From One CEO to Another


Image caption: Photo courtesy of Memphis Daily News.

Students can always use a little extra encouragement and confirmation--especially before they are about to be a CEO for the very first time. This inspiring story from Memphis shows how one CEO of a Fortune 500 company went above and beyond the call of duty by reaching out to a JA student who had his job at JA BizTown. Larry Colbert, president, and CEO of Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South, shared the story.

When Ramsey Joiner heard that her 11-year-old son, Hayden, a fifth grade student at Harding Academy, received his first choice of jobs at JA BizTown--CEO for International Paper--she was thrilled for two reasons. First of all, any mother would be happy that her son got the job he desired. Secondly, Ramsey is a team member at International Paper herself.

Ramsey was so pleased with the news about her son that she reached out to International Paper's soon-to-be CEO, Mark Sutton, and asked him to share a few words of wisdom with her son, prior to his JA BizTown visit. Mark was recently named President and CEO for International Paper (IP), a Fortune 500 Company, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn.

Mark graciously replied with this letter to Hayden:

Dear Hayden,

Congratulations on being named IP CEO for a day. I become CEO of IP for real on November 1, so I know what you're going through. I would like to share three roles that the CEO of IP must play.

1. Being the CEO is about leading people. To lead people, you have to earn the trust of the employees, set high standards, and help your employees improve every day and stay safe and injury free every day. 

2. The CEO must make decisions when no one else can. To make good decisions, you need to listen carefully to your employees and ask a lot of questions. That way you will have the information you need to make a good decision. 

3. The third role of CEO is to think about the future of the company, not just the present. It's like playing chess. You always need to think about your next moves in order to satisfy your customers and beat your competitors. 

I'm sure you will do a great job as CEO. I would love to hear about your day as CEO one day. 


Mark Sutton

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