Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Local news

January 24, 2013

Sills presents ‘Erk’ Russell points of leadership

250 people attend Chamber annual meeting

Cordele — Some 250 Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce members and guests gathered at the Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club Tuesday for the annual Chamber meeting and dinner. Guest speaker was Derek Sills, a banker, coach and humorist from the Statesboro area.

Sills acknowledged from the beginning that he idolizes the legendary coach, Erskine “Erk” Russell who left the University of Georgia to resurrect a Georgia Southern University football team and wound up winning three championships before he retired.

“I believe he is one of the greatest coaches ever and the greatest leader,” Sills said of Russell. He then proceeded to share Russell’s points of leadership and back them up with stories told by Russell himself.

Point one, he said, is great communication with the people around you. Secondly, one has to have a bad case of the “wants.” If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to be successful, Sills said.

Russell subscribed to the KISS theory, “keep it simple, stupid.” Off the field, Sills said, his one rule was “do right.” On the field, he used the “GATA” rule which basically means “get after the other team aggressively.”

His secret of winning, Sills said, was “blocking and tackling.” Sometimes, the speaker said, “we forget the fundamentals and make things complicated. KISS.”

Russell’s fourth point of leadership, according to Sills, was attitude. Don’t make excuses or blame someone else for your mistakes. Take responsibility.

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” was his 5th point, Sills said. Always make the best of what you have. When Russell first went to Georgia Southern, he had nothing to work with. “They even had to go buy a football for him to hold in promotional photos,” Sills said. His office was a movable trailer and the football field was still dirt with stagnant water beside it. He used old school buses to transport the team.

But none of that mattered to him. He made the most of what he had, Sills said.

Finally, Russell developed the slogan, “just one more time,” and he put it on T-shirts. He convinced his teams that they could do anything “just one more time.”

Another legendary coach, Bear Bryant called Russell the “greatest motivator.” Sills said Russell believed in the concept of “big team, little me,” and he drummed that into his players. Team players care only about winning, not who has the most rushing yards or the most tackles, etc.

Following Sills’ remarks, Cordele-Crisp Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Bruce Drennan updated other Chamber members on several projects ongoing in the community.

The inland port has been very successful, he said, and several companies are looking at the area because of the port. A wood pellet plant with about 100 employees is scheduled to begin operations in August. Stella Jones has almost completed its facility, and that company will begin making cross ties with about 50 employees.

Big Tex has expanded to about 100 employees. Chexar is operating two shifts seven days a week, and the Owens Corning project in the Cedar Creek industrial park is expected to resume in July of this year.

Cordele and a site in Alabama are in the running for a huge project that will provide almost 2,000 jobs, Drennan said. This will be a nearly $1 billion investment, he added.

The week after the fish fry in Atlanta, he continued, ground will be broken for the Darton building in downtown Cordele.

In his closing remarks as Chamber chairman, Eli Tinsley called the groundbreaking for Chick-fil-A in Cordele a highlight of the year. The Darton project, he said, will be the benefactor of the SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) that was approved in 2012. “The financing arm is in place now,” he said, “and “this project will reshape downtown Cordele.”

Tinsley expressed his appreciation to the Chamber staff which made his job “a breeze,” he said. He also thanked the various governing entities in the city and county for working together during the past year to reach goals.

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