Inspirational (Editorial)

It's awards season - the Winter Olympics and the Oscars, of course, but also the University of Arkansas' Business Hall of Fame induction and the 22nd Arkansas Business of the Year awards banquet coming up this week.

The Business Hall of Fame event, while overlong, was inspirational in its recognition of some of the best-known names and faces in recent Arkansas business history:

  • Tommy May, CEO of Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff;
  • Northwest Arkansas real estate developer Jim Lindsey;
  • The late Bill Clark, founder of CDI Contractors of Little Rock; and
  • The inimitable Jerry Jones, who grew up in North Little Rock but has made his mark on Texas as the owner of the Dallas Cowboys football franchise.

The successes of all four inductees are obvious, and their personal stories are testaments to the importance of calculated risk-taking and being ready to jump on opportunities when they present themselves. If business mistakes can be categorized as sins of commission and sins of omission, we suspect there are far more of the latter - opportunities missed, risks not taken.

But we were also struck by the fact that the three honorees who were able to speak for themselves mentioned also their failures. Lindsey, who (with Jones) was a member of the Razorbacks' only national championship football team in 1964 and then had a successful career in the NFL, said football taught him an important business lesson: When you get knocked down, you can't lie there on the field and cry. You have to get back up and continue playing. May praised his early mentors, including previous Hall of Fame inductee Louis Ramsay, for allowing him the opportunity to fail a few times. Jones told of going, hat in hand, to another Hall of Famer, Bill Bowen, to ask for a $17,000 loan secured by a plane that couldn't get off the ground.

On Tuesday night, three small businesses, a nonprofit organization, a nonprofit executive and a small business executive will be honored at our Business of the Year banquet. The judges of those awards often complain that it is hard to choose the five finalists in each category and the ultimate winners because their accomplishments are equally impressive and inspirational in very different ways. (Three of our first 21 Business Executive of the Year winners - Robert Nabholz Sr., Sheridan Garrison and Bill Clark - are now also in the University of Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.)

Here's what we hope the audience takes away from our event: a realization that Arkansas is still producing men and women who create value for themselves and others by recognizing and filling market voids, who elevate our state and its business community by sheer force of will. And like those titans of business who have gone before them, they are willing to risk failure in order to succeed.