James Archer, Blake Gage share lessons learned in leading companies in diverse industries
From the oil fields of Texas to an entertainment company on Music Row, convocation speaker James Archer shared his commitment to the values-based leadership that defines his diverse career. Archer, president/CEO of oil and gas operator KJ Energy as well as CEO of Nashville-based MV2 Entertainment, was interviewed Wednesday in the Gallery of Iconic Guitars (The GIG) by his longtime friend and associate Blake Gage, who serves as vice president of corporate development for KJ Energy.
To a packed house of students, faculty and staff, Gage recounted how Archer and his wife Lois began their Multi-Chem business in their garage in 1993. When the company was sold to Halliburton in 2011, it represented the third largest production chemical company in the world and a $365-million-a-year firm. Still entrenched in the oil and gas business, Archer has since expanded his reach into new arenas with the launch of MV2 Entertainment and JL Bar Ranch and Resort. Gage opened the convo asking the Texas native to expound on the foundational pieces that enabled his long-term success.
“The first thing we do is surround ourselves with great leaders in every aspect of the company,” Archer said. “Then we establish our mission, vision and values. A mission statement should be one sentence about what we want to accomplish, while our vision provides the ‘how,’ defining the culture we want to have.”
For Archer, at the center of all his work is the concept of values-based leadership, creating a four-part model that serves as the foundation for everything his company does. “Ethics, commitment, excellence and innovation. It’s always about doing the right thing for all of your stakeholders. You treat everyone the same, the way you want to be treated.
“The first thing you do [in starting a company] is establish values-based leadership as a road map to where you are going to go and how you’re going to get there. Then every decision I make is around those values. We used to put our mission, vision and values on posters around the office, but then we decided that since those attributes weren’t going to change, we were just going to paint them on the walls!”
Gage emphasized to the students in the room the importance of recognizing that each individual is a leader because someone is always watching–though they may be unaware, someone is always looking to each person as a model of behavior. In addition to encouraging students to always work on their leadership and communication skills, he questioned Archer on his advice for young entrepreneurs seeking success. “You can have success without having wealth,” Archer noted. “Everybody likes to win. No one came here to Belmont to flunk out. You all have goals. When you meet or exceed your goals, that’s success. Success is not measured by how much money you have, what car you drive or how big your house is. People who are successful with their own individual goals create their own destiny.”
As an example, Archer pointed out how he had noticed Gage’s accomplishments and promoted him to lead the company’s HR department. Though it was an area for which Gage had no prior training, Archer said he knew based on his past performance that Gage would be someone who cared about the company’s people and was willing to listen. “The only thing that makes a company great are the people,” Archer said. “We want to hire hard and manage easy. Right people, those who align with our values, make the difference.”
The James B. and Lois R. Archer Charitable Foundation serves as the presenting sponsor for The GIG, providing support to undergird the museum’s operation, special projects and educational programming