The Wilson file Featured

9:06am EDT July 16, 2004
Born: 1957, Limestone, Maine

Education: Bachelor of science degree in business management, George Mason University (Virginia)

First job: Behind the counter at McDonald's -- "I lasted one month. It was the hardest job I've ever had."

Boards: Treasurer of Online Publishers Association; Interactive Advertising Bureau (focuses on online advertising and maximizing success); Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; and Cool Savings, an Internet-based direct marketing company

Resides: Atlanta

What is the greatest business lesson you have learned? It's all about how you treat and motivate people in your organization. If you have a strong, engaged and aligned team, miraculous things happen. (If you don't) everything is harder.

What is the greatest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it? Managing through the Internet bubble. It seemingly changed all the rules in business. Everything was turned upside down -- deficit spending was king, profits were out of style, people with no experience running successful and sustainable businesses were put on a pedestal as prophets of truth and wisdom, programmers just out of school were making more money than business owners who had built their companies from the ground up.

It was an incredible time to be in business; it taught me so many things, but it was, at the same time, a huge challenge.

Whom do you most admire in business and why? I struggle so much with giving you any one answer. I could come up with a whole bunch of people and tell you why I think that they're awesome business leaders, and I've got a list, but I think about it a little differently. I would say, as a group, I really admire small business owners. These are the people that put it on the line 24/7. The skills, the dedication, the smarts, the personal finances, the sweat equity that these people have to have to be successful, it's not really well-understood or communicated because the headlines focus on the big corporate CEOs.

As a group, I always have a deep amount of respect for someone that becomes a success by starting their own small business.

There are also great people. Most of these people you'll understand and have heard about. I really admire Sam Walton for teaching us that you can take a mundane and centuries-old business concept and make it the most important business in the world, or Lou Gerzner for having the smarts to take a venerable but declining business (IBM) that was, frankly, in a lot of trouble, and turning it into something more powerful and valuable than it ever was.

Jack Welch -- all the good and bad that has been said. This is the guy that taught corporate America that developing talent can be a competitive advantage. That's a book in and of itself.