Most Keynote Speakers Have Limited Experience as Leaders in the Workplace
I don’t mean to throw my fellow keynote speakers under the bus, but I am one of the rare keynote speakers who also has significant experience as a leader in the workplace. I’ve built multiple multi-million dollar businesses. In fact, I have had the honor of starting 18 companies, and three of those companies were with my wife, Carla. In three of those 18 companies, I chose to be the CEO.
Entrepreneurial leader in the workplace
Company number 13, which was started by my wife, was an incredible challenge. Before we were bought by a private equity firm, we were hiring over 1,000 new employees per year to stay staffed at 600. Our turnover rate was averaging 160% which, believe it or not, was lower than our competitors. I was the voice on the radio every day offering amazing incentives to keep the hiring pool full.
As a serial entrepreneur, I can share how to effectively create products, run teams, build a household name brand, take it to market, finance growth, hire and fire, build technology, run marketing and sales, and how to sell your dream business so that you can comfortably ride off into the sunset.
Experience as an employee is helpful, too
Throughout my career, I have also worked for large companies. I had the opportunity to be responsible for $900 million in revenue each year for Qwest Communications. While working there, I went from a regional sales representative to Director in three years, overseeing almost a billion dollars of the company’s revenue.
Many times I would start a new business after working for a corporate business for several years. I would see a problem that these companies were not solving and started my own business to solve it. I found this to be exceptionally rewarding.
What makes a true leader in the workplace?
So what makes a successful entrepreneur, manager, or employee? What is necessary to become a leader in the workplace? I believe that the top skill is the ability to recognize and solve problems.
Let me give you an example. In the spring of 1979, I was managing two retail stores while attending college. A significant amount of our business was renting electronics, full-sized refrigerators, microwaves, and washers/dryers. I would take phone calls from college students who wanted to rent small refrigerators, VCRs, and small electronics for their apartments, but the company didn’t want to offer these items.
I had hired my brother-in-law to work at one of the stores. While discussing how annoying it was to not be able to provide what these college students wanted, we looked at each other and stated to the universe that maybe we could solve this problem. We had $4,500 to purchase those items and started renting them out of our garage. The first version of our business was called Sounds Good. (Eventually, we had to change the name to Sounds Easy®, as we found out someone else already owned that name.)
Surely it’s a promotion!
One day I got a call from the retail store owner’s secretary. Her boss wanted to meet with me. I was super excited because I had doubled the retail and rental sales in both stores. I was certain he wanted to congratulate me, and that I was going to get a big promotion. By the time I walked into the corporate offices I was congratulating myself on the expected news.
The secretary ushered me into the company owner’s office. He was sitting behind his desk, smiling widely at me. I was smiling even more. I just knew this was going to be an awesome meeting! After a couple of pleasantries, he said in a loud and strangely overemphasized way, “Well, everything ‘Sounds Good!’” Which was the name of the little company I’d started in my garage. Seeing the confused look on my face, he grabbed a paper and slapped it down in front of me. “Oh my gosh!” I thought, “He has one of our handmade flyers for the new business that I started!”
Still completely oblivious to what was happening, an interesting conversation ensued. I honestly didn’t think there was an issue. I simply explained how we were not renting anything that his company was doing. He just looked at me and coldly said, “David, you are fired for a conflict of interest.” I was shocked and devasted. How was I going to go home and tell my wife that we just lost our secure monthly income?
A blessing in disguise
On the drive home I realized that I had just been handed a gift. This new situation gave me permission to really go after building my own business and being my own boss. Within several weeks we came up with our new brand. We developed that company into 110 retail stores in 28 states. This business was born while I was still a college student, all because I recognized a problem that needed a solution.
Another challenge to be solved
Fast forward to 2015. Can you imagine how I felt when I was building my biggest company to date and I found out that the big C was attacking me? When I was first diagnosed with cancer, our revenue in my 14th company was over 8 million. In 2015 we grew revenue by more than 200%, finishing at 18 million that year. In 2016, we saw another year of over 200% growth, and we were at 40 million in revenue by September. But the battle with cancer was grueling, and Carla felt strongly that we had to sell and focus on saving my life. My dream company came to an end on September 19th, 2016, when we sold to an international company.
For 13 years I had been involved in health and fitness companies that we either supported or started. Now I was forced to take my own health seriously. Using the same skills I learned as a serial entrepreneur and leader in the workplace, the focus was now on how to beat my cancer. Finally, after enduring three surgeries to remove 21 tumors and two rounds of chemo to save my bladder and life, I was the winner in a two-year battle over cancer.
Leadership in business and life
Since 2017 I have started four more companies. With two of those companies, I tried the crowdfunding route. I have learned so much over a 45-year serial entrepreneur career. I have written four books and have another one in the works. And the adventure continues…my wife Carla and I are currently building another dream company: More Than Healthy™. Our focus now is on coaching individuals on how to live longer with optimal health.
How many keynote speakers do you know with both my business and health and wellness background? I’d love to meet one so we can share our successes and failures. I have learned so much about being a leader in the workplace and in life. Now I am passionate about helping others live their very best life. Why wait? Let’s start today. I’d love to share more about my miraculous journey with you.