SJ Magazine invited 13 prominent men to The Capital Grille in Cherry Hill for an evening of conversation and exchange with Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Marianne Aleardi. The accomplished men were interesting and insightful, sharing stories that revealed much about their character and their success.

George Sowa
Executive VP/Senior Managing Director, Brandywine Realty Trust

Bobby Sliwowski
Founder, Bobby Chez Famous Jumbo Lump Crabcakes and QVC Celebrity Chef

Lou Greenwald
N.J. Assembly Majority Leader

Bryan Morton
Founder, North Camden Little League

Terry Ruggles
Former NBC10 Broadcaster

Sam Thevanayagam
President, Parts Life, Inc.

Rob Worley
Senior VP/NJ Market Manager, Republic Bank

Steve Priolo
Director, New Jersey Partnerships, NJTV

Scott Thomson
Chief of Police, Camden County Metro Division

Vince Papale
Author/Inspirational Speaker/former Philadelphia Eagle

James Galanis
Director of Soccer Operations, Universal Soccer Academy; trainer to World Cup Champion Carli Lloyd

Dave Girgenti
Founder/CEO, Lifeblink; founder, Wish Upon a Hero

Tim Kerrihard
President/CEO, YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties

On confidence…

I’m just a guy who was a dreamer, who was told he couldn’t do things because he was too small, he didn’t come from the right neighborhood, he didn’t have the right resume, right pedigree and all that stuff. But I chased a dream. I took a shot, and it changed my life.  –  Vince Papale

Challenges make life interesting, and overcoming them makes life meaningful. I was 36 years old. I had 14 years on the job, and I was not the best choice to be chief. I was the lack of options to be quite frank. It was the sixth leader in five years. The State had superseded control of the City. I was in a command position, and I got a phone call one day from the Attorney General who told me to come to Trenton, and not to tell anybody I was going. It was the second time I ever met the Attorney General, and she said, “Tomorrow I’m naming you police chief. I don’t care what you do, the body bags stop piling up.” The next day, she walked with me to the elected leaders and said, “Here’s your police chief. Any questions?” And one of them said, “Yeah, what’s his name?”  –  Scott Thomson

On success…

I worked at McDonald’s making $2.28 an hour. I fully expected I was going to get my own McDonald’s. The person I worked for was a millionaire, so that was my plan. Then a guidance counselor said, “Hey, George, are you going to college?” And I said, “No, I’m doing the McDonald’s thing.” She told me about a hotel and restaurant school at Cornell, but said it was hard to get into. I said, “You know what – hard to get into, that’s for me.” At Cornell I discovered there was a whole other world out there I never even dreamed about.  –  George Sowa

I started out after college as a stockbroker. I was on the phone making a sales presentation for the first time. I’m in a cubicle, and all of a sudden the older guys start coming around. They teach you to tape a list of responses for every objection to the side of your phone. So I’m into the eighth objection, and I don’t get the sale. I hang up the phone. I’m sweating. I’m disheveled. All the guys were around me, and it’s about 9:05 in the morning. I realized I shouldn’t be a stockbroker.  –  Steve Priolo

On their mothers…

(Special note from Marianne Aleardi: I had planned to ask the men about their fathers during the roundtable, but I never got to that. Very quickly – almost immediately – the conversation turned to their mothers. It was a lovely surprise to hear how much these men adored their mothers and attributed so much of their success to them.)

I’m the product of a broken family, so I have a strong mother. She started a bakery and made homemade bread with her hands, kneading it. I helped her after work doing all the icings and all the cookies. So I love to bake. That’s my release; I still bake today.  –  Rob Worley

My parents didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t belong to some fancy swim club, we belonged to Columbia Lakes. My brother and I thought we were the luckiest kids in the world. But then they were going to raise the fee from $3 to $5 to swim at Columbia Lakes. We couldn’t afford the $5. My mom was outraged. She had my brother and I nail signs to our bats that said, “Don’t raise the fee.” We stood there holding up our signs. And my mom fought back that fee increase – they didn’t raise it. It was a moment of a mom fighting for her kids but, unbeknownst to me, my life was changing in that moment.

My mom was a PTA mom. She was the president of the Junior Women’s League. She was active in the church. She was a Cub Scout den mother. She was a Pop Warner football mom. All these people came to her and said she had to run for office. She ran, and she became a legend in South Jersey politics.

She passed away tragically in a car accident in 1995, and the outpour from the community was remarkable. I had been asked the year before – I was 27 at the time – to run for United States Congress, and I had no interest in it. If my mom had a seatbelt on, she would have walked away from the accident. And if she had walked away, I wouldn’t be sitting here. My life would be completely different. But I was asked to run and I did, and it’s the only office I’ve ever held.  –  Lou Greenwald

My mom died when I was 11, and I had a 1-year-old brother. I don’t have matriarchal memories – nothing as far as moments we spent together. I grew up very quickly. The loss of my mother taught me to not be afraid of the kitchen, to know how to fold laundry, to do sustaining things and then simply to not be afraid. That’s translated to my family now. It made me compensate for my kids to make sure they had a parent at home every day.  –  Terry Ruggles

_DSC2367My mother and grandmother helped play a role in grounding me. They gave me the foundation, the vision and the ability to be comfortable with myself as I became the man I ultimately wanted to be. It was them saying, “Hey, you know what, that’s OK, but that’s not necessarily the way you’re going to do it. Remember to always say thank you. Remember to always say please.” Those things put me in position for somebody to say, “Hey, he’s a little rough around the edges, but he’s got some stuff going for him that I can work with.”  –  Bryan Morton

When I started at 5 years old, rolling a wagon, selling snowballs, it was always my mother who pushed me to be successful. When all of the kids had three flavors and sold them for a nickel, she gave me 10 flavors and I sold them for four cents. She always pushed me to be better. My whole life she was by my side.  –  Bobby Sliwowski

On leadership style…

I’m a collaborative leader. I’ve learned how to work together with people. If I’m throwing a cocktail party at 6 o’clock, I want everybody to show up at 6 o’clock. I want everybody to be there, not that I’m going to be mad if you’re late, but I want everybody to get the invitation and know where we’re going. In other words, it’s about bringing people together.  –  Tim Kerrihard

I lead by example. What I’m going to ask of someone else, I have done myself. I’m the executive director, but I’m going to take out the trash. I’m going to greet people. I’m going to be able to work spreadsheets. And I’m going to lead the organization. I want people around me who are comfortable doing all jobs and are willing to learn all aspects of the work.  –  Bryan Morton

Depending on the situation and the people you are leading, you may need a different leadership style. In certain situations you may have to be direct, but in other cases, you may be able to delegate. It’s a collaborative effort to recognize which style of leadership you’re going to use.  –  Sam Thevanayagam

I use poker to define my leadership style. I started playing poker in the early 2000s. It taught me two really important things that I translate into business: First, your leadership style can’t be singular. You can’t have one leadership style for everyone, like you just can’t play the whole table the same way. You have to assess the person.

The other thing I learned from poker was patience. As you sit in a poker tournament, it’s all about patience. You’re not just playing your cards. Pocket aces doesn’t mean you lose or win. You have to be understanding and think about what that person is going to do next. If you look at it from their perspective, it changes how you treat them.  –  Dave Girgenti

My philosophy is to be a leader’s leader, to develop leaders. I don’t want followers. I want people who are thinkers and problem solvers. As a leader, you’ve got to get to know a person to get a picture of exactly who this person is and how you can get into their mind and turn them into a leader. I don’t sit there and say, “I’m the coach, and you guys are the team.” I want a thinking team.  –  James Galanis

On their work…

When I became Chief, I knew significant change needed to occur. The first thing I did was transfer 100 guys who worked from Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, to working nights and weekends when most crimes occur. Needless to say, I didn’t get any Christmas cards that year. In my first six months on the job, I had eight lawsuits filed against me. But then, in broad daylight, a 4-year-old boy was running down the street and got caught in the crossfire of two drug dealers and was killed. His name was Brandon Thomas. That was a line in the sand moment for me. My reply to the people who were pushing back and fighting was: I have to look a mother in the eye who just buried her child, and I have to answer the question of what am I going to do to prevent her from burying her next child. How could I give her a straight answer when cops were working better hours than bankers? So for me, I have to look myself in the mirror and know I am doing everything I can to help the people in the city.  –  Scott Thomson

I started in broadcast journalism in 1966. I’ve interviewed people who make headlines and people who make history and people who make music and people who make money. But the people I remember are the people who make a difference.  –  Terry Ruggles

My job is my vocation. It’s my ministry; it’s what I do all the time. I really only have two passions in my life: it’s this and my family. There is nothing in between. I’m extremely fortunate I have a family that is unbelievably supportive. They give away so much of their time with me. There’s maybe one day a week, if I’m lucky, that I can have dinner with them. There are commitments that I have, and there are expectations of other people that I will be there for them.  –  Scott Thomson

On regrets…

When my kids were growing – they’re 34 and 32 now – and I would go to work, I would kiss them goodbye in the morning when they went to school. When I came home, they were asleep, and I’d kiss them on the head. That was five days a week. It’s the only regret I have.  –  Bobby Sliwowski

On being a man today…

It’s not about being a man or a woman. It’s about being a person that is true to who you really are.  –  Rob Worley

When we were back in school, there was this book called “Iron John,” and it was about how men could not cry. Nowadays, it’s perfectly OK for me to be tender with my son. I can tell him it’s OK to be sensitive to the needs of his sister, to be sensitive to the needs of the community and serve. We were very different before. It was about leadership then, and leadership was cold. Now it’s OK to be warm and kiss and love.  –  Bryan Morton

You’ve got to keep putting yourself into situations where you’re going to feel uncomfortable. You’ll come out of it and you’ll feel comfortable, and when you do feel comfortable it’s going to feel good. Then you’ll do it again and again. And all of the sudden, you’re not afraid of challenges.  –  James Galanis

Every day my mom would leave for work, and she would yell up the stairs as I was getting ready for school, “I love you,” and I never said it back. Every single day. My father never said it. I didn’t think boys were supposed to say it. I would say, “Me too,” and I would say, “I know.” When I was 28 years old and she passed away…literally from the day she died, I started saying it multiple times a day. I say it to my kids multiple times a day. In many respects, the ability for men to show affection has made our lives much easier.  –  Lou Greenwald

Our roles aren’t as defined as they were in the past. I grew up watching my father break a traditional Italian-American family rule. He cooked, so therefore I cook. And I still love to cook.  –  Steve Priolo

On their mentors…

When I was a teenager, I came home from school, and there was an ambulance in front of my house. My mom was being taken out in a straitjacket. She had a nervous breakdown. Then she had another nervous breakdown.

My high school teachers took me under their wing. My high school coach stayed by me. He’s the guy who gave me the opportunity when I was a senior to run track and become a football player when everybody was telling me I was too small. He guided me all the way through college, and when I decided to take a shot at that goofy thing I did in ’76, everybody was busting me pretty bad, and he gave me this quote: “Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make the dreams come true.” This guy is still in my life. I love him dearly.  –  Vince Papale

My mentor taught me: “Creativity before capital.” He also said, “A problem that can be solved by money is not a problem.” I’ve embraced that. Over the years, I’ve come to know that is true.  –  Sam Thevanayagam

On their drive…

I knew I had to work. I was driving a brand new Corvette at 17. So if I wanted nice things, I had to work for them. Nobody’s giving it to me. Even as a kid, I wanted a Schwinn bike. My parents would say, “What’s wrong with this bike? And I said, ‘Dad, I want a Schwinn.’ He said, ‘Well look, if you work for half I’ll give you the other half.’ That’s how it was. I was never satisfied with mediocrity no matter what I did.  –  Bobby Sliwowski

December 2015
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