How CSO Cassius Butts is Helping Atlanta Small Business Owners Face and Overcome Obstacles

The pandemic year of 2020 placed a renewed emphasis on strategic planning. On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, business consultant for the UGA Small Business Development Center, is joined by Cassius Butts, Chief Strategy Officer and Senior Partner with Global Leader Group. Butts is a true visionary who is no stranger to the Atlanta business landscape. He is an accomplished entrepreneur and has served in a number of key leadership roles with leading organizations in the metro Atlanta area. He also served as a Presidential appointee at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome into the playbook, Cassius.

Cassius Butts:
Thank you, Mark. And thank you for having me here today.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely, man. I said, “You are no stranger to the Atlanta landscape”. Your name is well known here. So kind of share with me, what are you doing professionally these days, man?

Cassius Butts:
Well, Mark, I would tell you, this is the time of the year where we start to think about what we are going to plan for next year in 2022.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Cassius Butts:
And with COVID it’s been a little bit challenging, but we have been able to push through it. These days I’ve known what I’ve always done Mark, following my passion and you know me well enough to know that if I’m doing something that’s, I’m following my passion, I’m having fun, I’m being intentional, and hopefully, I’m making a difference in someone else’s communities or their lives. I serve as the ‘Chief Strategy Officer for Global Leader Group’.

Cassius Butts:
We’re based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. We have offices, but we just open up in the UK that also touches Asia and, and Africa as well too. But also domestically here, we have locations in New York. And recently opened up an office in Atlanta. One of our key initiatives is to help organizations actually function better. By helping to streamline some of their processes. We are also doing executive coaching for senior-level executives. As well as trying to find executives to work for corporations who are looking to explain, expand their platform. So I’ve really enjoyed that. I still own Capital Fortitude Business Advisors. We’re helping the midsize businesses with access to capital. I don’t run the day-to-day to that anymore. But one of our clients is based in Florida, Coke Balling Company. Very happy to implement their supplier diversity initiative. Looking for that to come to fruition and as well as another companies with across the country that are looking to actually scale up or to help suppliers who are looking to do business with them. Yeah, so that’s it.

Mark Collier:
Well, you mentioned two things that are key to my heart “Supply Diversity.” Yes. I mean, it is a necessity nowadays that companies diversify their supplier base because their consumer base is diversified.

Cassius Butts:
That’s right.

Mark Collier:
So it makes perfect sense in that regard. So I’m going to twitch your horn a little bit here if you allow me to.

Cassius Butts:
Okay.

Mark Collier:
You recently helped close a $30 million hotel deal at Morris Brown College.

Cassius Butts:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
You played a key role in the sale of the Fort McPherson, local redevelopment authority, acreage to Tyler Perry and TD Jake’s real estate development joint venture.

Cassius Butts:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
And you’ve also helped to establish an internship program between your Alma mater Morehouse College and Atlanta’s Four Seasons Hotel.

Cassius Butts:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
So you have been a busy guy man.

Cassius Butts:
Pretty busy, yes.

Mark Collier:
Which one of those accomplishments would you say you’re most proud of and Why?

Cassius Butts:
You know, Mark, I would definitely have to say something that touches my heart is always aspiring professionals. People who are looking to, again, step into their greatness in some form of fashion. I’m privileged to serve my Morehouse College’s Board of Advisors, the Department of Economics in business. And so this was a unique opportunity where Four Seasons Hotel was looking to expand where they are looking to make differences in diverse communities and also put a different professional background. And so just was very proud about helping to establish that internship program. Of course, it wasn’t just not me alone. We work as an advisory board along with the college and Dr. Thomas, who is at the hem at Morehouse who gives the final okay. But Nancy Chacon, who is the CEO Four Seasons Hotel. She had the vision, Mark. She said, “I want to help other people who like me”. She started out as a person cleaning the rooms at a hotel and all of her way through college. And now she is this President/CEO of Four Seasons in Atlanta.

Mark Collier:
So from cleaning rooms ascending to the C-suite.

Cassius Butts:
That’s right.

Mark Collier:
It doesn’t get any more textbook classic definition of success than that.

Cassius Butts:
It doesn’t. But I will also tell you, even in helping to add jobs and in opportunities within communities, such as Southwest Atlanta. The board of directors for the Fort Mac LRA, we collectively helped to bring that to fruition. Along with the leadership at Fort McPherson. I have to credit two entities. Of course, I’ve to credit, Governor Kemp. For helping to have Fort McPherson, to be in a place to make something like this, to be a place that is receptive to entrepreneurs to come to Southwest Atlanta. I have to thank Mayor Bottoms as well, too. With her leadership of helping to make certain that opportunities that’s going to infuse capital within communities where a lot of times they have been—for a number of years. This is probably the second-largest economic development project in Southwest Atlanta last 40 years. Next to the expansion of Hartsfield Jackson airport.

Cassius Butts:
And so again, the two conglomerates TD Jakes himself, but Mr. Tyler Perry as well, who first took that opportunity to expand and to invest into this community. Has really done three things again. Add jobs to an economy that is looking to have opportunities, really helping to serve us a food desert if you will. And third, to really give the vision for people who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs, to be professionals, to be business leaders, to be someone who’s making a difference within their communities. That’s what that opportunity Fort McPherson met much to me, Morris Brown of course, was very glad to serve as a board of trustee there. And that opportunity was just something that just fell into the lap. Mark. Hilton was looking to expand their years within the Atlanta market. I happened to be in at the right place at the right time and there was some of the right people. And I think that’s something I’m very proud of helping Morris brown get back on the streets. And of course they just got their accreditation back as well too.

Mark Collier:
I read that. That is great news for not only current students, but the alumni as well.

Cassius Butts:
Yes, so being a graduate of the Atlanta University Center myself from Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta for graduate school, seeing Morris Brown and come back in his full was very exciting.

Mark Collier:
Wonderful. So I’m sure you’ve had a plethora of individuals who have touched your life along the way.

Cassius Butts:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
So kind of share with me who are some of the individuals in your professional life kind of help influence and shape your professional career?

Cassius Butts:
You know, there’s been so many. I come from a faith-driven background in a family who is already, always, really pushed me to make certain that I support those who have helped to pay, make pathways for myself. Starting out in my professional career in the Southern market. I have to credit Maynard Jackson. Maynard Jackson was one of those persons who took me underneath his wing when I came to Atlanta, some 30 years ago for as a college student.

Mark Collier:
A true icon, he is.

Cassius Butts:
Someone who has made huge differences and it’s really helped me make sound decisions. Ambassador Andrew Young, has been another individual, who’s been very supportive in my walk. And I thank him very much for those opportunities, but there are some other folks who, who played a role. Mark. Who’s kind of helped Dr. Louis Lynn, who is on a board of advisors, board of trustees for Clemson University who has ran a 30-year-old, family own construction management company. He’s something who I speak and think very highly of. And then you have your local leaders, you have some of the other folks who’ve helped along the way. I got a credit, I got Sam Olenz who is serving another number of roles within the Southern market as a commissioner, as a president and now a senior advisor or a senior advisor for a law firm, but no, all in all, I still have the opportunity to speak to people, to help, to give me the opportunity to make some really good decisions personally and professionally. And I don’t take them for granted.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Well, listen a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs are watching this program today. So what advice can you give to either aspiring or seasoned entrepreneurs when they face obstacles? Man, a lot of times when entrepreneurs face obstacles, if they haven’t had that training, that background on how to not only face the obstacles, but overcome them, they become pitfalls in the entrepreneurs. So I share some of your guidance in that area.

Cassius Butts:
Sure. I definitely think, Mark, it’s one of those situations when I see one of those situations when entrepreneurs or small business owners face adversity, usually you want to always have something in place. You really want to have a mentor-mentee relationship with, into the organization that you can rely and balance ideas off. The second thing is I would always ask people to make sure that you volunteer your time. To any organization that you’re working with, I can tell you for me in my career, I’ve been very fortunate to serve in another number of categories professionally. I served as a presidential management fellow during, the Bush administration at HUD. I served as a regional administrator in the Obama administration for the Southeastern region. Leaving there was fortunate to advise the folks who were working on the opportunity zones during the Trump administration. And the most recent I served on the Biden-Harris transition team.

Cassius Butts:
I say that those were opportunities where I either volunteer my time and my attention towards something that was greater than myself. It was actually serving a number of people or communities. And when you see that, when you do face adversity, you could always go back to those places that you’ve helped to make differences with your own time.

Mark Collier:
Great point, Cassius.

Cassius Butts:
People value that.

Mark Collier:
No, they do. And another thing, anyone it’s easy for people in certain positions to write a check. But you said something very important for them to donate their time. That’s something entirely different. And that’s something that people take a little bit more personal.

Cassius Butts:
Yes, they do and I think that when you’re intentional about it and you’re not looking to, folks are easy to, drop a name or to make a, it’s not about that. It’s really about making certain that you use your time and your relationship for you and your family and to make positive differences. And I think that’s something that it’s a practice. The more that you practice that, it becomes a part of your daily walk. And with the combination, the good people around you, it’s not a matter of, if things go wrong, when they do go wrong, got a community that can Support you.

Mark Collier:
Right. When they go wrong, how do you bounce back.

Cassius Butts:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
So you’re person who’s pretty well connected here in the Atlanta area. So what are some upcoming business events that we should be aware of?

Cassius Butts:
Well, I will tell you that there are several opportunities that are coming up where I think that small businesses can take advantage of and I will take this opportunity because your show actually has a lot of people looking for those answers certification and being certified as a small or minority-owned business is something that’s really, really key. And so there are folks here at the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council who are ready and willing to help to assist in getting you certified.

Mark Collier:
I know Stacy key as well. She does great work.

Cassius Butts:
Yes, she does. You back your right. And there’s Roz Lewis as well at the greater women business council as well. Both of those, they are both having upcoming events in which small businesses should really take an opportunity to be a part of the other thing that’s coming up now is actually it’s coming up next year is the National Black MBA Association. I serve on their national board and the conferences here in the Atlanta.

Mark Collier:
Oh right. That’s for 2022.

Cassius Butts:
Yes. That’s come up in 2022. And I would definitely encourage all persons who are a small, whether you are, do or do not have an MBA, doesn’t matter your ethnic background. Play a role and be involved with something where you have hundreds of companies who are looking to either to retain your services as an individual or a small business owner. And so that’s huge.

Mark Collier:
That is huge.

Cassius Butts:
Last thing. But I would say is I also have the pleasure of serving on the Georgia Economic Development Board. Point about Governor Kemp. And I’m very proud of that because this has been eight years in a real, Mark, that we are now have been recognized as the number one state to do business in.

Mark Collier:
No, that’s, I’m well aware of that statistic. And that is a one that the state and governor Kemp should be Very proud of.

Cassius Butts:
Certainly. And the thing we’ve been working really hard to make certain that small and mid-size businesses in some large corporations who are moving to the state of Georgia, have the opportunity to play in this economic field of whether it’s in film or television or business. We’re very proud about that. Those are some big things that’s coming up and that’s it. I think other than that, I finally finished something I’ve been working on for some time, which is my book.

Mark Collier:
Your book.

Cassius Butts:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
All right. The name of the book and subject matter, please.

Cassius Butts:
Certainly it’s called “Being The Exception to The Rules“. It is a book centered around leadership and really having a blueprint opportunity for you as a small or mid sized business or a large corporation who was look, who were looking to really have, really blueprint opportunities to be successful and so I take a culmination of some of my personal and professional career, put it together and hopefully can make a difference in someone’s walk.

Mark Collier:
I love it. Cassius butts, Chief Strategy Officer and Senior Partner with Global Leader Group. I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy day, come in and just kind of share some of the stuff you’re doing, man. Some of the great initiatives you’re working on and you are always delivering value, man, to folks who are in and around Atlanta. We thank you for that.

Cassius Butts:
I thank you. And thank you for having me and thank you for what you do too. Mark.

Mark Collier:
You’re welcome.


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