At a time when business leadership seems sorely lacking across the region, the state and the nation, it’s great to see someone emerge from the pack with enthusiasm, optimism and a few great ideas.
That person happens to be Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea. Though long departed from the company he founded in Isla Vista and built into a powerful tool for a new generation of entrepreneurs, Orfalea has lost none of his enthusiasm for free enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit.
During Oct. 19 remarks honoring employers who support people with learning disabilities, Orfalea talked about his own self-described “distinctions,” including his well-documented problems with reading, his short attention span, his restlessness and his innate ability to question everything and anything.
He said he eschewed the word “disability” because it appears to put a limit on what an individual can accomplish. He said that what gives him hope about the future of the U.S. and the world is that we have “a system where an individual can succeed” and where individual success is celebrated.
Orfalea, currently a Santa Barbara resident, philanthropist and occasional visiting lecturer at area universities, said that early on in his career he delegated many jobs, including repairing Xerox machines and making copies, to people he hired at his Ventura-based company.
He said his job was to go from store to store, figuring out what the best ideas were that were bubbling up from his staff and finding ways to make those ideas a revenue generating reality across the company. By the time he sold the business Kinko’s was a powerhouse in helping small business owners create business plans and helping consumers build photo albums, scrapbooks and countless other products.
Orfalea encouraged business leaders, particularly young entrepreneurs, to not generalize quite so much but to specialize. “Find the one thing,” he said, holding up a single index finger, that can make a difference to you, to society and to your future.
Orfalea said his next “one thing” is to encourage businesses to drive relentlessly toward energy efficiency and be more aware of the environment.
After the talk he told our editor that one reason why energy efficiency and environmentalism are so important is that he believes the next winners in the global economic competition will be the ones that learn to accomplish the most with the least amount of waste.