Respect and relationships are Shuman’s keys to success in business

Often ‘the only woman in the room’ early in her career, Bonney Shuman advised rejecting labels for yourself and others

Merritt Melancon | Mar. 03, 2020

(L-R) Management Information Systems student Tarleton Woodson interviews Stratix co-founder Bonney Shuman (BBA '80) as part of the Terry Leadership Speaker Series.
(L-R) Management Information Systems student Tarleton Woodson interviews Stratix co-founder Bonney Shuman (BBA '80) as part of the Terry Leadership Speaker Series.

When it comes to doing well while doing good, relationships and respect are key.

Bonney Stamper Shuman (BBA ’80) credited both with helping her build a company that spread the adoption of bar code technology in the 1980s and continues to reshape itself today.

Shuman, who graduated with a finance degree from the Terry College of Business 40 years ago, spoke to students March 2 as part of the Terry Leadership Speaker Series sponsored by the Institute for Leadership Advancement.

The co-founder of Stratix Corp., which started out as Bar Code Systems, Shuman told students that she was inspired to build a company with an employee culture based on respect after being mistreated in her first job.

That experience helped drive her path as an entrepreneur. She said a culture of respect helps all employees achieve their potential.

“When I moved into the workplace and then moved on to create a workplace, respect was an underlying fundamental value,” Shuman told the audience. “I was in a situation where I didn’t feel respected in my first workplace, so when I started my own business I decided that was what we were going have as a No. 1 (priority).

“The fact that I was not respected was honestly a great gift because that’s what motivated me to start this business,” she said. “Then I could go create a place where that was one of our core values.”

Now four decades later, and having evolved from bar code technology, Stratix is still an industry leader of mobile enterprise solutions for business. Shuman sold the company not too long ago and retired, but she remains proud of the community she created there.  

She encouraged the students, including those who may be underrepresented in their industries and professions, to try to live without labels. During her first 15 years in business, it was the norm for her to be the only woman in the room, she said, but she refused to call herself a female entrepreneur.

“It’s not what I used as a calling card,” she said. “It’s not what I used as an excuse for not being prepared or as a reason to be intimidated. You have to be comfortable with who are and what you’re doing.

“Start by not labeling yourself, and then don’t label others,” she added.

Respect is key to building business relationships, and to be good at it takes a lot of work and practice for students preparing to enter the workforce. 

Shuman urged students to spend time cultivating relationships, listening to people and finding ways to let people know that they are valued. As email and instant messaging have overtaken phone calls and in-person meetings, that can be harder than it sounds, she said. Students need to learn how to meet new people and communicate face-to-face.

“Force yourself to go places where you don’t automatically have a friend,” she said. “Talk to strangers. Practice presenting yourself. So when you are making that first impression, it is comfortable because you’ve done it several times. One of the things that I really, really worry about with this generation is the ability to communicate.”

It’s never too early start, she said. The relationships students form in college will last a lifetime, so it’s the perfect time to meet people and practice building relationships outside of their comfort zones.

“The network you have here is powerful,” she said. “Don’t miss out on making those connections.”

The Terry Leadership Speaker Series brings well-known leaders from a variety of organizations to the University of Georgia several times to discuss their unique leadership styles and experiences as part of a student-oriented forum.