Greg Williams could have played it safe in his first major speech as the new president and CEO of the Ozark Chamber of Commerce. Instead, he laid down a challenge to the Ozark business community to be bold, look forward and “Think big” in 2021 and beyond.
As I listened to Williams speak at the Ozark Community Center during the Ozark Community Awards Banquet on June 5, I was reminded of a column I wrote in February of 2020. It turned out to be an absolute swing and a miss given the global events that followed shortly thereafter, but I would like to think my intentions were good. I think Williams also had good intentions with his message.
Williams challenged Ozark’s thought leaders, "to aid in building a community where people want to live, want to visit, want to invest, work and play."
With that comes thinking beyond the individual’s own self-preservation and interests. It takes caring about more than the wants and desires of a single person.
"It's time for us to think big, have fun and work hard to achieve our collective vision for how Ozark and the surrounding region evolves, how welcoming people in a pro-business community can provide many opportunities for success, both personally and professionally," Williams said.
It will take innovative thinking and partnerships, Williams said, to influence community development, whether that's the development of physical buildings or the development of groups of people setting goals and working together to achieve them.
"Clearly, the Ozark Chamber, we believe, has to be that pro-business advocate, the voice of business in this community for business and professional organizations large and small," Williams said.
A pro-business group, Williams said, should be a place for people to connect, develop communications and better relationships, and influence the community toward common goals.
In February 2020, Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers and the staff at City Hall had just unveiled “Journey 2030,” a 10-year plan to encourage Ozark and the rest of Christian County to dream of a bolder, better future and draw up some plans to achieve that prosperity over the next decade.
“We love Ozark now, but we also want to love Ozark 10 years from now and we want our kids to love it, too, and come back here,” Childers said then.
Of course, we couldn’t really predict how the COVID-19 pandemic would put a halt or at least a significant governor on our engine of improvement for the remainder of 2020. Now that we aren’t wearing masks everywhere we go, and even though we are still using hand sanitizer at every turn and practicing social distancing in certain situations, it’s probably safe to start thinking big again.
“People sometimes underestimate the power of dreaming, or they are quick to dismiss those who hope for something better, brighter and happier than the status quo. Here in our community, there is a good deal of dreaming going on, plus some action to back up those lofty aspirations,” I wrote in February 2020.
Maybe you’re feeling a little bit more discouraged right now than you were then. That’s alright. Now is a good time to think about how you can encourage yourself to start dreaming those dreams and working toward those big goals. You don’t have to figure out everything today. You can break up your big goal into a series of smaller, more manageable goals and start attacking them one by one.
I’ll close this the same way I closed out that column from February 2020. Be kind to yourself, and be a source of encouragement to the people around you. Strive to do good. Life is too short to be selfish, and the community will be a better place with a little bit of togetherness.
“Chances are, you or someone you know has their big dreams for the next 10 years of life in Christian County. Before you cast doubt, before you dismiss their dreams as craziness, or before you move on to your next thought because you simply don’t care, stop and hear them out for a moment. Don’t underestimate the power of dreaming. You may have just the right encouraging word to help someone else have a brighter decade.”
It still holds up. Think big.