why would you say that?”

ME:  “Well, at the outset of the tour, you told the CEO and me that the most important floor was the third. And at the end of the tour, you showed me the location of my department which was on the bottom floor. What message do you think that sends, when the VP of Professional Services is the only female VP in the company? The only African-American VP? The only VP with a rehabilitation background, which is the focus of the business? In fact, know that I will have a hard time coming from the bottom floor to the top when summons for a meeting.  Also, I don’t know how I will explain this to my department and keep them excited about the move when my direct reports will not have windows and comparable space to their counterparts.”


HR VP: Stunned with my response and questions, he responded. “I don’t know what to say. That was never our intention.”

As soon as I arrived at the office the next morning, the CEO’s secretary called to say that the CEO wanted to see me right away. When I walked into the office, there was the HR VP with the CEO and blueprints spread out over the conference table.


CEO:  ” Last night, the HR VP shared with me your conversation. And I want you to know that the company does not want to send messages that are not reflective of our values, beliefs, and priorities.  We have re-examined the space allocation and your department is being moved to the third floor. Here is the location.” Pointing to the blue print, the CEO then said, “you and your direct reports have space comparable to your counterparts.”

ME: “I am pleased that you have addressed this issue prior to the move.  Would you please, show me the measurements so that I can be certain that all of our space is comparable to the other departments?”   measuringfloorplans

HR VP: Pulls out the ruler, measures, and validates the space size is the same.

ME. “Thanks for resolving this issue so quickly. My department’s location on the top floor sends the message to our stakeholders (both internal and external) that women, minorities, and our customers are as important to the company as our finances and government regulations.”

I left relieved that I was not going to have to let my department know that we had been forgotten, overlooked, and on the bottom floor.


  • Make sure you obtain regular project updates, including specifics that relate to you.
  • People don’t always recognize when their actions aren’t in alignment  with their words and values.
  • Don’t just point out what you perceive as a problem or issue, also point out the impact of not addressing the problem or identifying the issue
  • Show gratitude when problems are resolved and issues identified

10 B.E.S.T. Life Lessons

“If your presence doesn’t make an impact, your absence won’t make a difference.”

This quote reminded me of my Godfather’s home going celebration. Rev. Carl F. Brinkley had been a part of my life since birth, supporting me through all stages of my life and comforting me when both of my parents passed. As I listened to individuals from different parts of his life, pay tribute to him and attest to the significant impact that he had made on their lives and others, I recognized that my Godfather  had left me with 10 B.E.S.T. Life Lessons.10

  1. Let your faith inform your work
  2. Spend more time caring about others than focusing on self
  3. Know when to bring peace to the table
  4. Don’t accept no; continue to look for the possibilities
  5. Regardless of the circumstance, continue to fight on
  6. Be a trail blazer
  7. Don’t just talk, act
  8. Remember to think about what you say, to whom, when
  9. Love community and people
  10. Make sure you have the right temperament for the right time

Thanks Godfather for continuing to make a difference!  make a difference


Jets & Limos: Are They Really Perks?

As I pulled up and parked in a space reserved for my company, it was my first time in a private airport.

Airhostess and pilot greeting business people before boarding private jet
Air hostess and pilot greeting business people before boarding private jet

Before I could try and figure out what to do next, there was someone at my car door asking for my bags, whisking them and me away at the same time. No lines nor delays as we moved swiftly to the jet. Now that was service at its best.  Soon everyone was settled on the company’s private jet. All the key players together, sipping coffee, and strategizing about the big meeting ahead. It was clear to us that the Chairman expected this meeting to yield a partnership, integral to our company’s next growth phase. This ride provided an opportunity to make sure everyone was on the same page and everything was buttoned up. It seemed like only minutes instead of hours when the pilot could be heard announcing the landing and at the same time our limo was pulling up on the tarmac. perks While stepping off the jet into the limo, bags secured, we were on our way. Within minutes, the chairman was on the speaker phone giving us an update that was necessary to prevent being blindsided at the upcoming meeting. Just as the chairman answered our last question, the limo pulled up at the meeting location, the driver was helping us out, and gathering the materials needed.

The meeting started on time and everyone was on one accord. The potential partners were impressed that all members of our team were able to answer their questions. Print materials were provided that contained the additional level of detail needed to help them feel comfortable that our company was the right partner.  As we stood up and shook hands, everyone was relieved when the leader of the partnership said he was looking forward to our collaborative relationship and knew that working together there would be a significant impact on the industry. Our driver was right there as we walked out the door and once in the limo, everyone cheered. Immediately the phone rang, and we all smiled knowing it was the chairman wanting to hear the outcome. Responding to the call, our CEO said, “Mr. Chairman we have a new partnership.” “Just what I expected,” the chairman replied.

Everyone was staying to work out the details except me. I was off to another meeting with the chairman that was to begin at 8 am the next morning several states away. Luckily the jet was going to get me there early evening. While waiting on room service, I would have just enough time to unpack and check my messages.


The next morning, the car service picked me up at 6:30 am so that I could meet with the chairman prior to the meeting. Over breakfast, we talked about the previous meeting and he reminded me that all of the company perks had made it possible for us to close the deal.  I considered the chairman, my personal coach. He liked providing me with tips about the corporate world since this was my first private sector experience and senior leadership position. This morning’s tip- “You see the jet, limo, and car service are all tools I use to make sure we are prepared, use our time efficiently, increase our productivity, and can be responsive to our customers and partners.” And then the chairman seized the last few minutes in the car to review the outline of my remarks.  When the driver opened the door, we both knew we were prepared for the next meeting. And I knew it was in part due to our access to a cadre of tools- jets, limos, and car service.

Your BEST Thoughts

What are some tools that you use to facilitate using your time efficiently?

What tools have you used to increase your productivity?

What perks do you have that facilitates your ability to “be prepared?”