You can quickly assess people who had success when they have their comeback - and sooner or later they all have - to high school. This is what happened on Tuesday the 15th of March to Brian Pallas. Here is what I learned about and from him that night.
Brian Pallas is the founder of Opportunity Network a platform that facilitates important worldwide business initiatives and that was recently valued at $150m. So what to expect? An arrogant 28 years old genius who wants to pay it back to his, at that time, underestimating teachers? Wrong. In fact, like many really successful people, Brian has no urge to demonstrate anything or impose his presence. He is easy and feels at home, happy to share what he has learned so far.
I am sure that those among you that where on our same high school would enjoy his jokes and comments on teachers we shared and all know, but as this is for the larger audience, I go straight into what I have learned from and about him.
The first thing is a "misconceptions about leadership": this was his starting point and became a crucial point he addressed answering various questions. So what did he tell us about leadership? Getting on stage, the first thing that Brian said was that he was a just a speaker representing a successful team. To Brian "it is not important who leads but how she or he leads!" Leadership is about empowerment, about "making the lives of those you lead better". "Achievements never are the gain of one single person, but the result of teamwork". This is why "you should surround yourself with people that value more than you, and who can compensate your shortcomings".
The second thing is about attitude: Brian has no fear in explaining how he came up with his idea. It was an "act of selfishness", as a member of a Family Business Owner Club he saw a lot of opportunities to develop business but needed a way to appear less obvious. Let me just notice that his luck is to be a polite and elegant Italian, other cultures would have been less worried about becoming explicit. This is especially true because there was no intention to cash on the expenses of others but a genuine will to create a mutual benefit. So where others would not even see any problem he saw one, and he solved it! Brian did not invent anything, he just "thought that when you need to look for some profession or provider and you do not know one directly, you ask your network for advice. But what happens if your network has not the needed reach?" Banks where the answer, they would guarantee potential partners. And if the match is made between investment opportunities instead of individuals you have an Opportunity Network. So Brian is a problem solver, some one who first of all sees a problem, and I guess this is the less obvious part, his talent may be, and some one who considers it an opportunity as far as you find a way to solve it, and this brings us back to his conception about leadership.
So that´s it? Empowering leadership, relational skills and problem solving skill? You may think "I already knew this", probably we all did. But here is the question: did we believe it? Did we apply it? Do we have this skill, or just know that literature tells us they are good? And remember there seem to be 150m valid reasons to not only listen to Brian but maybe start to do so as well.
Ok, so far it was about what Brian taught us or shared with us, but there is something more I would like to share with you. It is what I learned about him but he did not explicitly mention, let´s say a third secret: Brian is a great and natural born, business negotiator. As he tells stories about how he applied to his first jobs or to university there is a common trait, a red thread. When he is asked a question or offered a position he always points on the advantage for his counterpart: "it is not about me it is about whether you will take this opportunity or leave it to someone else" - Cialdini would love this! But what makes him so confident? Is it pure attitude? A natural gift in confidence? I have the sense that his secret is less "magic". Brian is a pragmatic guy, who likes to try things out first. When he had to choose his university he tried out the two jobs that where an option at that time, when he defined his business concept he stated on a local scale. Brian is not the type of guy who sits around and waits for great business ideas, he experiments, identifies problems and when he finds solutions it is only about who will take that opportunity. He is fully aware of his value or of the value of his idea and considers it a genuine opportunity for his counterpart. An opportunity that of course has an economic value, as he knew and we learned.
There would be much more to tell and I am happy about every further idea or insight about this great evening others who where there will share. Or maybe you met Brian or other successful entrepreneurs and would like to add on or integrate.