Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Entrepreneurs Foundation of North Texas makes it easy to be good

Ray L. Hunt
Ray L. Hunt, CEO of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., inducted into the EFNT "Ring of Honor" tonight
Tonight, I enjoyed yet another fantastic evening in the company of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of North Texas. The Foundation's Director, the inimitable Pam Gerber, consistently pulls off some of the best events in Dallas.

This evening's affair was the 7th Annual Spirit of Entrepreneurship: Exploring Philanthropy!. I wandered amidst a crowd of more than 300 Dallas-area business, political and community leaders at this "exclusive event designed to highlight businesses that make 'good corporate citizenship' their competitive edge!"

The event honored local philanthropist Ray Hunt, who was formally inducted into the Foundation's "Ring of Entrepreneurs" with wonderful introductions by Pam Gerber, Brent Christopher of the Communities Foundation of Texas (the parent organization for EFNT), SMU's Dr. Gerald Turner and the events title sponsors, NexBank.

Ray Hunt's remarks were brief, as he said that prefered to avoid speeches in favor of Q&A sessions. His five main points, which have previously been the focus of a blog on
Larry James' Urban Daily, included:
1. Great companies develop a strong corporate culture, with shared values and a strong work ethic. "If you have a group of men and women with shared personal values and work ethic, they can do anything," Hunt said.

2. Great companies possess the ability to differentiate themselves from other groups. "If you are like everybody else, that means you're average," Hunt declared.

3. Great companies demonstrate adaptability. Change is expected, never a surprise. Hunt commented that he agreed with Darwin, that greatness was often defined more by being the most adaptable than simply the strongest, fastest or smartest.

4. Great companies adapt with amazing speed. It is no longer enough to be able to change or adapt. It is now necessary to be able to adapt as quickly as possible, and that as a part of normal operating procedures. Hunt commented that the increasing speed of worldwide communications has accelerated much of this.

5. Great companies are very willing to be contrarian. "If you see the whole industry going in some direction, you will not find us there," Hunt confessed. The sample he offered was that if the audience were told that there was a terrible traffic jam on the nearby highway, that very few of us would go there ... but he would, because our flight would ensure he had a clean drive.
The session then turned to Q&A. I stood up to ask a question, but we ran out of time before I could ask:

"Regarding your last comment on being contrarian, what are the most important philanthropic opportunities for 'contrariness'? In other words, is there an opportunity that no one is supporting but that presents a strong opportunity for a venture philanthropists who wants a great social return on their investment?" gifts

Part of the reason that we ran out of time was that one of the first comments was by former Dallas City Councilman Ed Oakley, who told the story of how Ray Hunt personally stepped up to support the families of the two firefighters who died in a fire at his home in 1981. After Oakley spoke, one of the firefighters who was at Hunt's home that day got up to personally thank Hunt for his work.

The words rendered Hunt speechless -- no small task, but one that caused an eruption of applause.

After the formal program, I greatly enjoyed speaking with Charles Wyly about his successful leadership of the campaign for the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. We were waiting in line to speak with Mr. Hunt (something neither of us was able to do, sadly), and Mr. Wyly shared part of his vision for a Downtown that "was better for everyone" and that would "really brand Dallas."

Kudos to Mr. Wyly and his team for all that they have accomplished towards the $338 million goal for the campaign ($20 million of which came from Wyly himself).

Later, I also had the great pleasure of sharing a conversation with Tom Landis -- owner of Texadelphia and Pizza Patron -- and Tad McIntosh, owner of HumCap LLP and one of the evening's other award recipients; both gentlemen had attended Central Dallas Ministries' recent Prayer Breakfast with Mayor Tom Leppert, and were discussing their own involvement in local charitable efforts. Our community is healthier and more vibrant because of each of their companies, and especially for each of their lives.

Congrats to Pam Gerber and all of her team for the wonderful event!
The Spirit of Entrepreneurship is the signature networking event of EFNT, and thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and donors, the event is complimentary. Event sponsors include Title Sponsor NexBank, Platinum Sponsor PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Gold Sponsors Hall Financial Group, Executive Airshare, Tatum, and Peterson, Goldman & Villani. Other donors include VCFO, Bowne of Dallas, Ernst & Young, Merrill Lynch, Andrews Kurth, Parkland Foundation, G & A Partners, KBA Group, Hughes Ventures, U.S. Home Team TelaDoc, Medical Services, Ambassador Kathryn Hall and Mr. Craig Hall Foundation and Wallace Companies, Inc.
For more info about the event, which raised nearly $100,000 to support EFNT's mission to promote corporate philanthropy, please visit:
http://www.efnt.org/content-events.asp?newsID=50