Former BB&T CEO speaks at COBE BB&T luncheon
Retired BB&T CEO John Allison delivered the keynote address Oct. 4 at the Radford University College of Business and Economics (COBE) BB&T Global Capitalism Lecture Series in Kyle Hall.
Allison spoke to a gathering students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the COBE Advisory Board and representatives from BB&T.
“Life is about figuring out how to get better together,” Allison said. “You should ask yourself, ‘What’s in it for me?’ That’s a fair question. But you also should ask, ‘What’s in it for them?’ Because if there’s nothing in it for them at the end of the day, there will be nothing in it for you. Life is about creating win-win relationships.”
Allison also spoke about money and happiness.
“A lot of business people get confused and think money is the end of the game. “There’s nothing wrong with money, but it’s not the end of the game,” he said. “Happiness is the end of the game. And the foundation for happiness is real self-esteem. And real self-esteem has to be earned.”
Allison said you earn confidence by how you live your life. “Nobody can give you self-esteem. You cannot give your children self-esteem. You have to earn it.”
Live life “with integrity,” he continued, “and you will raise self-esteem.”
Allison said the “single biggest driver” of self-confidence is work. “That’s why work is important,” he said. “If you don’t do your work the best you can possibly do it, you will lower your self-esteem.”
The good news, Allison said, “is the flip is also true. Do your work the best you can possibly do it, given your level skill, given your level of knowledge, it will raise your self-esteem. It’s fundamentally about your character, about who you are.”
Allison was president and CEO of BB&T, the 10th-largest financial services holding company headquartered in the United States. During Allison’s tenure as CEO from 1989 to 2008, BB&T grew from $4.5 billion to $152 billion in assets. He was recognized by the Harvard Business Review as one of the top 100 most successful CEOs in the world over the last decade.
Allison now is an executive in residence at the Wake Forest School of Business. He is a member of the Cato Institute's Board of Directors and Chairman of the Executive Advisory Council of the institute's Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives.
Allison has received the Corning Award for Distinguished Leadership, been inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Banker. In addition, he is a former Distinguished Professor of Practice at Wake Forest University School of Business and serves on the Board of Visitors at the business schools at Wake Forest, Duke and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
Allison is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. He received his master’s degree in management from Duke University and is also a graduate of the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. Allison is the recipient of six honorary doctorate degrees.
The talk marked the second time Allison has served as keynote speaker for the event. He first spoke in Fall 2010. The inaugural COBE BB&T Global Capitalism Lecture Series was in Fall 2009.
“It was an honor to welcome John Allison back to Radford University,” said COBE Dean George Low. “He is a respected leader and a person of great integrity, whose ideas regarding capitalism as the key to economic growth and prosperity are recognized and appreciated throughout the business world.”
The Global Capitalism Lecture Series is an ongoing collaboration between BB&T and COBE to stimulate thought and discussion about capitalism, the tenets of free enterprise and the best practices of successful organizations.