Bill Withers in Sheldon

Speaker Bill Withers talks to crowd at the Sheldon Chamber and Development Corporation's annual luncheon on Jan. 16 at Crossroads Pavilion in Sheldon.

SHELDON—Bill Withers left business leaders with plenty to think about after he headlined the Sheldon Chamber and Development Corporation’s annual luncheon on Jan. 16.

Based out of a suburb of Des Moines, the professional speaker, minister and former college professor challenged attendees to think deeper, take change head-on and practice servant-based leadership.

“If we can get our handle around change and disruption, we’ll have a better handle on how to keep moving the culture of Sheldon forward and maybe even the workplace culture and engagement — wherever we are working — forward together toward good things in 2020 and beyond,” Withers said.

Clad in one of his signature Hawaiian shirts, Withers gave examples of disruption — ride-sharing apps versus cabs, Airbnb versus hotels, etc. — and offered feedback on how the impacted industries battled back.

A prime example he used was Marriott International, which operates 30 brands and is the world’s third-largest hotel chain.

Withers asked how many people in the audience of 80 recently stayed in a Marriott and estimated 89 percent of the crowd raised their hands. He followed up by asking how many had stayed at an Airbnb and/or had the app on their phone.

“What is going with you people, you are disrupters. You should be ashamed of yourself; you have disrupted the hospitality industry. How is the Holiday Inn Express going to deal with that here in Sheldon with your little hotel/motel tax?” Withers said.

“You see, it’s easy for us to have victim language when change is happening around us perhaps faster than we can deal with, but what we don’t realize is that we contribute to it. We are all part of the change in disruption.”

Withers followed up by noting Marriott launched Homes & Villas by Marriott International to counter Airbnb.

“They are not going to be outdone by Airbnb, they are going to be just fine,” he said.

Citing the book “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Withers advised attendees to add “antifragile” to their personal dictionary. Essentially, the word means embracing change rather than being the victim of it.

“We are going to grow and be more sustainable not just by leveraging change, but by leading change,” Withers said.

He thinks a community can accomplish this by embracing the antifragile lifestyle, which is bound to draw backlash by those who are opposed to change. In Sheldon, he guessed Crossroads Pavilion, the venue that hosted the luncheon, was contentious item among some residents when it was built but said it’s hard to argue against the end results of the facility.

“This type of thinking in a community changes everything and just what little I’ve seen in my first visit here, you have it,” Withers said. “All I wanted to do is plant some seeds around change and disruption in a different way. Growing the culture is already here across this lunch and the community; then push on it even further through getting more people involved and leading through service of others.”