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What is success? John Q. answers

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I’ve never known anyone who didn’t want to be successful. And yet if you asked a cross section of people how they would define success, you might get a variety of answers.

Popular literature is replete with formulas for success in business and personal life. I sat down recently with John Q. Hammons, a longtime friend, to get his prescription for the success he has experienced.

Hammons, simply known as John Q. throughout the Ozarks and in hotel and development circles, would be acknowledged as a successful business man. Now 91 years old, he continues to plan hotel and development projects throughout the country. His projects in Springfield and northwest Arkansas have changed the faces of those communities, and his projects elsewhere have had similar transforming effects.

In a career spanning some seven decades, Hammons has built more than 200 hotel and real estate development projects. He’s also been a prominent philanthropist contributing to schools, hospitals and communities in generous ways. He says it’s easy to be a philanthropist because you can go right to the head of the line when you give money away.

Many would say Hammons has been successful because he grew up poor, had ambition and became a wealthy man. When asked how he would define success, perhaps surprisingly
Hammons did not talk about the money he’s made. He’s never bought “toys,” and he chooses to live a relatively modest private life. He defines success rather in terms of the communities he’s helped build, the people who’ve been employed in his projects, the architectural elegance of the designs and their overall financial success.

Hammons credits his success to a number of factors. He says he had good parents who raised him right and set him on a path of living a disciplined and clean life. He doesn’t smoke, drinks little and works hard, often seven days a week. He observes that anyone can do these things if they have the intelligence, commitment and drive to pursue a goal.

Along the way, Hammons developed skills that enabled him to get ahead of the curve in business.
By listening, reading, talking to people and observing trends in the economy and popular culture, he honed his insight into trends and where they might be leading. He became a student of community growth, observing highway and airport developments and the role they play in business opportunities. And as a competitive entrepreneur, he evaluated the projects others were undertaking. He acknowledges that markets determine success and that understanding market dynamics is crucial in business planning.

In his hotel and hospitality business, taking care of people and meeting their needs with clean, attractive properties and appropriate facilities are essential. Identifying the right markets for his development projects has been at the heart of his strategy. Early on, he cut his teeth building Holiday Inn properties along the burgeoning interstate highway system. In later years, he opted to bypass large urban settings with their major convention hotels, and he avoided the economy chains whose properties had no meeting or exhibition facilities.

Hammons found his primary market niche in university towns, state capitals and growing business and recreational centers, where he has built hotels with adjoining meeting and exhibition space. These markets often lacked modern, attractive hotel and convention facilities but had a reliably consistent market for such properties. This formula has been remarkably successful with Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City, University Plaza in Springfield, Embassy Suites Hotel in Rogers, Ark., and Chateau on the Lake in Branson representative of his attractive developments across the country.

Hammons’ approach to development, based on hard work, focus, discipline and well-honed insights, has resulted in the success he’s achieved. Even at 91, he looks ahead to his next projects, one of which is the Chateau at Lake of the Ozarks. The communities where he does business have shared and benefited from John Q.’s success. Clearly, the Ozarks region, where his roots and company are located, has been a significant beneficiary of this success.

John E. Moore Jr., executive director of the Upper White River Basin Foundation, can be reached at jmoore@uwrb.org.[[In-content Ad]]

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