Here is the second half of an exclusive series of Clay Presley's recent visit to the Evening MBA program at Wake Forest University. This particular segment takes a closer look at how the president and CEO of Carolina Pad (left) approaches running the Charlotte company that he helped reinvigorate five years ago with a significant strategic shift.
We had a great opportunity to meet Clay Presley, the president and majority shareholder for Carolina Pad, in our Managerial Accounting class on Feb. 15. When Dr. Bern Beatty sent an email over the weekend that Presley would be talking to our class, my initial reaction was that I was going to sit through a presentation steeped in financial statements and accounting methodology. The minute that Presley began speaking, I knew my assumptions were wrong.
The discussion on how he got involved with Carolina Pad was very captivating. The company was started in 1945 in Charlotte, offering commodity school supplies such as notebooks, paper, and pencils. When Presley joined the company in 2000, he began changing the organization to evaluate existing infrastructure and developed strategies to take Carolina Pad to a new level. A cornerstone of this evolution involved the incorporation of fashion designs in their products, which transformed the stationary industry.
The road for Presley was not easy. He faced failures, such as having to issues corrected financial data to the company’s bank during his first year as president. (He came out $800,000 short from his initial stated loss of $500,000.) Rather than giving up or making excuses, he had a plan for the bank to review his proposal on how Carolina Pad will increase profits the next day.
“That failure of mine to make money was really the key to the beginning of our success,” he recalled. “I felt like I was totally out of control" with the ledger discrepancy that caused the financial issue, he said. “I was so mad.”
Carolina Pad's success relies on two main qualities: trust and passion. The organization has developed a strong relationship, full of trust, with their key partners, such as banks, employees, and vendors. For example, when a vendor needed monetary assistance, Presley readily provided support, which strengthened their relationship. They also operate in an open management format, where all employees understand the company’s mission statement and the financials. In terms of purpose, the organization is built around passion. “If you are passionate about something, you see risks as opportunities.”
Another quote from the presentation hit the heart, “You need to be passionate about believing in yourself,” he said. Often, I wonder if we are really following our passion, or are we taking the safe road because we are afraid of failure. Why do we tend to fog our minds with the fear of failure, which inhibits us to see the endless possibilities that our passion could lead us?