Forty Under 40 Q&A: Eric Dexter
Director of Business Development, Civil Solutions Consulting Group
Eric Dexter lost both of his parents at a young age, forcing him to grow up in a hurry. While those times were tough, he says he’s the strong man he is today because he has learned to endure through so much. Dexter has served in a wide array of community positions, most notably of which is president of Forum 35. His day job, though, is director of business development at Civil Solutions Consulting Group, where he says he has the freedom to be as creative as he needs to be to keep the company growing and thriving.
THREE MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
1) 2015: Appointed by the Baton Rouge Metro Council to serve on the Complete Streets Citizen’s Advisory Committee. As a member, I’m tasked with assisting the city-parish government in providing all the citizenry with policy and direction for governing this metropolitan area.
2) 2015: Baton Rouge Area Leadership Class graduate
3) 2013: John W. Barton Sr. Community Development Program graduate
VOLUNTEER AND COMMUNITY AFFILIATIONS AND INVOLVEMENT
- Forum 35: president, 2014-Present
- Baton Rouge Area Foundation: ex-officio board member, 2014-present
- Baton Rouge Blues Foundation: board member, 2014-present
- Apex Collegiate Academy: founding board member, 2014-present
- Dialogue on Race of La. Action Committee, 2014-present
- Baton Rouge Sustainable Transportation Advisory Committee (STAC), 2015-present
- Baton Rouge Complete Streets Citizens Advisory Committee, 2015-present
- Brotherhood Sisterhood Award Committee member, 2012-present
WHAT ACTOR/ACTRESS WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
WHAT IS YOUR THEME SONG?
Hard Times by Ray Charles
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
I worked with Mr. Freddy Williams in my hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana, as his helper for his landscaping/lawn service business during the summer when I was 13. The biggest lesson I learned is to always take pride in your work no matter what you do for a living. And take no shortcuts!
NAME ONE BOOK THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU PROFESSIONALLY.
Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage
WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
A professional football player and a medical doctor.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE FOR A BUSINESS LUNCH IN BATON ROUGE?
Capital City Grill downtown
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
Considering I was raised in a household where my parents got divorced when I was 8, then raised by a single mother of three, lost my dad when I was 16 years old, and my mom at 18, just being the man that I am today is my greatest achievement.
WHAT RITUAL DO YOU DO TO GET PUMPED UP BEFORE A BIG MEETING, PRESENTATION OR PITCH?
Listen to some rap music, take a few deep breaths to relax, smile, and get on with the show.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST FULFILLING MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Joining Civil Solutions Consulting Group this February. This has been the first time in my career that I was hired on the premise and expectation that I could be as creative as I needed to be in order to grow the business for an entire firm. This was the opportunity that I had been training and preparing for my entire professional career.
WHAT WAS YOUR PROFESSIONAL “AHA MOMENT?”
It was a culmination of a few instances that involved former clients of mine from a previous job. I did—and still do—get calls and emails from former clients asking me for my professional advice in regards to their business. This has let me know that I left a lasting impression on them, so I must be doing something right. And to me, that “something” is just being a genuine person that doesn’t mind giving you advice, even it’s not the kind you may want to hear at the time.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Visualizing the finished project or task before I start. If I can see how things are supposed to end up, it allows me to move through the process more efficiently because I don’t have to guess what steps are supposed to happen next.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN THE HARD WAY?
That no matter how sure something seems, always have a backup plan.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR JOB WOULD SHOCK CUSTOMERS OR CLIENTS IF THEY KNEW ABOUT IT?
That my day can start as early as 7 a.m. and end as late as 2 a.m. And sometimes it starts that early and ends that late on the same day.
WHAT’S A WEIRD RULE AT YOUR JOB THAT YOU KNOW IS ONLY THERE BECAUSE SOMEONE WAS DUMB ENOUGH TO DO IT IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Don’t have any.
MAC OR PC?
I use both. PC for work and a Mac at home.
WHEN DO YOU TEXT AND WHEN DO YOU CALL?
I text when it’s a simple conversation. I call when it’s more of a complex conversation and if it’s urgent.
HOW LOW WILL YOU ALLOW YOUR REMAINING BATTERY LIFE GET (IN %) BEFORE YOU HAVE AN ANXIETY ATTACK?
HOW MANY UNREAD MESSAGES ARE IN YOUR INBOX RIGHT NOW?
5, but not for long.
WHAT APP GETS YOU THROUGH THE DAY?
HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON?
BREAKFAST AT HOME? BREAKFAST ON THE GO? BREAKFAST AT YOUR DESK? NO BREAKFAST AT ALL?
About half the time at home and the other half at my desk.
IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL? WHAT’S IN THE GLASS?
It’s half empty, only because I just drank the other half because I drink a lot of water.
THE SAYING IS, ‘BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.’ SPECIFICALLY, WHAT ARE YOU ‘BEING’ TO MAKE BATON ROUGE BETTER?
Being someone who strives to be better today than I was the day before. And someone that leads with action and less talk.
WHAT’S YOUR MOTTO?
It’s not about being right, it’s about being better.
WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF PERFECT HAPPINESS?
Knowing that everything I’ve worked my tail off and struggled for actually paid off. And that what I did also helped out those that weren’t as fortunate as I was.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU HAD GROWN UP?
When my back was against the wall and the only person I could turn to for help when I had a problem was me.
WHICH HISTORICAL FIGURE DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH?
Malcolm X. He was such an intellectually rich, complex man.
WHICH LIVING PERSON DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
WHAT TRAIT DO YOU MOST DEPLORE IN OTHERS?
Constant complaining while offering no solutions.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE?
A long weekend in South Beach Miami.
WHAT TREND DO YOU REALLY WISH WOULD MAKE A COMEBACK?
The era in fashion when people dressed up on a regular basis, not because it was a special occasion, but because that was the style of clothing you wore all the time. Especially in business settings.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE YOUR AGE FOREVER, WHAT AGE WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?
I guess 32. It’s the year I’m being honored as one of Baton Rouge’s top ‘Forty under 40,’ so can it get any better than this?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE JOURNEY?
The journey to find a cause that unites us all as world citizens.
ON WHAT OCCASION DO YOU LIE?
When I say I’m about 10 minutes away.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST REGRET?
Not getting my mom to teach me how to play the piano.
WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU HAPPIEST?
The first family vacation we took to Houston to AstroWorld and WaterWorld when I was around 6 or 7.
WHICH TALENT OR SUPERPOWER WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE AND WHY?
The ability to read minds. Having to guess if my girlfriend really doesn’t care what we eat is mentally draining.
IF YOU WORKED FOR THE CIA AND NEEDED A TOP-SECRET ALIAS, WHAT WOULD YOURS BE?
Albert Clifford Slater.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The tendency to procrastinate.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
All of the photos I have of my mom and dad from when they were still living.
IF YOU COULD LIVE ANYWHERE ON THIS PLANET AND TAKE EVERYTHING THAT YOU LOVE WITH YOU, WHERE WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE AND WHY?
If the cost of living wasn’t a thing, San Francisco.
WHAT DO YOU MOST VALUE IN YOUR FRIENDS?
How diverse they are and how they always strive to be better professionally and personally.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT THE ’90s?
Being closer to my family and not having to worry about much.
IF YOU HAD TO BE A TEACHER OF SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD YOU TEACH?
History or English.
WHAT IS YOUR THEME SONG? OR WHAT SONG GETS YOU READY FOR A BIG MEETING OR MOMENT? OR WHAT’S THE SONG YOU ALWAYS TURN UP THE VOLUME ON? OR WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG?
Can’t Tell Me Nothing by Kanye West.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME 20 YEARS, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?
The struggle. It’s all worth it.
WHAT USELESS PIECE OF INFORMATION WILL YOU NEVER FORGET?
That the actual grade on a test or in a class is what’s most important.
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH EVERY TIME YOU THINK ABOUT IT?
It’s a long story, but it involves me and my two friends looking for my car that got towed in Tigerland (years ago) and a guy on a Harley looking for a fraternity party somewhere nearby. After the third time he came back around—still looking for the party—he tried to start his bike, but it tipped over and fell on top of him. He was OK, and my two friends ran to help get the bike off of him because I was frozen still. And it only became funny, because after all that, he got back on his bike and said, “Oh well, I was about to get this ‘thang’ painted anyway.” Then he just rode off and we never saw him again. I’ve never laughed harder in my entire life and I smile every time I think about that night, even though my car got towed and I had no idea where it was.
WHO’S THE MOST FAMOUS CELEBRITY YOU’VE EVER MET?
WHAT’S THE NEXT CHALLENGE YOU HAVE PLANNED?
Buying a house that I can fix up to look and feel just the way I want it to.
IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, WHAT CONCERNS YOU MOST ABOUT THE FUTURE THEY WILL INHERIT?
No children, yet.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE FOR FUTURE FORTY UNDER 40 HONOREES?
To get outside of your circle of friends and experience life with those from different backgrounds.
DO YOU PLAN TO BE IN THE CAPITAL REGION FIVE YEARS FROM NOW? WHY OR WHY NOT?
Yes. Because there’s so much work to do.
NAME THREE THINGS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST.
1) Travel to all seven continents.
2) Get my master’ss and then a doctorate in business.
3) To be wealthy enough to be able to invest at least $1 million of my own money to redevelop inner-city communities. AND, to provide job opportunities with living-wages in that redeveloped community.