• July/August 2019

Five questions with James Payer II


James Payer II actively pursues opportunities to be involved and to challenge himself. The Director of Development for Girl Scouts – Dakota Horizons holds a bachelors degree from USD, a MBA from USF, is accredited as a Certified Fund Raising Executive and has graduated from Leadership South Dakota, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy. He volunteers with a number of community organizations, including his current service as a Chamber Diplomat and as co-chair of YPN's 4 under 40 campaign.

Q: What have you gained from being active in the Chamber?

A: The Chamber and YPN give me connections to three uniquely diverse categories – People, Places, Possibility. First is the people. Those who I come in contact with are truly inspirational, energetic and special. And the people cluster is never the same. Committee volunteers, young professionals, entrepreneurs, farmers, business leaders – the list goes on, all doing their part to make our Sioux Empire the best it can be. Next is the places. The Chamber has allowed me to tour places I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to see. From Smithfield Foods to the Zeal Center of Entrepreneurship, Gage Brothers and even the State Capitol, the places you can see are astounding. And finally, the possibilities. From economic growth to tourism, and even the cutting-edge research from our biomedical partners – all are assets to our city, the Midwest and beyond – all stemming from right here in Sioux Falls.

Q: The theme of this year's Crossroads Summit is "Be the Change." How do you typically react to change?

A: Change, either positive or negative, is a constant in the business world. Adaptation of the new environment is key, especially on reframing the situation to best understand why the change is occurring. Often, I have to be patient with myself to pivot with the best foot forward and set my focus on what I can control versus what I cannot. I try to view the positive and move forward in belief that everything will work out for the best, spinning new possibilities and opportunities.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received?

A: "Life doesn't go the way you planned and be okay with that." We have this idea of a trajectory timeline, in theory, highlighted by age, academic accomplishments and milestones of where we should be or what we should be doing. This is heightened with the prominence of social media, our self-comparison to others and the collegiate visualization of leading at the top without experience. Life will work out, and a lot of the time it takes patience. I've stumbled a few times over this piece of advice, but have discovered new opportunities sprout intermittently, without caution, often shifting my journey but never stopping my drive.

Q: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?

A: Going back to childhood is my love of 90s country ladies music. The big hair, the iconic voices, the edgy music videos – all classics spanning an era of undeniable hits. Before YouTube I was glued to CMT, in hopes Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, The Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain or Jo Dee Messina would take over the screen. Then I would blare the speakers full blast belting the string of hits – one right after another.

Q: What is a skill that you'd like to learn and why?

A: Professionally, I would like to learn Spanish, broadening my communication skills. Personally, it's two prong. Since I travel heavily for my career, it would be cool to obtain my pilot's license to actually fly over our vast farming region. And to feed my artistic hunger, piano. What a rarity it would be to find a Spanish-speaking, piano-playing pilot.

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