*One of a collection of stories written by alumni for the Jepson School's 20th Anniversary

I was part of the first class of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. Armed with the leadership skills that were taught at the Jepson School I have been part of five start-ups over the past 20 years.

For the last six years I have led American Support, a U.S.-based contact center with three physical call centers along with virtual, home-based employees in more than 115 cities across 26 states. With the democratic principles of leadership taught at Jepson as our compass, we set our sights on accountability, connectivity and alignment – with our employees, with our clients and with our clients’ customers.

Leadership principals taught at the Jepson School have helped American Support recruit and retain talent through an authentic quest to empower individuals to achieve their best. All employees are made aware of and appreciate the company’s core values: NICER - Be nice, Improve continuously, Communicate clearly, do Excellent work and get to the Root.

The Jepson School also taught me that it is important to play a leadership role in the community as well as in the business. I currently am on the board of the Raleigh-Durham Chapter of The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) and am the entrepreneur-in-residence for The National Military Spouse Network.

Being an entrepreneur is partially about seeing opportunities but mostly about being able to adapt and lead through the changes that occur in growing a business. I firmly believe that the technical skills required to succeed in a specific industry can be learned as needed. Having the deep foundation and understanding of leadership, motivation and ethics provided by the Jepson School makes it possible to lead in any context.

Thank you to the entire Jepson community for this gift. I look forward to being part of this community as it grows over the next 20 years.

--Matt Zemon