Larry Stokes

Becoming a Decentralized Leader

“My calling is to help people.”

Developing yourself and your business to fulfill your calling

In 2012, after fourteen years of running his own business, Larry Stokes was burned out. “I remember coming home one evening and meeting my wife in the driveway and I broke down. I felt like I was pulling a freight train up a mountain. I had done as much as I could and was exhausted.”

Larry shares this story from behind his desk in Metairie, Louisiana (New Orleans), where he was born and raised. The middle of three brothers, Larry was the first in his family to go to college and graduated with a B.A. in Music Education from the University of New Orleans. A versatile musician, Larry took his talents to the Navy from 1978 to 1982, where he played music and earned his M.S. in Counselor Education.

After leaving the Navy, Larry landed a job in St. Louis, Missouri — not playing music — but getting people back to work after recovering from job-related injuries. For him, the hindsight reason is simple, “My calling is to help people.”

Not only is Larry good at it, but he was instrumental for establishing the first licensure act passed, not just in Louisiana, but in the entire country for rehabilitation counselors. “My license number is 001. No other state had this at the time, we were the first!”

Larry went back to school in 1993 and received his Ph.D in Counseling, in 1998— specializing in rehabilitation counseling, with a minor in research and statistics. This milestone in 1998 fell alongside getting remarried to his wife, Julie, and leaving the company where he had worked for 11 years. “I left on a Friday, started my own company on that Monday,” Larry laughs.

Stokes & Associates started small, but slowly became profitable, “I had no paper, pencils or computer, but I had customers, experience, skills and a love of what I do,” Larry recalls. One of these skills was serving as an expert witness in court cases. This skill and others continued to build his reputation in the industry. “Our mission statement here is: to help.” Who? Everybody. The injured party tends to be treated as the least important person in the litigated cases we work, but to us, they are the central figure.”

While Larry and his growing team were taking care of their clients, Larry wasn’t taking care of himself. “I was unhealthy and fifty pounds overweight. My relationships were unhealthy because I didn’t have any time for them, because I was working all the time.”

A friend of Larry’s told him about Coachwell.

“I called Coach Greg and decided I should give it [being coached] a shot. When you’re feeling the effects of burnout, you lose your passion for everything. Not just the work, but the people who work with you, the ones you work for, the idea, your wife, your kids, your house, your God…your everything. I felt like had nothing left to give.”

Looking back, the reason for this dark season is more obvious to Larry. “I’m in the mental health profession. I’m not a business guy. Nobody trained me how to run a business.” Greg started Larry on a systematic renewal process. The first step in that process as Larry remembers it? “Greg told me, ‘The first thing we are going to do is get your health together!’ And I followed his advice.” Then he brought me through planning and developing systems that would help us deliver the customer service we desired. Next came our growth plan and the addition of key performers who would help us achieve our goals.

Since that time, Larry boasts of being free to spend more time with family and less time at the office — not to mention losing fifty pounds as he continues to exercise four times a week. His company has jumped from 150 cases per year to 725 cases per year. “Our six person team has grown to 30,” Larry beams. This includes the strategic hiring of a business manager and salesperson. “If you looked at our organization chart before, you would have seen a “big Larry” in the middle. Decentralizing was a big contributor to our growth.”

Now at 63, Larry is beginning to phase himself out of the day-to-day operations. “I’m going to be a consultant to the business, and eventually an observer, sitting on the sidelines and watching what this team will do with the opportunity they have been given. I am looking forward to helping them build on our successes and the systems we developed.” But he’s not retiring completely. “My work happened to end up being my calling. And now, my calling is to help and develop others. If I can help someone find their calling and see them thrive…that’s very rewarding to me.”

As the interview ends, Larry concludes that his journey would not have been possible without some luck, hard work, and God. “I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Larry reflects. “And let me tell you, I could not have done it by myself.”

Larry S. Stokes, Ph.D., LRC, LPC, CRC, CLCP, CCM
Dr. Larry Stokes has been in the field of Vocational Rehabilitation since 1982. He holds a Ph.D. in Counseling, specializing in Rehabilitation Counseling, and minor in Research and Statistics from the University of New Orleans. He is a Licensed Rehabilitation Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor, and holds certification as a Rehabilitation Counselor, Life Care Planner, and Case Manager. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Counseling and Human Development Department at the University of New Orleans since 1998

Dr. Stokes served two terms as the founding Chairman of the LRC Licensing Board, holding license #001. He has been a supervisor of internships and field-work for LSU Medical Center, School of Rehabilitation Counseling, since 1983. He is an editorial board member for the Journal of Private Sector Rehabilitation. He has testified in state and federal courts as well as administrative hearings. His areas of expertise include vocational rehabilitation assessment, labor market research, wage and earning capacity analysis, life care planning and career counseling.

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Meet Ryan Stillwater

Ryan Stillwater brings ten years of nonprofit experience to his role of Development Director for a Bend-based organization. He plays in a band and enjoys telling stories for Coachwell.

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