A lot of entrepreneurs dream of launching a business built around their hobbies or favorite pastimes. Big mistake, says Paul Orfalea. "If you like to...
DALLAS — A lot of entrepreneurs dream of launching a business built around their hobbies or favorite pastimes.
Big mistake, says Paul Orfalea.
“If you like to eat, don’t go into restaurants,” said Orfalea, the founder of the Kinko’s copy chain.
“Then you hate going to restaurants. I used to like to bowl. Now I own a bowling alley, and I hate bowling.”
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This fall, Orfalea is promoting his new book: “Copy This! Lessons from a Hyperactive Dyslexic Who Turned a Bright Idea into One of America’s Best Companies.”
“Hyperactive dyslexic” is as good a description as any for Orfalea, who yanks off his tie at the first opportunity during a recent interview.
He then chats effortlessly about everything from the state of public schools to his lack of interest in technology.
But Orfalea said that restless attitude is part of what made him so successful.
“You have to have three things in balance: work, love and play,” he said.
“Like a tripod. So if you’re an addictive personality or if you like certitude, don’t go into business for yourself.
“But my definition of business is not like other people’s definition,” he added.
“My definition of business is making money while you’re sleeping. Because if you have to make money by working, that means you are an employee.
“If you think you own your own business, but it only works when you put in the hours or the business can’t live without you … well, you aren’t in business for yourself — you have a job.”
Immersing yourself in the technical details of your product isn’t a prerequisite for success.
But staying nimble is — he recommends that small-business owners scrap and rewrite their business plans every few months.
Orfalea founded Kinko’s in 1970 but said he still has no idea how a copy machine works, has never used e-mail and reads, at best, at a fifth-grade level.
The chain is now called FedEx Kinko’s and is based in Dallas.
Shipping giant FedEx bought 1,200 Kinko’s stores in 2004 for $2.4 billion.
“My job was going from store to store to store to find out what people were doing right,” he said. “In every store, there was something people were doing that was novel or creative.”
Orfalea knew he had to rely on capable managers.
“Would you hire an incompetent guy like me?” he said. “But … I knew how to hold other people accountable.”
Orfalea took prospective employees out for beers to see how they behaved, asked if they enjoyed visiting their parents and posed a question he knew the applicant would be unable to answer.
“Those three things were the ones I relied on the most,” he said.
“How they handled themselves while drinking, if they got along with their parents and if they would say ‘I don’t know’ in an interview.”