THE SHORT VERSION
Steve has been advising CEO’s, Business Owners and Entrepreneurs for decades. At any given time, Steve is working with a handful of remarkable executives leading large global companies, young hungry entrepreneurs just starting out and maybe a global not-for-profit. He has authored eighteen books and worked with thousands of leaders weaving themes of strategy, leadership and faith hoping to help people flourish in their life and work. When Steve is not filling up a whiteboard with a client-friend, you might find him back-casting in the cold clear rivers of northwest Arkansas.
THE LONG VERSION, AS TOLD BY STEVE..
I grew up on the Mississippi gulf coast long before the casinos took possession of the beachfront. Late in my high school years I determined to pursue some mixture of business and theology for my life calling. That unlikely blend often confused me and certainly baffled my peers and mentors. But off I went. Two colleges and four graduate institutions later I was studied up and ready to roll. My goal was to become intellectually ambidextrous…in my left hand was some form of a theological book and in my right hand was the Harvard Business Review (or the like).
Although I love to read, my highest form of learning is listening and watching. So, it was no surprise that I migrated to mentors from early on to soak up wisdom, best practices and any insight to help steer my own life and journey. I am a patchwork of a dozen mentors who found the time and had the heart to deposit their life into mine.
It took a minute to find my particular lane on the career highway. You know, that lane that captures your passion, gifts, and calling all the while keeping your kids in shoes and your in-laws from putting you on the ‘Jimmy Buffet’ list. I had determined that by the time I was 35 I wanted to be totally in my zone and calling (I am a late bloomer.) My self-awareness grew and I learned that if you cut me down the middle you would discover a macro strategist, an encourager, a connector and a content developer. So, finding a job to both fuel and platform those qualities was my locked-in target. And to my surprise, I actually hit my age 35 goal a few years early. Some 30 years ago, I formed a company with a friend and terrific business partner named Tom. After a year of scribbling on napkins over early morning breakfasts, we hit the gas and went for it. With the blessings of our wives we dove head first into launching a company called Cornerstone, which gave us the broadest horizon possible to chase our dreams and interests.
Along the way we built an international consulting practice, spoke at some premiere venues in America, launched and sold a magazine called Life@Work, wrote a dozen books, worked with some notable companies and leaders across every imaginable industry, built a bank of airline miles, took a few great vacations and worked in some sweet office spaces.
But we also experienced a death of a dream, more than one financial drought, a few colossal failures, the testing of some friendships and a bucket of miscellaneous disappointments, knee scrapes and cloudy days.
Then, about a decade and half ago, I made a slight lane change in my work. Although I still did strategy and high-end executive coaching with senior leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs, I lowered the age of my typical client and I added a very calculated not-for-profit element into my portfolio. Both were done with thoughtful intentionality. I joined a few boards at the tip of the faith and culture influence arrow (like Praxis and Q) to keep my mind sharp and my heart soft.
Well, actually I made two shifts around that time. I also began taking ownership in a number of businesses ranging from sports media to home delivery to analytics. That was more accidental than intentional but it has allowed me to not just be a coach or consultant and become more of an owner operator. I love getting to work in both spaces (coach/consultant and owner/operator), and I still get to produce a lot of content as well.
I have lived in beautiful Northwest Arkansas for 35 years. We have four distinct seasons (used to), clear cold rivers, mini mountains and just enough development for an occasional traffic jam. Thanks to the Waltons we have hundreds of miles of bike trails and more social culture than a place our size should have. Karen still puts up with me and calls me her husband, and our three adult children are now married. I have the job I designed, which means on tough Fridays, I have no one to gripe to other than myself. My only real complaint is I wish I could fish just a bit more. But there again, I need to look into the mirror and tell my boss. But make no mistake, I love my work and the folks I get to journey alongside.
"Dr. Graves gives an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned business veteran an actual path for better leadership and ultimately, living."
- John Cole, Professor Walton College of Business,
University of Arkansas