Phew. I am some glad it’s all over. I’m putting the 2014 campaigns in the rear view mirror and driving ahead to a better day, inspired by September’s Envision Maine Summit, a gathering of an impressive group of business and other leaders. Envision Maine is led by Alan Caron, and his first summit was a stunning success.
The innovative program included 10 leaders who each were given three minutes to share their vision for Maine’s Future. Shawn Moody, the smart entrepreneurial owner who has empowered his employees at Moody Collision Centers, urged us to “focus on youth. Upward mobility will never be greater, due to our elderly population,” he noted.
Melissa Smith, three weeks after having her first child, told us her personal story about growing up on a potato farm where she learned “there are no limits.” A graduate of the University of Maine, Melissa founded credit card company WEX, based in South Portland, which now has $4 billion in market capital and 700 employees — all in Maine.
Caron summed up the 10 presentations by noting that, “faith in ourselves is the key.” All 10 speakers demonstrated that. Each was inspiring.
U.S. Sen. Angus King opened the summit with an impressive speech, starting with a quote from Abe Lincoln, who was asked, “What would you do if you had 30 minutes to chop wood?” Lincoln replied, “I would spend the first 10 minutes sharpening my ax.”
King told the audience, “We’re sharpening our axes today.” Then he got a good laugh when he defined our state’s motto, Dirigo, as “We’ve never done it that way before.”
His speech was a real pep talk, listing Maine success stories, such as exporting wooden spoons from Guilford to China. “There’s nothing wrong with Maine,” he said. Boy, did we need to hear that.
And he dispelled some Maine myths. “We’ve got the lowest electric rates between here and Pennsylvania,” for example. “Keep it in perspective,” he suggested, noting that we have “huge advantages.” Well, you’ve got to admire the man’s optimism.
“We’re entrepreneurial,” King said. “We’ve had to be. This is a tough place,” he explained. “The key to economic growth is leadership,” he told us. “It’s Shawn Moody and many of you.”
Then King presented the “10 elements of what it takes to be an entrepreneurial success,” complete with examples of each element.
First was vision — he used Idexx as an example. Idexx is the global market leader in diagnostics and information technology solutions for animal health and water and milk quality.
Second was imagination, creativity and flexibility. Hussey Seating Co., of North Berwick, a family-owned company founded in 1835, and Federal Express were examples.
Third was willingness to take risks, and he had lots of examples, from Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, a 5,000-acre working farm, diverse business campus and educational and recreational venue, to high-tech businesses. Fourth was perseverance. King told the story about how he had to go to five banks to get financing for his business.
Attitude was the fifth element. “Failure is not an option. Optimism is essential.” Another good slogan for our political leaders.
“You’ve got to have a team you value and empower,” he reported as the sixth element. He used Wick Johnson, owner of Kennebec Technologies, in Augusta, as an example, noting that Johnson “knows everyone in his plant.”
“Hire good people and take credit for what they do,” King said. “It works for me.” That got a good laugh. But given that my sister Edie is the manager of King’s state offices and staff, I had to agree.
The seventh element was communication. “You’ve got to be able to communicate your vision,” he said. “The first 15 seconds is critical in an interview or public appearance.”
Execution was number eight, which he called “as important as vision.” Ninth was luck, and everybody related to that. Last but not least, the 10th element was “integrity, honesty and core principles.”
“People can now work where they live,” King said, “instead of having to live where they work. That’s where Maine has an advantage.”
I would have added an 11th element: making do. In Maine, we know how to make do. Indeed, King demonstrated this with his speech. I grabbed it after he was finished, hoping to take additional notes from his text.
But all he had was a list of the elements and a few notes, written on the back of the day’s program. Why use a fresh sheet of paper when you can make do with something else?
Regardless of who won in Tuesday’s elections, we’ll make do.