After 11 years in the United States Air Force and over 20 years in law enforcement and corrections, Charles Mason, Founder and CEO of Mason Academy, decided it was time to package and share some of the knowledge he acquired over the years. With first-hand experience in leadership, crisis management and conflict resolutions, as well as an impressive list of educational achievements, Mason set out to build a leadership training program custom tailored for a new generation of leaders.
"My career started with the Air Force," he said. "At the time, I needed some leadership and some structure. I pretty much grew up in the military. When I left active duty, I spent six years with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. From there, I moved back to my home town of St. Augustine, and spent another 15 years in law enforcement and corrections."
Starting in 2012, Mason went back to school and earned a 2-year degree and two 4-year degrees. He also received a Masters Degree and took a particular liking to the field of leadership. He immediately recognized an opportunity to combine his experience with his course work to make some positive changes. After Mason retired at the end of December 2018, the timing was right to start his own business.
"I'm currently going through my PHD program in Public Policy and Administration," he said. "I saw a tremendous opportunity to combine what I was learning with my experience as a way to give back. In April 2018 I founded Mason Academy. We offer eLearning tools, in-person workshops and seminars to help participants and their team strengthen and supplement their current leadership training programs. These tools will help them increase the impact of their leadership applications, while giving their novice managers the skills they need and updating seasoned managers for success."
Mason shared that his target market is front line supervisors and organizations with new managers and/or supervisors that haven't been skilled or trained on how to lead people. According to Mason, many of these people have great hard skills, but little to no soft management skills. He teaches his students how to deal with people, how to motivate others and how to effectively communicate with others. Managers need to know how to deliver critical information and how to tactfully conduct employee evaluations. These are things, according to Mason, that are prioritized differently in civilian life.
"In the military and also with the Department of Corrections, before you become a supervisor, you go to leadership school," he said. "In civilian life, they throw you in and tell you not to mess up. That's not the right way to do it. Just because you're educated does not mean you have the necessary soft skills to be a great manager. We're trying to fill that gap in civilian life."
Mason, who loves getting out and meeting new people, is focused on growing his business through networking opportunities, partnering with organizations like FLVEC, direct mail campaigns, in-person workshops, online workshops and seminars. Looking ahead, Mason is also focused on getting law enforcement and military veterans involved as instructors. He wants to be in a position to pay them well and give them an opportunity to grow with the company.
What advice does Mason have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Do your research," he said. "If you want to do contracting with the government, take the time to learn the system. Also, take advantage of organizations like FLVEC, SBDC and others. Be patient. Especially when it comes to things like paperwork. In some cases, your patience will help level the field."
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