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Five tips from a successful businessman: Jim Allhusen

Accomplished executive Jim Allhusen offers advice for success

Story by Eddy Hoyle

Jim Allhusen grew up in a working class family on Long Island and was the first in his family to go to college, graduating from Colgate University and furthering his studies in marketing and banking at Rutgers University and Colorado University. He retired from Visa Inc. in 2014, most recently serving as president of Visa Canada. Most of his career was spent overseas. At Visa, he opened the China market for international consumer payments, ran Visa’s Japan operations, and was responsible for global banking clients in Asia Pacific. He previously served as group executive with Britain’s Standard Chartered Bank in charge of consumer banking operations in over 40 countries and was posted in Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. Other positions throughout his career include executive vice president of Advanta Corporation, president of Advanta National Bank, founder and divisional president of Household International’s de novo federal savings bank, and founder and president of Franklinton Financial Services where he was one of the original creators of the national ATM network, Cirrus, and the regional MoneyStation ATM network. Allhusen is currently chair of the Board of Directors of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and the chair of the Project SAFE Task Force, working with the Town of Hilton Head and the PSD to bring sewer access to native islander communities. He has just recently been elected to the Board of Directors of MUSC Foundation. He also has served as vice chair of the Hilton Head Institute and on the Finance and Strategic Planning committees of Sea Pines Country Club. He and his wife, Susan, who is also a very active community volunteer, have five children and 10 grandchildren and have had a home on Hilton Head for 27 years.

Here are his tips for success…

  1. Raise your hand. Be an activist, not just an advocate, in your company, industry and community. Being an advocate is not enough, Allhusen explained. “You’ve got to have skin in the game. Raise your hand! Put yourself on the line! Ask questions, volunteer, commit, offer ideas, participate, be involved and help to implement. To be successful, you’ve got to raise your hand.”
  2. Extrapolate. Allhusen said the goal is to get work done, rather than being perfect but late. “Don’t be afraid to make decisions from an incomplete set of data and experience to set a course of action. Be comfortable making decisions to move forward. There is often paralysis or at least sluggishness in trying to be perfect.” He explained that you often cannot wait for the last bit of data to stay ahead of the competition. “Add your experience and instinct to your incomplete set of data, and if your data is true, just go. Remember that the goal is to get the work done.”
  3. Prepare a tossed salad. America is described as a melting pot in which individual cultures are assimilated and blended. But Canadians sometimes describe their country as “a tossed salad,” Allhusen said. “As the head of a business, your goal should be to build a tossed salad – not just with lettuce. Let carrots be carrots, romaine be romaine, radishes be radishes … then you have a diverse team, but get them all aligned, with a common commitment to the same goal. If I am lettuce and all I hire is more lettuce, I limit the diversity of ideas and experience.”
  4. Peak time. “Use your best time of day, your peak time, to take advantage of your creativity,” Allhusen said. “Know your peak time and do your critical thinking then. To catch me at my best, I control my calendar and schedule what is important at my peak times. Be conscious of making decisions at your most productive and creative peaks.”
  5. Be grateful, give back. “Recognize that it’s important to give back to the world and that your talents and experience can help our communities improve. Raise your hand, pay it forward,” Allhusen said.