Paul Orfalea was one of my mentors in college. He started Kinkos and sold it to FedEx for $2.4 Billion in cash.
As you can imagine he charted his own path. And when presented with obstacles, he went through them.
One fun example I remember...
The University was strict on only hiring PhDs as professors. As non doctorate, Paul wasn't able to get an official class (or a classroom). So he taught off-campus, in the dining room of a friend's home. And his class was an elective. Which means it wasn't included in the tuition.
Most people would have elected to not teach instead. Not Paul. He taught on his own terms.
I'm going to tell you some of the best lessons Paul taught me:
Stand up, make eye contact, and tell your story.
At the beginning of our first class he asked each person in the class to stand up and introduce themselves. Then he gave immediate feedback. Surprisingly this was the first time somebody gave me feedback on something so simple, yet important.
Some people were quiet, and didn't make eye contact. Other people said their names and just sat down.
He taught us to introduce ourselves, and add some color to our backgrounds, for example "Hi my name is Sieva Kozinsky, I'm a Senior and I'm going to buy a home service business after I graduate".
Sharing your interests allows the person you're speaking with to engage with you and find ways to help you.
This applies to your life today. Learn how to succinctly tell your story and interest when you introduce yourself. Practice it out loud. It will serve you as you go through life.
Learn to observe current events.
In Paul's class, most days we discussed current events. He said we should read one local paper, and one national paper daily. Then look for patterns or opportunities to start a business.
Learning disabilities can be an advantage.
Paul struggled in school as a child. Later in life he was diagnosed with Dyslexia. He said his inability to read drove him to be better at understanding people and engaging them. This became one of his greatest strengths as a CEO.
Avoid hourly work.
Paul taught me the most important phrase I've ever learned "find a way to make money in your sleep".
I spent the next year starting a college notesharing business (smart students sold their class notes on my websites).
One day I woke up and checked my email. I had sold some class notes overnight! I was so excited because I had made money in my sleep (even though it was only $6).
Take a 3-week vacation.
He credits building a huge company to taking a 3-week consecutive vacation each year.
When he went on vacation, in the first week his executives would be in shambles without him.
The second week, things would still be messy but better.
By week three everything was running smoothly.
When he came back he didn't need to spend time on the day-to-day tasks. He was free to focus on growing his company.
Beware, you first need to hire great people before you can try this in your business.
Kinkos was one of the few businesses open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Paying a college student to work the night shift was cheap.
Giving customers the piece of mind that Kinkos is always open was priceless. If you were stuck on a school or work project, you knew you could count on Kinkos.
Watch for new inventions.
Kinkos sold to FedEx for $2.4Bn. Paul said the reason he sold was 1) the home laser printer was becoming popularized which would hurt his business 2) they gave him a crazy high price
Keep an eye out for innovations that can hurt your business. Being a good business owner is being a good capital allocator. Sometimes that means you need to get out at the right time.
Treat your employee well, it's good for business
Kinkos was a pioneer in family benefits. He had a free daycare at his office. He found attracting and retaining great parent employees was a boon to his business. And it was a tax write-off. Win-Win
When you make it, give back.
Paul went to college at USC and started the first Kinkos in the college town of UC Santa Barbara. To give back to those communities, he taught a class at both USC and UC Santa Barbara.
Also, once a year he hires a student to be his personal chauffeur. It sounds silly. But instead of hiring a regular driver, he gives a young kid an opportunity of a lifetime. Spend time with Paul to learn and apprentice from him.
🔑 Laugh your way to internet fame
Jack Raines has become internet famous in my corner of the world for writing funny Linkedin posts that go viral.
Below is his recent hit.
He parlays these viral Linkedin posts into newsletter subscribers where he writes thoughtful, and humorous posts like this one on why delayed success (like George Clooney) is better than early life success.
When your parents say your pranks and jokes are a waste of time, show them Jack's profile on Linkedin. Jack is going to be an internet millionaire someday soon.