The Kenan Institute’s founder, Frank Hawkins Kenan, believed that through business and relationships much could be offered and taught. In that spirit, the Institute recently welcomed North Carolina State Senator Tom McInnis, who spoke about his work for the state, his experience as a businessman, and how leadership practices are necessary in every aspect of policy-making.
McInnis is a North Carolina native, who is a small business owner and community leader. He started his own business after high school at the age of 16 and has worked in the service world, including in construction, hotels, food service, and insurance. Throughout McInnis’s career, he has seen North Carolina transform from an agricultural economy to an industrial one and now a service-oriented market.
After witnessing how good ideas in the education system are not able to survive on minimal funding, McInnis decided to run for office himself. Within the Senator’s district (District 25 in southern North Carolina) are three of the 10 most economically challenged counties in North Carolina. While he has worked to help develop these areas, the Senator spoke of how government funding and money itself cannot solve an economy or society’s problems. He believes bringing economic prosperity to rural North Carolina must incorporate strong management structures — for money, resources, and people.
Senator McInnis reminded the group of MBA students, undergraduate business students, and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School faculty of the importance of people and management skills whether running a business, a government, or a country. He tied his career learnings back to the students’ business school experience and emphasized that even if students do not leave school with all the answers, they have learned how to ask the right questions. Through the talk, we were able to see how the Senator has had career and business success by knowing how to ask the right questions, identify the root of an issue, and allocate the best resources and people to manage in the most effective way.