Editor's Notebook

Photography by Rebecca Baxter By Susan Burns April 30, 2011

Each May Biz(941) celebrates the top bosses in Sarasota and Manatee. It’s one of our favorite features of the year, since we get to applaud the people who keep our economy humming and our workers happy. It’s possible to run a successful company even if you’re an evil Montgomery Burns or terrifying Tony Soprano, of course, but most surveys rank employee morale and satisfaction as the top measure of a leading company. Think about how much more successful many companies would be if they gave their employees the respect, trust and help that the bosses in this issue give their employees.

These bosses seem to have taken a page from workplace expert Daniel Pink’s new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink was in town this spring to talk to business leaders and students at Ringling College of Art and Design and to educators at a Gulf Coast Community Foundation event. It’s shocking, he says, that workplaces continue to operate on old industrial era assumptions about worker productivity. It’s not pay that motivates today’s workers, he insists (although workers do want to be paid a fair wage). It’s a sense that what they’re doing matters and that they’re given the time and flexibility to be creative and effective.

I’ve been “the boss” for lots of writers over the years (and pray I’m not one of those evil bosses), and now have my very own editorial assistant, Forest Balderson. Forest came to us last fall as an intern who was a full-time student at Eckerd College, studying creative writing. He was tenacious about getting the internship and, even though he had no journalism background, his ebullient, can-do attitude, his humor and thoroughness, won us over. After a few months, we were so impressed we offered him a job. He now writes articles for us and is editing our e-newsletter, the Biz(941) Daily—something he hadn’t even contemplated six months ago. Forest is a model for that old adage that attitude is everything and can be more important than years of experience in landing a job.

I’ll mention Forest to my son, Isaac. He is graduating from college this month, but as a history major, he’s sure to get the eye-rolling response from family and friends about what he’s really qualified to do with a B.A. in a squishy social science. He’s uncertain of what path he’ll be following but is committed to finding a job that gives him meaning, creativity and a living wage—just like the thousands of other college grads in this tight job market. As he tries to get his foot in the door of a company this summer—whether it’s at an Oregon vineyard, a construction company or something he has yet to think of—I’ll tell him that perseverance, an upbeat attitude and a strong work ethic can mean everything. And, if all else fails, signing on as an intern might be a good place to start.

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