Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall has DRC Annual Meeting crowd dancing for diversity and inclusion

by Dave Moore, Staff Writer

A record crowd of nearly 1,700 filled the Hilton Anatole Trinity Ballroom at the Dallas Regional Chamber 2020 Annual Meeting on Jan. 9 to catch up with old friends, hear from the DRC’s incoming chair, John Olajide, and draw inspiration from Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall.

Given the opportunity, Marshall – who was hired in 2018 to change the culture of the Dallas Mavericks – promptly led the ballroom in the “Cupid Shuffle,” to illustrate the sense of inclusion she’s bringing to the Mavs.

“Diversity is when you’ve been invited to the party,” said Marshall, who previously spent 36 years as an AT&T employee and executive. “Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

In her keynote conversation with Caroline Clarke, award-winning journalist and chief brand officer of Women of Power, Marshall described establishing a 100-day plan for the Mavs and how she went about improving the organization’s way of doing things. She started by having one-on-one, in-depth conversations with every employee.

“I found out we have some incredible people… One day, I said, we have an opportunity to literally make this the best place on the planet to work. Great basketball side. Great coach. Great everything on that side. On the business side, we have an opportunity to mirror what’s on the basketball side and put a winning culture in place.”

Aside from instituting a plan that bans intolerance and false allegations, the Mavs also established a diverse leadership team and advisory council to help keep the organization on track.

Marshall cited inspiration she drew from AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and CFO John Stephens, the 2018 DRC board chair, and Mavs Head Coach Rick Carlisle, who she called to the stage for a portion of her interview following the dance.

“It’s like this every day at the office,” Carlisle joked. “Music playing. People dancing. Crazy stuff going on. (But) she is the greatest. She has been a revelation for our organization. She’s reinvented the culture of everything.”

In his remarks earlier in the meeting, Axxess founder and CEO Olajide thanked his wife, Bukky, whom he described as his “MVP,” and said he will work with DRC members to improve health care and education for everyone in the region. He said one of his goals as incoming chair is to make it easier for entrepreneurs to connect with mentors at the DRC.

“As a boy, I dreamed of attending college in America, while growing up in Lagos, Nigeria,” Olajide said. “I just want to say, today, that I’m a proud alumnus of the University of Texas at Dallas. To be selected by some of the best and brightest business minds in the nation to lead an amazing organization like this, before my 39th birthday… incredible!” he said. “Only in America.”

Olajide, the youngest DRC chair in the organization’s 111-year history, said the growth of his health care technology company could only happen in Dallas, and that his story optimizes the hopes and dreams of many in the region.

In his remarks, outgoing 2019 DRC Board Chair Chris Nielsen discussed successes he saw during his tenure, including the passage of HB3, which has been touted as the first major school finance reform in Texas in three decades.

“Education and its output, a skilled and talented workforce will always be mission critical to the DRC’s goals,” said Nielsen, Toyota Motor North America executive vice president, product support, and chief quality officer. “It is critically important that we continue to engage and support all students, no matter their geographic location or circumstance.”

Michelle Vopni, Dallas Office Managing Partner of Ernst & Young LLP, will serve as DRC Chair of the Board in 2021, it was announced at the meeting.

“The Dallas Region is thriving like never before, with more than 130 corporate headquarters relocations in just the past decade,” Vopni said in a statement. “It’s an incredible honor to serve on the DRC board at this time, and I look forward to collaborating with John, my board colleagues, DRC CEO Dale Petroskey, and his team as we continue to work to make the Dallas Region the best place in the United States to live, work, and do business.”

The Annual Meeting Presenting Sponsor was Axxess; Premier Community Sponsor was Target; Platinum Sponsors were Ernst & Young LLP; Thomson Reuters; and Wells Fargo; Gold Sponsors were American Airlines; Inc.;  Jacobs; and Toyota Motor North America. Silver Sponsors included AT&T; The Dallas Morning News; Frito-Lay North America; HSBC Bank USA; and The Men and Women of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. Bronze Sponsors were Amegy Bank of Texas; Arcosa; BKD CPAs & Advisors; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas; Capital One Bank; Children’s Health; DFW International Airport; Fidelity Investments; McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.; Oncor; PwC; and Santander.

At the conclusion of the 2020 Annual Meeting, it was announced that Randall Stephenson, Chairman and CEO of AT&T, and Brian Tyler, CEO of McKesson, will headline the 2021 Annual Meeting on January 15, 2021, at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. The Dallas Region is the only market in the United States with multiple Fortune 10 headquarters, including AT&T and McKesson. For more information or to register for the DRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting, please click here.