Kinko's Founder Paul Orfalea Teaches Life Lessons with Humor
Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko's, Inc., visits with students at The Roberts Academy.
LAKELAND (Oct. 20, 2010) -- Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko's, Inc., charmed and amused the FSC community Tuesday as he toured The Roberts Academy, had lunch with MBA students, taught a global marketing class, and delivered a lecture as part of The Roberts Academy Dedication Week celebration.
Orfalea, who struggled in school because he had dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, retired from Kinko's in 2000 and now devotes most of his time to the Orfalea Foundations, teaching college classes, and public speaking on learning differences, education, and intergenerational programs.
At The Roberts Academy, he talked about everything from cake and ice cream to his own struggles with spelling with the two dozen students of the Academy, the state of Florida's first transitional school for talented children with dyslexia. He told the children that he failed second grade and got expelled later because the teachers "just thought I was strange."
One little boy piped up and said, "Just because they think you are strange doesn't mean anything!" His comment earned a fist-bump from a broadly smiling Orfalea.
He said he found The Roberts Academy pupils to be delightful. "You can see in their eyes they were engaged in their education. It's a great school. I would have liked going to a school like that."
During his lecture, Orfalea said his parents had enrolled him in a series of schools and special tutors in an effort to help him read better. "My parents said every word I ever read cost them $50," he added.
While a student at the University of Southern California, he was inspired to start a copy shop after watching lines of students pay to copy projects in the library. "I can't even run a Xerox machine," he said seriously. "But I knew I could sell what came out the other end."
He built Kinko's with a strong emphasis on keeping front-line workers happy. "The biggest problem was motivating employees and keeping them loyal," he said. "Happy fingers ring happy registers. And whose name was on the deposit slip? Mine! Why wouldn't I love those people?"
He advised the college students and others in the crowd to follow his mother's advice: In your 20s, try everything. In your 30s, figure out what you're good at. In your 40s, make money doing what you are good at. In your 50s, don't do much of anything. She told him, "You want to end up like your uncles. Their biggest decision at 50 is where to eat lunch every day."