Jimmy Blanchard by 3649Kc


									Drive and Competitive Spirit: The Jimmy Blanchard

In 2005, Jimmy Blanchard announced his retirement as the Chairman and
CEO of Synovus Financial Corporation in Columbus, Georgia. He joined
the bank in 1970 as president when he was only 28 years old and grew it
from 200 employees and $100M in assets into one of the nation’s most
successful and respected financial institution with over $33B in assets and
15,000 employees. The opportunity to become a banker and follow in his
father’s footsteps came rather suddenly when his father passed away at a
young age. Embracing this opportunity and challenge changed the course
of his life.

Synovus is a multi-state regional bank holding company with operations in
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. By the time
Blanchard retired, Fortune magazine consistently ranked the bank as one of
the best places in America to work. It was also listed in the S& P 500 and
was traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

During his tenure as Chairman and CEO, Blanchard also played an
instrumental role in the founding of TSYS (formerly Total System Services),
which was partially spun off (approximately 19%) from Synovus as a
publicly traded company in 1983. In 2005, TSYS reported revenues of
$1.5B. The company is listed on the NYSE and is a recognized global
leader in electronic payments processing. TSYS holds the largest market
share in the credit card processing segment of the market. At the end of
2007, Synovus completed the spin-off of its remaining 81% ownership
position in TSYS and the firm was immediately added to the S & P 500.
Blanchard serves as Chairman of the Executive Committee of TSYS and is a
member of the Board of AT&T. Blanchard has also been a recognized
figure in the local Columbus community, active at the state level in a variety
of positions, including his service as Chairman of the Board of the Georgia
Research Alliance and at the national level as Chairman of the Financial
Services Roundtable.

The Beginning

Jimmy is the only child of James W. Blanchard and Paloma W. Blanchard.
Both of his parents were Georgia natives. His father earned an Associate
Degree from Augusta State College and his mother graduated from Shorter

Jimmy’s father, James W. began his career in banking as a part-time
employee with the C & S Bank in Augusta, Georgia. Once he graduated
from Augusta State he accepted a position as a full-time employee and
eventually worked his way up to vice president. He was transferred to the
C & S Bank in Valdosta, Georgia where he was promoted to be president.
At the time of the move to Valdosta, Jimmy was eight years old.
James W. was a very large man physically with a reserved, serious, and in-
control type of leadership demeanor. In 1957, he was asked to move again
when he accepted the position of president of Columbus Bank and Trust
(CB&T) in Columbus, Georgia. At the time, CB&T was just a small
community bank in one of Georgia’s up and coming cities.

While Columbus is only a little over three hours by car from Valdosta, the
move brought with it many adjustments for the Blanchard family. In
addition to his responsibilities on the business side, James W. became active
in the Columbus community especially with the Chamber of Commerce and
the United Way. He was also active in his church and he felt that
community service was an important part of citizenship. Jimmy’s mother
focused on the needs of the family. She was very outgoing and personable
and the kind of person who didn’t forget people’s names.

For Jimmy the move to Columbus came just as he was finishing the tenth
grade. It meant leaving the home that he grew up in and a community that
he knew and enjoyed. It was a challenging transition and for a brief period
of time he felt the loss of the friends that he had grown up around in
Valdosta. He also had to get out of his comfort zone to adjust to the new
community and school in Columbus.

With the benefit of hindsight, it was very beneficial to me as a person. [I
had] to start over…and make friends. [I had to be] a little bit forward to
make friends rather than just passively waiting for somebody to embrace me.
Jimmy was upset about the move to Columbus and protested to his father
that he didn’t plan to move. His father was unflustered with his son’s
proclamation and in a very calm manner replied “ok, I will get you an
apartment and you can stay here.” In many respects this was an unusual
exchange for that era as children were expected to show a lot of respect and
deference to their parents. However, James W. had a reputation for being
unflappable and he wasn’t the kind of person that would lose his composure

Valdosta was a small close-knit community where people valued the time
they spent with their family, football on Friday nights, and church on
Sundays. It was also a community that valued and enjoyed athletic
competition. It was very proud of its best athletes and it offered them lots
of support and encouragement for their efforts.

Growing up in Valdosta, Jimmy enjoyed a close network of friends that he
played with through his involvement in the local YMCA, Boy Scouts,
church and the schools that he attended. There were lots of opportunities to
participate in organized sports and he was pretty active in all of them
especially golf, football, basketball, and baseball. By the eighth grade, it
was fairly clear he wasn’t going to fulfill his dream of being a standout in
football. But in a community like Valdosta only a few would lay claim to
that distinction. The community expected the high school football team to
compete for the sate championship every year and it often did. Through
football, however, he met someone that helped him to elevate his thinking
about his options.
The principal of the junior high school was coach of the football team [and]
he was the first guy that ever gave me some insight into the fact that I might
have some leadership skills and capabilities to do more than just go along
with everybody else. We had conversations on the football field and
throughout the school year where he sort of let me know that he was
counting on me to do good and rise above the average. He might have been
the first person to plant a seed in my mind that I might be special. I think
that is a pretty important thing.

With Jimmy’s disappointment in his future potential as a football player his
father encouraged him to focus his energies on golf. He thought golf would
be useful to his son in whatever career he chose to pursue. In the summers
preceding high school, Jimmy spent a lot of time on the golf course
practicing and refining his game. Eventually he developed a passion for the
game and his drive and determination helped him to excel. By the time he
was a freshman he played well enough to start on the varsity golf team. His
high school golf team won the state championship during his two years on
the team. Academically he was also a strong student though he didn’t have
to push himself to receive good grades.    He focused most of his energies
on his athletic endeavors, which gave him a fair amount of recognition in
school and the community.

Jimmy learned a lot about discipline self-control and what it takes to be
successful from his athletic endeavors. He is known by those who have
worked with him as someone who is passionate about his work with a strong
will to win. He is also known for being well prepared for his commitments.
“He is about as fierce a competitor that I have ever seen...he figures out
what it takes to win. As a result of that it causes him to be as thorough as
anybody as I have ever seen. He is looking around curves, he is
anticipating what may or may not go wrong. I have never seen him settle
for less than the best.”~ Jimmy Yancey, former Chairman (ret.), Synovus

When his family moved to Columbus, Jimmy joined the golf team at
Columbus High. In his first year on the team they won the state
championship. His success at golf eased his transition to the new school
and community and gave him a real sense of accomplishment. By his
senior year he was acclimated and he offered to run and was elected class

When not playing with his friends he spent his time at home often dreaming
about the next game or the next opportunity to compete. He enjoyed sports
and he had a strong desire to compete

The Blanchard family attended church on Wednesday nights and Sundays.

We went to a Baptist church at the time… and I remember when I got very
active and competitive in golf and on Sunday afternoons I would race to the
golf course. I played after church because I knew that I had to finish up in
time to get home take a shower and get back to church.
Jimmy didn’t resist or resent going to church. It was very much a part of the
fabric of his family and the community in which he grew up. He took
church seriously and adopted it as a part of his approach to life as his parents
had modeled for him. Even in college he would get up on Sundays and go
to church. The church is now an important part of the lives of his children
and their families.

After high school, Jimmy attended the University of Georgia where he
enrolled in a special six year joint BBA in business and J.D. in law program.
He concentrated on his business school requirements in the first three years
of college and then enrolled in the law school.

Let me say this about college… I didn’t ever totally optimize my academic
side, [but] I more than optimized my extracurricular leadership
opportunities. I ran for the presidency of my freshman class [ of the
University of Georgia]. Although I lost that election, I went on the Inter-
Fraternity Council (IFC) from my fraternity as a freshman. As a
sophomore, I was picked to get in the rotation to be President [of the IFC].
By that time, I was starting to emerge as somebody who wanted to do that
kind of stuff and I guess was somewhat able to do it. I was in every club
and every honor society and everything else there was at the time. When I
became the president of the IFC, things just seemed to steam roll….I really
majored in leadership and extracurricular stuff more than I did studies.

Jimmy was also a ROTC cadet at Georgia and he opted to defer his
commission until he graduated from law school. He passed the bar exam in
the spring of his third year and entered the Army as a commissioned officer
in the Finance Corp. After basic training, he was transferred to Fort
McArthur in San Pedro, California for most of his term on active duty.

I went into the Army and was there three months when the guy who ran the
Finance Office…was transferred. And they said to me you have to run it. So
here I am, I am three months in the Army and I have got 150 people working
for me. I guess all of my training, all my experiences, all my activities and
positions, plus my law degree gave me the confidence that you don’t have to
know everything to run things.

He returned to Columbus after his two-year tour of duty in the Army and
joined one of the leading corporate law firms in the city. As a young
associate he learned very quickly that he should have gotten more out of his
time in law school. The first couple of years in the firm were very
demanding. He spent extra hours during the week and on the weekend
studying to keep up with the other associates and lawyers in the firm. Even
as a new lawyer he was active as a volunteer in the community and served in
several leadership roles. At the end of his third year at the firm his life
changed dramatically, when his father died and he was recruited into the top
job at CB&T.

Bill Turner, the former Chairman of the Board of CB&T commented on the
decision to appoint Blanchard as president.

He had the enthusiasm and leadership ability and salesmanship and
communications skills that made it possible for him to step in there and do
the job. ~Former Chairman of the Board, CB&T (ret.)
The leadership team at the bank at the time was very young and one of the
people that he would develop a life-long relationship with was Jimmy

He was well-known as a young man as a real leader. He was known on-
campus as a leader…I knew him as a guy who was very well respected and
well thought of from a leadership standpoint. One of the things that I was
impressed with was his down-to-earth style. ~Jimmy Yancey, former
Chairman, Synovus (ret.)

When he was first offered the position of president by the board, he turned it
down. The board had wanted him to come in as an assistant to the President
with the understanding that the board would make him the President when
they felt he was ready to assume the top job.

“I didn’t like the feel of that. And I think having a lot of people my own age
and maybe a bunch of people older, my gut said when you are ready is a
little indefinite. There are a lot of people that can probably put a lot of land
mines in your path, and it just may not ever happen. I declined, I turned it

Eventually Blanchard accepted the second overture made by the board.
They announced that he would serve for six months as an assistant to the
president and become president of the bank at the end of that time. Rather
quickly he developed a reputation as someone that embraced growth and
change with a strong will to win.
The first major decision that I faced was recognizing who were the real
leaders in the company. Also simultaneous with that I recognized that we
had some people just hanging on that were not positive for the company.
They were kind of objects of ridicule and not looked on as constructive team
members. I kind of inquired of about them and why they were still here and
there wasn’t a very good answer and so we moved out a number of people. I
think I established pretty early on that we weren’t going to just have people
hanging on, we were going to run the race. I think historically that is what
we’ve had, pretty good thoroughbreds that could tote their own load.”

This was a change from the past and some people saw this as a real positive
change while others did not.

The naysayers say that he can get carried away on something. Other
people say that he can get carried away and hit a grand slam. The way he
looks at it is you’ve got to be trying things you’ve got to be moving, you
can’t just do the status quo, you can’t stand still, you got to go to the next
level. When you take [his] faith, hope, and charisma and you bring all of
that [together], you have a powerful person that is willing to try things.
~Lee Lee James, Vice-Chairman, Chief People Officer, Synovus

Blanchard is an optimist and he looks at a situation through the lens of what
is possible. The people who easily embraced change quickly threw their
support behind him and what he wanted to do. On the other hand, the
people who preferred the status quo felt very uncomfortable with his
approach and many of them eventually left the bank.

He had that sense and feel and just knew that if you could energize and fire
people up and show them what the finish line was and create that hope;
people were good, they wanted to work, they wanted to be successful, they
would make it happen. He was so much about creating that very special
spirit of winning and energy and excitement, it allowed the Synovus team to
do some very powerful stuff. ~Lee Lee James, Vice-Chairman, Synovus

Blanchard is known as an inspirational leader: someone that is willing to put
a bold statement out there and put every ounce of energy that he has into
achieving it. He also connected well with the people around him.

“He was a leader that was able to lead but yet identify with his team and
meld with his team and become, not necessarily [be] one of them, but yes
almost one of them. Especially, in terms of being around them and being
engaged with them. He was very serious about his job...[And yet] he didn’t
have any of that stuff that a lot of CEOs have that basically say I have to
stay separated from this team. I can’t let them see who I really am. He
was transparent, you knew he was. I think that made it a place where you
were not afraid of slipping up. You were not afraid of making a small
error. You knew that we had real people up at the top. And they understood
what people were going through. You can talk to the youngest management
trainee or to the most seasoned veteran and [they] all felt like they had a
friend in Jimmy Blanchard as opposed to having a boss in Jimmy
Blanchard.” ~ Jimmy Yancey
When Blanchard and his management team started out in 1970 there were
three local banks in the Columbus, Georgia market. The largest of which
was the First National Bank of Columbus. The Bank was locally owned
and perceived as having a stronger board, a strong base of investors, and a
few more of the town’s most notable clientele.

CB&T had created a buzz for itself seven years prior to Jimmy’s arrival
when under his father’s leadership it became the first local bank to offer
credit cards to its customers. Under Blanchard’s leadership that same spirit
of innovation and change continued. In 1974, CB&T became the first local
bank to offer automated teller machine (ATM) cards to its customers. Its
larger competitor, the old First National Bank of Columbus didn’t offer
credit cards until seven years later. In 1976, two years after offering
automated teller machines, Blanchard and his management team played an
active role in securing a change in Georgia’s banking law with the passage
of the Multi-State Bank Holding Company Act. This piece of legislation
opened up the possibility of owning banks in other locations. Under his
leadership, CB&T was the first in Georgia to re-organize as a multi-state
bank holding company and the first to utilize the legislation in executing a
broad based acquisition strategy. Today, CB&T has $6 billion of assets in
Columbus and what was the old the First National Bank of Columbus, which
is now a branch of Wachovia, is only a $500 million dollar bank.

“At the end of the day, I always said that the difference between us and them
and I have to give Jimmy a lot of credit for this is we were always for
something, and they were always against something. For instance, the bank
holding company law in the ‘70s, we were for changing the law and easing
the regulation on who could own what and what kind of expansion they
could pursue.…As a result of fighting, they never did anything, they never
did any acquisitions, we did….What we had was an attitude that we wanted
to make things better….I think what basically separated us as a little old
small Columbus, Georgia bank was a mindset that we could be more than
that and that we were for changing things and we were developing our bank
to be as good a bank as it could possibly be.” ~Jimmy Yancey

Blanchard and his management team also felt strongly about staying the
course, executing their strategy successfully and not settling for a quick sell-
out to a larger financial institution.

Blanchard had been president for five years when he started to focus on the
bank’s culture. His management team was excited about the new banking
environment that deregulation opened up. He embraced the bank’s
ambitious acquisition strategy but he was concerned about the problems that
lay ahead if they didn’t work on the culture as well. His thinking about the
kind of organization that he wanted to create was influenced in part by the
success of his predecessors. He also had a lot respect for the kind of
business culture that the Turner family had created in their firm. In many
ways, he wanted the Bank’s values to reflect the values and beliefs that he
had learned at home growing-up: put other people first, treat others the way
that you want to be treated, and take responsibility for your actions 100
percent of the time.
The vision thing. In all fairness, I was obviously kind of the catalyst for the
vision. But I never felt responsible for being a lone wolf and creating a
vision. I created it as the head of the committee for the senior group. Jimmy
Yancey, Lynn Page and other senior executives had a lot to do with creating
the vision, strategy, and our approach. Lynn Page is rightly credited with
the notion of creating TSYS and Jimmy Yancey was most responsible for our
focus on the customer. I was more personally involved in driving the culture
than I was the vision.

For Blanchard, everything started with the employee or team member and he
embraced instilling a winning positive mindset in the organization.

Early on it was let’s win, let’s get ahead, let’s prosper, let’s be a high
performance bank. We were not the biggest bank in town until probably
1977. When I took it in 1970 until 1977 we were [just] trying to get ahead
of what is now Wachovia and then it was First National. It was a hustle,
work hard make everybody have CB&T as their second choice. In other
words, if they ever wanted to change banks it would be natural for them to
come here [to us]. We were consistently aggressive. We were on the street
knocking on doors. We had organized call lists and prospecting programs.
It was not a random kind of, up and down, get excited and let it sag for six
months. It was a constant pounding. And I have always said that in the
towns where we have implemented that to its optimum that I would hate like
heck to compete against Synovus. It is pretty normal for the other guys to
run hot and cold.
I pretty much inherited a culture that embraced service and give back to the
community and appreciate the people that have given their careers to the

Blanchard’s work on the culture was elevated to a new level in 1996 when
the bank launched its new people strategy, modestly titled “Personally
Developing Everyone” Strategy. In 1999, the strategy’s success was very
evident in all aspects of the firm’s operations. In the same year, Fortune
magazine ranked Synovus, No. 1, as the “Best Place to Work in America.”
Since that time the firm has been highly ranked annually on Fortune’s list of
the best.

Bill Turner commented:

This is probably Jimmy’s great contribution to our company. He developed
a “we culture,” where it is a team effort. ~ Bill Turner

Tom Cousins served as chairman of the foundation Board of the University
of Georgia when Jimmy was chair of the fundraising campaign for the
University. He has also served with Jimmy on several civic initiatives at the
state level. He commented on those qualities that he thought made Jimmy a

He is smart…great personality, it is easy to like and be around Jimmy and
he wins people pretty quickly because of his personality. He is very
competitive, what he sets out to do he pursues with vigor...[But] He is a
regular guy. He is a man’s man who loves to hunt and fish and play. He is
not hung up on appearances. He is for real. He is a strong family man…he
is the greatest community man I have ever known…He is a motivated civic
man with the ear of every politician around…He is frequently called upon to
give the keynote at business prayer breakfasts and is very comfortable doing
it. ~Tom Cousins, founder and retired Chairman and CEO, Cousins

Senator Sam Nunn has also worked with Blanchard on a variety of
legislative and civic initiatives. He also served on the Board of TSYS with
Blanchard. He commented:

Jimmy is both creative and innovative, he adds to that an unbounded
enthusiasm and optimism, so you put all of that in a package and it is
dynamite. He is on top of the business side of it, he knows what is going on,
and he drives the business. He is on top of the civic side of it and the public
relations side of it. The reason he is so successful on those two and I called
them scorecards is because he is so good on the human side of it. ~former
Georgia Senator Sam Nunn

The Family

Jimmy had a very supportive relationship with his father but it was also a
formal and respectful one, typical of the parent-child relationship of that
generation. The child was expected to show respect and deference for
authority and especially one’s parents.

There was no question in my family who the boss was, it was my father, he
was the boss. He ran the family and I did not want to cross him. I did not
want to do something that would disappoint him or contradict what he had
instructed me to do. I don’t know that I was scared of him, but it never
occurred to me that I wanted to test him.

Blanchard believes that respect for authority is important and for him this
outlook began with his relationship with his parents and the values that he
was taught growing up.

Blanchard has a respectful but closer relationship with his sons reflective of
today’s informality.   They enjoy sports of all types and simply spending
time together. This has given them a strong bond. When his sons were
young he served as a little league coach in football and baseball in spite of
the many demands on his time. To do so he had to optimize his time. His
son, Billy remembers, “weekends and evenings, he always had a briefcase,
he always had papers in his hand…he was always thinking, he was always
reading… as well as engaging with the family.”      While his sons knew he
was busy and worked hard, they didn’t have a full measure of his
responsibilities when they were growing up.

“He shielded us from his career in a large way. I never knew really… who
he was from a community perspective growing up until I got older. I didn’t
realize he was president of the bank. I didn’t realize that he was as involved
as he was in a lot of the civic, charitable and community stuff going on, and
that he had the kind of influence that he had...I think that is a good thing,
because he raised us in a little bit of a sheltered environment that didn’t
focus on him and what he was up to.” ~Billy Blanchard, son

His family is important to Jimmy and his sons have approached their family
responsibilities in much the same way.

His sons view him warmly as someone with a strong competitive drive, but
compassionate in using his influence to help the community.

“It takes a special person to do what he has done. I call it capacity. It is
like he has twenty-eight hours in his day while the rest of us have twenty-
four. What is so amazing about him is that he can be so driven himself but
still allow me to be who I am. ~David Blanchard, son

Whether it was just shooting hoops in the backyard or fishing, Blanchard
enjoyed making a contest out of whatever they were doing together.
Sometimes that meant scoring the most points in a backyard basketball game
or catching the most fish. His oldest son, Jimmy, Jr. commented, “he loves
competing and he was always competing with us.”

He is an avid golfer. I think he looks at golf as a microcosm of life-the
challenges of each hole and each shot and playing against yourself and
handling the pressure and containing your emotion. I think he loves the
game of golf for more than just the activity itself. ~Billy Blanchard
For his sons Blanchard may have had his biggest impact on their perception
of family and the importance of community service.

We grew up in a pretty middle-class, average kind of home. Over the years
he has accumulated a lot of wealth. But that was never his motivator. There
were other things that did that for him. It wasn’t what we talked about and
I really appreciate that. We all worked summers and learned the value of
work. As we grew he was more and more able to do some things for us that
others were not able to do for their kids…but never was it flashy or over the
top, never was it out of control. We live very comfortably in our life, but
we are not over the top and lavish with what we do and what we have and I
want my kids to grow up the same way. Knowing what it is like to earn a
dollar and spend a dollar.

There is something in me that wants to serve the community and others. I
think I saw him doing that and that is something that I have taken to in my
role at the bank and hold as real value. [It is] something that is real
important and something that I have been involved in. I have a desire to
serve and help others and be able to influence things in the community.
~Billy Blanchard, son

Jimmy Blanchard is energized by competitive activity and he learned a lot
about competing during his youth. Blanchard took learning the game of
golf very seriously. He learned to appreciate the importance of study and
practice, mental and physical preparation, change and adaptation, skill
development and teamwork, as well as how to focus when faced with a
significant challenge. He also took advantage of the strong support network
around him. His coaches, trainers, teammates, friends and family helped
him to refine his understanding of the game and become a better player.
His success at golf was a team effort and he learned to appreciate the power
of having a strong team around him.

Blanchard’s personal leadership exposure and development began in earnest
in the eleventh grade. To his credit he didn’t shy away from putting his
name in for election for class secretary in high school. At an early age, he
had the mindset to experiment and try new things. He went a step further
in college when he ran for freshman class president. He lost that election by
a wide margin. His opponent received over eighty percent of the votes.
While he didn’t win, importantly he didn’t surrender. Instead he shrugged
off the loss and moved into other leadership positions on campus and on the
inter-fraternity council. Blanchard opened himself up to other
opportunities and further learning and growth by staying the course. On
the inter-fraternity council he had to partner and collaborate with others to
be successful, a skill and competence that would serve him well in business.
In the Army he would get a lucky break with his appointment as interim
head of the Finance Unit. Was Blanchard just lucky? Perhaps, but in lots
of ways he had prepared himself to embrace this opportunity and make it a
success. Almost as a precursor to accepting the top job at CB&T, his
experience in the Army enabled him to expand on his understanding of what
leadership was all about with the 150 solders and civilian employees who
reported to him.

Leadership is not a passive activity, you can only learn it by doing it. All of
Blanchard’s leadership roles in high school, college and the Army were
different enough that he had to try new things and learn and grow as a leader
at each stage. To his credit, he possessed the self-awareness and self-
confidence needed to embrace these opportunities as well as the risks and
challenge that came with each position.

As the new President of CB& T, once again Blanchard was confronted with
the need to learn and grow; adjust and adapt as circumstances changed; and
take optimum advantage of the support network around him. He also
brought to his role a passion that set the tone for his approach to leadership
and the work of his management team. He recognizes and embraces the
power of being dedicated and he expects that the people who work with him
to bring that same commitment and intensity. Dedicated workers are not
just more productive, but they also are more excited about what they are
doing and their enthusiasm can be contagious and have a lot of positive
effects on the organization.

With a law degree and no formal experience in banking, Blanchard had a lot
to learn on day one about the bank and the industry. While lots of people
knew him in the community and they respected his father, he was still an
outsider and unproven as a business leader. One of his great strengths is his
willingness to listen and his ability to connect with people and to make them
feel at ease. He looks for and is able to find the good in people.
Blanchard was a willing student of the business as the new president and he
focused his initial energy on creating an effective team. This impressed both
the Board and his direct reports.

For Blanchard, opportunity and risk go hand in hand. Within the first year
of his tenure as president he was able to secure the Board’s support for the
acquisition of a local mortgage company. This was a major decision at the
time and it showed his willingness to lead and take risks. It was also a
precursor to the many acquisition decisions the bank would make under his
leadership. His first purchase as President proved to be very successful.
With it he gained more respect and a higher level of trust both from the
board and his management team. His definition of success, however, went
beyond simple quantifiable metrics. He also made it known that he was
receptive to new ideas and new ways of doing things. He wanted the
employees to put the customer first and in turn he was prepared to make the
employee the bank’s primary asset. Blanchard also recognized that success
depended on his ability to make his employees comfortable attempting new
things and accepting the potential risks of failure. Under his leadership, the
bank was the first in the local market to issue ATM cards, exploit the Multi-
State Bank Holding Company Act, and the explosive growth nationally and
internationally in credit/debit and commercial card processing.

The values that Blanchard was taught and embraced at home and in the
church and his experiences growing up formed the foundation for his
philosophy of life. As a business executive, the obstacles and challenges of
leading and managing in a dynamic environment helped him to formulate his
philosophy of leadership. By the late 70s, he started to work on the culture
of the bank with the aim to create or re-create it around his philosophy. He
had been successful instilling a focus on the customer, sense of urgency, will
to win and accountability in the ways things were done. But he also wanted
the bank to have a heart for the way it dealt with customers and employees
and the way it approached its role in the community. Blanchard embraced
the principle that the bank’s culture should be as much about spirit, heart and
integrity (keeping your promises) as it was business metrics. He is a gifted
public speaker and his communication skills were helpful as he took this
message to his employees. Today, Blanchard is known and respected for his
compassion, both within the firm and the community. He connected with
his employees, inspired them, and cared deeply for their welfare.

Lastly, one of the distinguishing features of Blanchard’s term as CEO is the
length of his tenure. Few CEOs survive 5 years and very few have tenures
that span 35 years. What is especially remarkable is the fact that his tenure
as CEO overlapped with a period of drastic change in the financial services
industry. What he was able to do over and over again with significant
success was grow, adjust and adapt as the external environment changed.
He was also very skillful in leading his organization through these periods of
change and turbulence. Blanchard enjoys learning new things and facing
challenges that he has not faced before. He was also able to face tough
decisions with a positive outlook.
If you could only choose one thing what would you say is the most
important key to success in business?

The one key would be integrity. Integrity gives you staying power. Staying
power over a long period of time enables you to achieve far more than you
could have ever dreamed. But one slip with integrity and you are out.

What challenges comes to mind when you reflect on your years growing

I think it was the two moves. When we moved from Augusta to Valdosta
and Valdosta to Columbus. In retrospect they [moves] were really healthy.
They got me out of my comfort zone. They got me into a position where I
had to put out. I had to start over and build new friends in a whole new
place. I think they were very positive in building me as a person.

When you look back on your relationship with your father what stands out

My father believed in a strong aggressive outspoken leadership style. And
[he] was also a wonderful citizen. He believed in being active in your
community and giving back to your community. That was kind of an
essential ingredient in citizenship. My parents also were very prominent
and active in their church and their faith and I learned that at an early age.
And that has been an important part of my life all along.
I know that one part of my personality is that I don’t wring my hands over
things. There are not a lot of things that I am unhappy with. I don’t sweep
negative things under the rug, I think I am able to deal with them, but I don’t
dwell on them either. I dwell on the glass being half full. My favorite
scripture is Philipians 4:4-9.

What is a Servant Leader?

It is the notion that the leader’s job is to give of himself or herself. [It is]
not being the boss over people, but to empower them and to teach them and
to give them the tools that they need to be successful. It is a giving of
yourself so that others can be successful.

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