He’s Loving It!
I usually write about owners of very small business — people who do their work more as a labor of love than simply a way to earn a living. But I interviewed Henry L. Coaxum, Jr. years ago for one of my first articles for “The Biz” and his passion and commitment to his work and this community stayed with me. So today I thought a glimpse into a labor of love on a much larger scale might prove an interesting change of pace.
Coaxum serves as the president of Coaxum Enterprises, Inc. He is the owner/operator of three McDonald’s restaurants in the New Orleans area. He also serves on numerous boards and committees and is the chairman of The New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA). Since its inception, NOLABA has attracted major retailers including Nordstrom Rack, Petco, True Religion, and COSTCO to the city, resulting in a nearly 40 percent increase in local sales tax revenue. Additionally, he recently received the Chairman’s Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Economic Development Council.
Coaxum’s beginnings were humble. His first job was cleaning the flowerbeds in his next-door neighbor’s garden.
“She paid me by giving me Reader’s Digests and National Geographic magazines,” Coaxum says. “When I read, I dreamed. I learned discipline working in that garden. To get weeds out, you have to work down to the roots. My neighbor worked along my side and taught me everything about what we were doing and why. I didn’t have to leave far from home to learn important lessons.”
Before his family moved to another neighborhood, this neighbor gave young Coaxum a set of encyclopedias.
“She had the most beautiful garden in the neighborhood, and I had something to do with that.”
Now, being a McDonald’s operator allows him to prepare people for leadership roles and other economic opportunities and also teach a few life lessons along the way. His company invests heavily in education and provides many scholastic incentives that better his employees’ lives.
“I view myself as an opportunity coach,” he says. “My job is to assist individuals, develop their skill sets, and encourage them to take advantage of any and all opportunities that come their way.
What brings him the most joy is running into people he’s helped and inspired.
“Seeing someone who is on the right track and moving forward with their lives, makes you feel good to know that you inspired them,” he says. “And seeing my former employees who are making the right choices in life, pleases me.”
Success is a great thing to achieve but Coaxum also thinks it’s important to enjoy what you’re doing. He’s proof that complete success only comes when you are passionate about what you are doing.
“Success is not defined by the money you make, it is defined by the people who you get to share your life with.”
Coaxum is fully cognizant that he didn’t achieve his success alone or in isolation. The many people who invested in him early in his career still makes him humble. Those investors are his inspiration.
“Those people who loved me elevated me along the way. And, I carry their dreams. One of those persons, who poured a lot of love into me, and others, is my high school mentor, who I am blessed to still have in my life. ‘To whom much is given much is expected.’ I want this to be my legacy…it drives me.”