by Stewart Prest, submitted 2009
Don’t worry about success. If you can find something you enjoy and do it well, success will take care of itself. It’s an approach to life that Jean Greer McCarthy learned during her university days, and it’s one that she’s lived by ever since.
“When I started at university, I majored in business because I wanted a successful career, and thought that was the way to achieve it. Unfortunately, my grades were really poor. I later enrolled in computer science at Augustana, but was failing those courses, too.
“My academic advisor pointed out that I was doing really well in my arts courses. He told me, ‘you need to do what you’re good at. Even if you do get through a degree in business or computing, you’ll hate your job. It’s better to do something that you love. If financial success follows, then that’s great.’
“I argued at first, but eventually he convinced me and I switched to English.”
Since graduating from Augustana with a bachelor of arts, Jean has moved from strength to strength, and in doing so has found business success. “I moved back to Lethbridge and founded Greer Homes with my father, who is a homebuilder. I took care of the creative aspects of the business, in marketing, design, and human resources. Later on my husband came in to the company, and he now manages customers and operations.” Greer Homes now builds 30-40 homes a year, and is an industry leader in promoting green building strategies. The firm boasts numerous corporate awards, and Jean herself was included in a list of the top 100 women business owners in Canada compiled by Profit magazine in 2007.
Still, she’s anything but complacent. “I believe it’s important to push yourself, and try new things. I try to pursue different growth projects related to my professional and personal life, as well as my community.”
In recent years she’s identified goals in all three spheres, and achieved remarkable results in each. “My professional goal was to continue to play a leadership role in my industry, and this spring I was elected President of the of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Lethbridge Region.
“In terms of community involvement, when I turned 40, I decided to do something to give back to Lethbridge. Working with the YWCA, I founded a project called Sisters in Success, a mentoring program that gives career wear to marginalized women in the community. It helps them to overcome a financial and psychological barrier, to feel comfortable dressing and acting in a professional context.
“My personal goal was to put out a CD. I wrote and recorded 11 original songs, and we released the album, entitled Coulee View, last year.” Since then, several tracks have been picked up by American music labels, and an Alberta filmmaker optioned one song for an upcoming movie. “To be honest, it exceeded my expectations enormously.”
Besides providing a creative outlet, the album has a deeper personal significance. Several of the songs are about dealing with cancer, and all proceeds from the album, some $3500 to date, go to the Canadian Cancer Society. As Jean explains, “my sister’s a cancer survivor, and we timed the album release to coincide with her 10th anniversary of being cancer-free. Since the release I’ve received phone calls and e-mails on a weekly basis from people all over the world who are going through a cancer experience and are finding the music meaningful to them. That’s been the best part of the project, being able to reach out to people going through that experience.”
No matter how you define success, it’s clear that Jean has found it.