Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

Eight tips from a successful businessman: John White

Banking industry executive John White shares advice for success.

Story by Eddy Hoyle

John White’s success in the banking industry spanned four decades. His positions included executive vice president of National City Bank, Cleveland; President/CEO of Union Planters Bank, Memphis; and Regional CEO of Regions Bank, Birmingham. White joked that he and his family moved so often that people thought they were in a federal witness protection program. Originally from Detroit, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a BS, an MS and an MBA. He retired in 2008 after moves to Clemson and Greenville and relocated to Hilton Head in 2012 where his sons attended sports academies.

He and his wife, Pam, have a small real estate investment company. “I had an epiphany,” he said. “I hate being retired.” White believes that a person never really grows until they move away from what they know, so he has reinvented himself as a real estate agent with Weichert Coastal Properties.

White has shared his knowledge and skills as a coach and by serving on boards of various civic and charitable organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse and St. Jude’s Hospital. He currently sits on the Hilton Head Board of Zoning Appeals. He has two sons in college and his wife, Pam, is an artist.

John White is shown with his family near Saint John in the Caribbean Sea. His sons are Trevor and Evan, and his wife is Pam.

John’s keys to success

1. Dream huge. “Dream huge and never compromise on your dreams. Believe in yourself and focus daily on your dream, never letting the weight of life force compromise,” White said. “Be proud of your uniqueness, your skills, your gifts. Attitude, hard work, and pride are a part of dreaming, but also be humble, kind and grateful and develop positivity.”

2. A conditioned reflex. “If you’re passionate about something, it’s not a job. Refuse to have a bad day. It can become a habit. It’s a choice to always give your best effort,” White said. “Condition yourself to be passionate and enthusiastic. No matter what you’re doing, do it well.” When you make a conscious decision every day to do your best, it becomes a conditioned reflex.

3. Stretch yourself. “Don’t be afraid of change,” White emphasized. “People get set and settled, but you must stretch yourself. Change is an opportunity for growth. You only know what you know, and unless you’re willing to take steps to make yourself uncomfortable, you can’t grow.”

4. Be laser-focused. “Be laser focused on what has to be done,” he said. “Prioritize your efforts and don’t waste time. Time can be your greatest asset and your greatest enemy. Everything else but time can be replaced,” White added. “The most important thing is always the most important thing – it’s usually the hardest and most gut-wrenching and easiest to put off, and needs to be at the top of your list.”

5. Chain of ownership. “Hire and promote the best people and allow them to own the process and results. Leaders should back off and allow others to manage their projects with a ‘curb’ mentality, where there are goals set within specific boundaries resulting in a chain of ownership that will take your business to heights never even imagined,” he said.

6. Everything is up for debate. “Listen and encourage opinions. You want people to challenge corporate orthodoxy. Create an environment where people are engaged. You want to hear all opinions because it matters,” White said.

7. Shared vision. “Leaders should have the ability to share their vision and motivation. Create an environment that everyone yearns to come to work and make a difference,” he said. “Shift from a transaction-driven to a relationship-driven mentality.”

8. Finally, have fun. “You spend the majority of your waking life working. Make it count. Don’t get mired in the mundane, allow yourself to dream huge. If you believe you can, you’re half way there.”