Chattanooga ArtsBuild President James McKissic shares his best business habit

ArtsBuild president puts it in writing

Photography by Matt Hamilton / ArtsBuild President James McKissic
Photography by Matt Hamilton / ArtsBuild President James McKissic

James McKissic is on a mission: More art, to more people, in more places. He currently serves as president of ArtsBuild, a local nonprofit dedicated to raising money and strengthening Chattanooga's arts and cultural organizations. Bringing with him more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit and public sectors, McKissic joined the organization in the winter of 2020, just weeks before the global COVID shutdown. "The arts sector is a critical component to the local business and tourism industries," he says. "I'm thrilled to see the arts and businesses communities beginning to thrive again."

What is your best business habit?

One tip I have been using for most of my life is to write out some goals that I'd like to accomplish at the beginning of each year -- just a short list of specific and accomplishable things that push me a little out of my comfort zone.

How did you discover or develop it?

I learned this from my mother. Each year leading up to New Year's Eve, she would tell my sister and I to take some time and think about our goals for the year, and then, most importantly, write them down. Over the years, I've written my goals in my journals, notebooks, Franklin Covey planners, Blackberrys and now in the "Notes" app on my iPhone.

How has it improved your work and/or personal life?

There is something magical about taking the things you want to do, moving them from your head -- that daydream space -- and making it tangible, by spelling it out and putting it on paper. Having written goals is like a guidebook. It's something you can look back on, check in on and reflect on throughout the year.

It's also a good way to take the things you say you value, and make them more intentional or real by assigning tasks and aligning your actions throughout the year. Whether it's "Go to Egypt for my birthday" or "Get 100 new donors for ArtsBuild," it becomes real. And it feels great to check your goals off during the year.

I don't always accomplish them all, but then I can spend some time reflecting on why I didn't accomplish a particular goal, and decide if it's still meaningful. If so, I carry it over to the next year. This type of goal-setting is both a personal and professional tool, and also serves as a great way to reflect on challenges and accomplishments.

How might others apply it?

Just try it. As we approach the end of the year, take some time to sit and think. Set some bold goals that align with your personal and professional values. Write them down and revisit them throughout the year. Keep it going and pass it on.


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