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Four tips from a leader in recruitment, diversity and inclusion: Coleman Peterson

Coleman Peterson shares some good business advice.

Story by Eddy Hoyle

Coleman Peterson is the president and CEO of Hollis Enterprises, a human resource consulting firm founded in 2004 after his retirement from Walmart. He served as executive vice president of people at Walmart and was the chief human resource officer of the world’s largest private workforce, numbering over 2 million associates worldwide. During Walmart’s global expansion, Peterson helped to diversify its workforce, creating America’s No. 1 employer of African-Americans and Hispanics.

Today, through Hollis Enterprises, Peterson specializes in executive coaching, succession planning and board governance. In 2012 he authored a book, “How To Get There From Here – The Ten Lessons That Have Served Me Well.” Peterson said that today, in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, companies are reaching out to him for guidance on diversity and inclusion. Peterson also is involved with Sigma Pi Phi, one of three fraternities he belongs to. Its goal is to improve the representation of African Americans on corporate boards.

Peterson is a native of Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in Chicago, where he obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Loyola University. He and his wife, Shirley (aka Peaches), first traveled to Hilton Head 40-plus years ago when they bought a timeshare. They returned every year for their anniversary and built a permanent home in Sea Pines in 2009. Peterson recently joined the board of directors of Volunteers in Medicine and will sit on the new board of the University of South Carolina Beaufort Foundation.

He and Peaches love to spend time “with family, family and more family.” They have two children and two grandsons. They enjoy traveling, entertaining, dancing, theater, community activities, golf and giving back to their community. Here are his tips for success.

Keys to Success

1. Have a goal. Success is not necessarily equated with only those in business careers. “How do you define success? To be the richest or to be the best at what you do? If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably never get there,” Peterson said. “Pick your long-term goal and the short-term measures to get there. Define specific benchmarks. But first, understand what it is that you want to become and what success looks like for you.”

2. Work hard, and no shortcuts. “At the end of the day, it’s the good, old American work ethic that makes you successful,” Peterson said. “Rule No. 1 is to show up and give 110 percent. There are no shortcuts to the finish line. Put a stake in the ground – your goal – and wake up every day and work toward it.”

3. Develop people skills. “Having the capacity to get things done through other people is often underestimated. Learn how to motivate, listen, have empathy and be supportive. Recognize all talent, not just talent that looks like you.” Peterson explained that recruiting with goals of diversity and inclusion helps to increase your pool of talent in order to get the very best people.

4. Be thankful and help somebody. Peterson believes that it’s important to give back. Recognize that if you’re fortunate to be successful, you didn’t get there by yourself. Your success wasn’t a result of you alone. Others supported and mentored you along the way. So be thankful and help people – return God’s blessings to your community.