By Nadja Cook
“Cheers!” That is the first word I am pretty sure I heard out of Ollie’s mouth the first time I met him about a year and a half ago.
My husband, Allen Cook, and he are part of a very gifted band by the name of Weekend Getaway and I had the pleasure of meeting him and his very kind and gifted wife, Anna. It is always a pleasure watching Ollie Patterson, instrumentalist extraordinaire, especially with his saxophone, when he works the floor at events. Our professional relationship started when he hired me to capture him in action at retirement homes, parties and events. It was eye-opening to see how professional and meticulous he was in everything he did. The way he delivers his music and charm makes audiences want more — of his smile and melody that flows out of his saxophone.
Ollie grew up in South Carolina and as long as he can remember he was always passionate about music. In 7th grade he played the clarinet and in a short period of time was playing it as first chair. His love of music was so strong that even though he was accepted to West Point Military Academy, he turned it down to pursue music. However, he soon discovered that making a living as a musician was very challenging and made the decision to take a job at MCI Telecom to make ends meet.
After working in sales for three years, he moved into customer service and there he found his calling. He soon discovered that he had a knack for helping people and loved working in the background alongside the employees and customers. For the next 16 years he worked tirelessly at MCI Telecom and was promoted multiple times within the customer service organization. Within two years, he was supervising the entire Texas division. Each year after that, he was promoted to higher positions with more responsibilities.
In 1996, he was relocated to Atlanta to take over a business unit that was not doing very well. It was a $600 million unit which he turned around into a flagship model for the entire United States. Other divisions flew in their leaders to see how he was running this unit. In total, he took over four units and three of them became number one. However, before the last one reached its goal, the operation was shut down in 2003. The company offered Ollie a job in Dallas, TX, but he did not like the direction the company was headed. At this time, he decided to go back to his first passion, music. After two years, the money ran out and he decided to go back and work in corporate America.
He was hired as director of customer service at Easy Prints, the largest private label photo lab in the US. Top notch photographers around the US utilized this lab. The company also fulfilled prints for major companies such as Disney, Wal-Mart, Target and Lifetouch Inc., the largest family & school photography company in the US. In his time there, he turned their call center into a world-class center. With innovative ideas, and newprocesses and procedures, he took a hands-on approach and actually worked with employees. He even took calls from customers to get the full feel of the department, resulting in increased profits. This hands-on approach style is definitely the Ollie we know today as well.
However, the music in him would not let him go and after five years, knowing it still would come with all of its challenges,
again, he left the corporate world to pursue his passion. I have personally witnessed this in my husband and son and even friends who music is part of their DNA. A friend said it best, “They did not go looking for music, music found them.”
This time he decided to stay the course, but the first four to five years it was very tough. One day, he went into a deep prayer and asked, “Lord, show me how to do this!” And to his delight, God showed him almost immediately specifically what to do. He started implementing what he was shown and his music business turned around rapidly. Currently 99% of his business comes from word-of-mouth referrals and he does very little marketing. He has more business than he can handle and is in the process of showing others how he does it. Around this time he came across KBA and was impressed with the dedication of the members and not only joined, but accepted the challenge to be a board member.
On a personal note, Ollie has been married to Anna for 36 years and the father of four children, three of which is adopted and one biological. They were all home schooled and now are all grown. The twin boys have their own business. His daughter is a nurse. Their youngest son serves in the National Guard and is about to be deployed. He is also a grandfather of two.
Both Ollie and Anna have been very generous in sharing their private space as well. From almost the beginning of their marriage, they have housed many families they did not even know to help them get back on their feet.
I know this article has become personal, but there is more. Ollie, who wholeheartedly believes in KBA, was the one who got me involved. He mentored me and showed me what it is like to work with a business association and with people and businesses in the community. He also inspired me to just jump in and volunteer in one of the teams. So without any hesitation, I joined the communication team. I was not surprised that he was chosen the 2017 KBA Member of the Year for 2017, because so many people are inspired by him.
In his words, what makes KBA great is the following three things.
- It helps the members to grow their businesses.
- It does amazing outreach to the community. It gives unwavering support to a Kennesaw ministries, schools, sports, and non-profits, beyond just handing out cash and checks.
- It cultivates a long-term relationship with the community. For example, CHOA, the Southern Museum, Shiloh Food Pantry, local municipalities, and KSU.
In closing, I asked for his thoughts on what words of wisdom he wanted to share with the readers as the incoming KBA President for 2019. His reply was, “I believe people should strive to be their absolute BEST. To be best individually, personally, at their job, and at their marriage. I believe mediocrity is a horrible thing. Mediocrity is something I am highly allergic to. When I am asked to be part of an organization, I roll up my sleeves to do the absolute best.” And when asked his favorite word or phrase, he simply uttered, “Go for EXCELLENCE!!”
By Nadja Cook | Virtually in Focus Photography | KBA Communication Team