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Copy This: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Reading

abstract:Growing up with Dyslexia and ADHD, Kinko's founder Paul Orfalea learned to become an expert at reading people.  He used these skills, 'learning opportunities' as he calls them, to build a $2 billion dollar empire.


April 24, 2006

Paul Orfalea has a unique approach to business.  As President of Kinko’s Copies, he refused to spend more than three weeks at a time in the office, preferring to travel the country and speak with ‘coworkers’ at Kinko’s locations.  Orfalea’s strength was in his ability to delegate, hiring people to perform the tasks that he was incapable of doing.  His ‘learning opportunities’ taught him humility, and he used this incorporating spirit to grow a 100-square-foot copy shop in Santa Barbara, California into a $1.5 billion-a-year company that Fortune Magazine named one of the best places in America to work.

Orfalea’s severe dyslexia and ADHD caused him to flunk second grade.  He struggled through high school and college.  He was fired from a gas station for writing illegible receipts.  Despite this, he went into the copy business on a whim at the age of 22 and never looked back.  Under Orfalea, Kinko’s was renowned for treating employees with respect, corporate culture dictated that management was of secondary importance to the front line workers who interacted with customers on a daily basis.  Employees received unprecedented benefits such as health and child-care, as well as opportunities for growth.

Orfalea’s humility, compassion, and ability to turn his ‘differences’ into assets can be seen as invaluable lessons; not only to children and parents struggling with learning disabilities, but to all who feel trapped in the mundane.  Orfalea’s story, Copy This: Lessons from a hyperactive dyslexic who turned a bright idea into one of America’s best companies, delegated to Forbes Magazine writer Ann Marsh, provides insight and inspiration into meeting challenges, accepting personal weaknesses, and surrounding oneself with talented people.

To learn more about Orfalea’s fascinating story, come check out Ann Marsh’s talk at Whistler’s Rainbow Theatre, 4pm on May 6.  Books will be sold on site.



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