Topic: Finding the Soul of Big Business

Paula Marshall

The November 2009 meeting received a special guest as our speaker was Bama Companies' President/CEO, Paula Marshall.  As many Tulsan's know, the Bama Companies' origins go back to 1927 in the kitchen of Paula's grandmother.  Taking over the company in 1984, Paula is a Third-Generation Owner of the Bama Companies.

Paula started off by asking if we wanted to hear about her, the Bama Companies or the book.  With a show of hands, it appeared most wanted to hear about the book, some about the company, but not many hands went up to hear about her.  Paula quipped, "Well, it's obvious you don't care anything about me, so I'll tell you a little bit about the history of the Bama Companies."  That was the beginning of a hilarious ride for the next 45 minutes.

Paula is a sharp, down-to-earth individual who was a delight to listen to.  Her talk focused on how at one point in time, McDonald's, who was basically the source of the majority of their business, was threatening to pull the plug unless some changes were made.  Paula didn't necessarily agree with the changes they were asking for for, but understanding that without the McDonald's account they would be in trouble, was open to making some changes.  This ultiimately lead to her attending a seminar where she met William Edward Deming.  During the seminar, Deming had asked for a show of hands to determine how many of the attendees were business owners.  Paula was  the only one who raised her hand.  Deming approached her later in the day.  He encouraged her to attend more of his sessions and ultimately took her under his wing with Paula attending many more seminars and programs taught by Deming.  Today, Paula considers Deming her mentor and her new book was inspired by him and his teachings.

Deming had encouraged Paula to write a book about the subject matter covered in her new book and the result is Finding the Soul of Big Business.  The heart of the book addresses the fact that big business has become too concerned with profits and the bottom line.  Paula believes that, instead, big business should be focused on their employees, vendors and business partners.  If your employees are trained and given education opportunties, understand what their role is within the company, are able to cross-train and learn other's roles within the company and are given the opportunity to express their ideas, they will be more motivated to do a good job than they would through more compensation.  Money certainly helps, but studies show money is not the main motivation behind whether or not an employee enjoys or stays with their job.  To learn more, you need to read Paula's book, available on her web site at

Paula graciously signed the books, as well as copies purchased by IFMA members and their guests.  If you missed this meeting, check out Paula's calendar on her web site and catch her at one of her other speaking engagements.  It will be well worth your time.