My guest today is Paul Orfalea. Paul founded Kinkos, the popular copy chain, in 1970. He started with a single photocopy shop in California and grew the business into a $2 billion multinational operation over the course of his 30 years in charge. Paul is a non-traditional leader in the best sense and we discuss his philosophy of business building, from why your subordinates should frustrate you, why you shouldn’t love your business and tips he learned on hiring well. Please enjoy this conversation with Paul Orfalea.
Founders podcast on Paul Orfalea.
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[00:02:58] - [First question] - What it was like to be a very bad student in highschool
[00:04:22] - When he first realized he was unemployable
[00:05:02] - The origin story of the very first Kinko’s
[00:06:13] - What the ideal progression of an entrepreneur is in his mind
[00:06:57] - Recognizing real customer problems and what he enjoys most about sales
[00:07:53] - Finding what has worked well in each Kinko’s and coaching managers
[00:08:54] - Something he found that a manager was doing that blew him away
[00:10:22] - Getting messages from his brain to everyone else in the Kinko’s network
[00:11:45] - The difference of working on and not in the business
[00:13:22] - What he got better at when it came to managing people
[00:13:57] - Why a good salesperson will sell you broke
[00:14:41] - Disagreeableness as a positive characteristic for people in business
[00:15:08] - Whether or not candor is different from disagreeableness
[00:15:36] - Why he teaches, what he teaches, and his teaching style
[00:18:31] - Explaining the Federal Reserve in two minutes
[00:19:47] - What students most commonly want from him
[00:20:06] - Whether or not making yourself inaccessible as a leader is good for promoting a self-starter attitude amongst team members
[00:21:39] - The story about tearing down a sign that was antagonistic to a customer
[00:21:58] - The role of anger in his career and something he’s worked on over time
[00:22:31] - Where Kinko’s falls on the spectrum of bad to great businesses
[00:24:09] - Characteristics he’d look for in founders to back a business early
[00:25:08] - Qualities of a business he’d cultivate more or less if he could start over
[00:26:18] - Lessons learned about using the word employee
[00:26:42] - His strategy for where to go next once he had his original concept
[00:27:21] - The most clever marketing strategy he ever deployed or designed
[00:27:45] - Learning to spread the glory instead of the money
[00:28:30] - The state of entrepreneurship today compared to when he started
[00:29:50] - How he instilled frugality and the saving mentality in the business
[00:30:42] - What motivated him across his career
[00:31:35] - Why being in it for the money seems odd in today’s lens
[00:32:34] - Who he most admired or most admires today
[00:33:08] - Preserving the alignment of integrity and action
[00:33:42] - What it felt like to sell a business he’d worked so hard on
[00:34:57] - How good he is naturally with numbers and math being dyslexic
[00:37:17] - Defining success as having your adult children want to hang out with you and what stood out about his parents to him
[00:38:05] - His parents’ impression of him while he was building Kinko’s
[00:38:34] - What has his interest and keeps his interest most
[00:39:56] - The most interesting person he’s ever worked with at Kinko’s
[00:40:48] - What he would have done differently if he started from scratch
[00:41:24] - Something that is most underappreciated about the United States
[00:43:00] - The kindest thing anyone has ever done for him
[00:43:57] - A big lesson he’s earned in a deeper way that he wishes he could share with others