Dennis McCuistion on inspiration, differentiation, and connection


Dennis McCuistion is a Dallas-based former bank CEO, board member, university educator, policy expert, speaker, and public television personality. “I’m a three-legged stool,” he likes to say. “I’m in the media business, I’m in the business business, and I’m in the education business. And, as much as possible, I try to bridge those gaps because those three entities don’t necessarily like each other, trust each other, or understand each other.”

Dennis will speak at Anaplan’s upcoming Thought Leadership Series event, “Positioning yourself for success in today’s economy,” which will take place on September 28 at the D.E.C. on Dragon in Dallas. This event, geared toward executive business leaders in all major industries, will explore how the economic climate is affecting Texas businesses and what companies are doing to become more agile in this time of constant change. I spoke with Dennis about what attendees can expect from his appearance.

Natasha: Your audience on September 28 will consist of Texas business executives. Who are the most inspiring businesspeople you have interviewed?

Dennis: One of the more unusual businesspeople I interviewed was Art Berg. He became quadriplegic in a car accident as a young man, then started his own computer company and became a motivational speaker. He inspired audiences all around the world, including me, to work with what you have. I also interviewed Tom Peters when In Search of Excellence was a huge business book. He used a saying related to change that I just loved: “You can’t leap a chasm in two bounds.”

Additionally, one friend who’s been on my PBS program a couple of times is Dan Burrus, who The New York Times calls one of the three most important futurists in the country. He’s got a new book out about how organizations can try to anticipate the future. And then lastly, I would say John Allison, my favorite banker, now retired from BB&T. His bank didn’t have all the problems that the bigger banks did, and he and I talked about why that was.

Natasha: What makes the business environment in Texas so different from the rest of the country and even the world?

Dennis: Let’s just say that Texans are generally bigger than life, and we’ve worked hard to give people that impression. Texans brag a lot, but we probably brag less now than we did before the price of oil took a downturn back in the 1980s.

One thing that makes Texas different is the tax structure—we do not have a personal income tax. Second is our can-do culture and attitude, which I think goes back to when we were an independent republic. Next, we have had a right-to-work law for many years.

Our location is also important: We are in the center of the country and have the ability to get pretty much anywhere in the world on a direct flight. And lastly, we are the largest trading state in the country, with high-quality ports and airports. And all of these things add up to make Texas different.

Natasha: A recent episode of your television program was titled “Why the cloud and social media are changing your business and your life.” What did you take away from that discussion?

Dennis: First of all, the control of information is now democratized. Organizations don’t have the hierarchies that they had before, and more people are able to participate throughout the network and can plan what an organization is doing.

Another takeaway was the incredible valuations that investors give to network-type organizations. Underlying it all is the network-connected society. When a network cuts down barriers, cuts down silos, and increases information rapidity, it adds value. (Click to tweet) The speed of change today is unbelievable, and if you can’t keep up with it, your business is going to be disrupted—and obviously, we all want to be the disruptors, not the disrupted.

Last, there probably is not a single, consistent sustainable competitive business advantage except your people, so your ability to connect people is critical to success.

Natasha: What can attendees at Anaplan’s Thought Leadership Series expect from your presentation in Dallas on September 28?

Dennis: The three things that people can expect from my presentations are humor, content, and straight talk.

There’s no place in the country that has as much economic potential as Texas, but there are some potholes to avoid, including budget issues, the state’s dependence on oil and gas, trade, and financial regulations. I’ll also give my assessment of the national media and its impact.

Sign up today to join Dennis McCuistion and fellow Texas business leaders at Anaplan’s Thought Leadership Series event, “Positioning yourself for success in today’s economy,” on September 28 at the D.E.C. on Dragon in Dallas. Space is limited.

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