Virginia at Work: Local leader finds success with positive outlook

Roanoke, Va. - "Build it and they will come" ... we've all heard some variation of the phrase, but not so many people actually put it into action.  In Virginia at Work, we introduce you to a local leader who has enjoyed quite a bit of success in the last few years.

By highlighting the achievements of JD Sutphin, owner of Big Lick Entertainment, we hope to also learn from him.

He's the guy behind some of the biggest social events in the Roanoke Valley, such as BOCO BBQ and Country Fest, Down by Downtown and Big Lick Burger Fest.

"I just love the idea of making business happen in this country. Every day I'm so thankful for that and it provides the energy for myself," says Sutphin.

Coming up on four years in business, Sutphin left the comforts of a paycheck and benefits in the corporate world and set out to begin Big Lick Entertainment. He says his 'take no prisoners, burn down the island' attitude was incredibly important in making that jump from employee to entrepreneur.

Sutphin says, "Our first event was the Big Lick Downtown Countdown in 2013.  It was a New Year's Eve event. It was inspired by the News Year's Eve parties I went to at my own grandmother's house.  Again, create something that matters to you, because if it does, hopefully there's someone else who will find something that makes it matter to them," he adds, "I actually quit my job before we had our first contract signed.  Because I was that confident of, there was only success, I am going to make it work.  Whether it leads to another job where I don't end up working for myself, it was my goal that it was going to work, I am going to leave my 401k and retirement  and benefits that I was working at a corporate job for over a decade. That was a big scary thing for me. Considering I had been at that job since I'd been out of HS.  I knew nothing else."

That first event sold out, as did the second and third events Sutphin put together.
So what makes JD Sutphin successful? We posed that question to executive coach and CEO of Cortex Leadership Consulting, Lynda McNutt Foster.

"First time I ever saw JD, he was on a daytime show promoting positive thinking day. What occurred to me immediately was, when you are given a platform as a leader, when you are asked to say something in front of a group of people, to use that moment to build people up. I think that is what JD does, better than so many other people. Every time you have an interaction with JD, it is positive. It moves things forward. He is a collaborator," says Foster.

Sutphin adds, "I went to an event called the CityWorks Xpo and the first thing I heard was someone from tourism said, if you want someone to visit your town, ask yourself, when was the last time you visited their town? And it inspired me so much. Because I thought about it, if you really wanted your business to work, start thinking, are you supporting other businesses? Are you in the community?"

As an executive coach, Foster simply states that 'positive' works. It works when you appreciate people and appreciate their strengths. She says you trigger other people's best abilities, and motivate them, when you build them up. That's exactly what Foster sees in JD Sutphin's work, and why we chose JD Sutphin as a leader who inspires.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow morning when Lynda and JD join our Good Day Virginia team to talk about positive leadership, how to motivate your team and how to be a supportive leader in a way that coaches and develops the people on your team.


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