Jaws dropped and executives squirmed in their seats as world-renowned businessman and entrepreneurial motivational speaker Dan Pena ranted and raved to his recent Pittsburgh audience.
Pena bragged about his 15th century castle in Scotland, complete with its own 18-hole golf course. He noted that he once owned the largest limousine in Texas.
And he told the group that he amassed a $440 million fortune before the age of 40.
Money isnt everything, he shouted, but its the only thing everyone counts.
But thats not what stirred the group. Rather, it was what he said next:
Most people in the CEO Club havent accomplished anything in six years, he said.
Dead silence in the audience after that.
Its little wonder. After all, he was speaking at the inaugural luncheon of the latest era of, you guessed it, Pittsburghs own CEO Club, a membership of local CEOs hoping to share their experiences with one another as they try to seek their own levels of success. And Pena was supposed to be there to tell them how to find it.
Then he said, Unless you want to listen to the people up here [like him], you might as well close down.
More gasps, of course.
Now he had their attention. Thats when he finally qualified his straight, crass monologue with the one point that got even my attention. Most people today are no better off than six years ago for one simple reason: To get people to change their belief system is difficult, Pena said. I am a Red Zone guy. I know how to get every one of you across the Red Zone line, but I cant make you. You have to take action.
As much as I disliked his Howard Stern-like style and his views on money, he was painfully right, or as he put it, I may be wrong, but Im never in doubt.
Without a doubt, we all recognize the need to continually change and adapt, as well as take action. To help us with that, we attend seminars and post-graduate courses. We read how-to books. We read publications such as SBN. And we talk to lots of our peers even the Dan Penas of the world. Then we file away that insight that cheerleading motivation and continue to carry on business as usual.
We complain about finances, taxes, the Internet, those twenty-somethings and the seemingly stagnant local economy. We blame our customers, vendors, competitors and employees for our lack of growth. And then we continue to carry on business as usual.
To change requires action, which requires us to get up out of our proverbial easy chairs and look closely at where weve been, where we are and where we should be in the future.
Both Campos Market Research (this months cover subject) and Mathews Printing (the lead Managing Your Business feature) stepped up to the concept of change and took action.
Campos wanted to break out of its long plateau and start growing aggressively again. For the owners of Mathews Printing, status quo almost killed the company. But once both companies accepted the fact that they absolutely had to change to grow or even survive, they put their own plans together and took action.
Mathews Printing president Paul Mathews isnt ashamed to admit that the process proved excruciatingly grueling at times. But the biggest challenge, he says, wasnt the implementation of a new plan, but something much more fundamental.
Our biggest challenge was overcoming inertia, Mathews says, because we were so used to doing things one way. That change took a fair amount of effort on our part.
When you get right down to it, I think that hits at the heart of what Dan Pena was trying to get across to this open-jawed group of entrepreneurs. Lets face it. So many people talk about it, but few actually follow through.
Part of the problem, he says, is that people dont usually set their visions high enough. The reason?
Its a fear of failure. With all of these high-performance people, self-esteem is at the very core of what theyre all about.
His solution is to hang around people who are more successful than you.
How can you grow your business to $100 million hanging around people with $2 million businesses? he chides.
OK, so you may never acquire a medieval castle in Europe or own the biggest limousine in Texas. But you get the idea. Regardless, make this promise to yourself going into the new millennium. Dont just talk about change anymore. Plan and take action. And along the way, keep aiming higher.
Penas only regret in amassing his $440 million fortune by age 39, he said, was a simple one: I should have dreamt bigger.
May God bless you during this holiday season and into the new millennium.
How to reach:The CEO Club, (412) 281-4227
Daniel Bates (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of SBN.