Kinko’s founder, master entrepreneur, speaks at Ross

Kinko’s founder, master entrepreneur, speaks at Ross

Charley Li  Issue date: 9/17/07 Section: inside Ross


The Ross School of Business and the Zell Lurie Institute continue to
bring influential speakers to campus for its students. This past
Thursday, Mr. Paul Orfalea, the Founder of Kinko’s, spoke to MBA and
BBA students on a variety of subjects. Mr. Orfalea is a businessman, a
philanthropist, and, most notably, an entrepreneur. In his lecture, he
addressed key issues of entrepreneurship, motivation, and business

Orfalea engaged his audience by challenging them to think outside the
box of traditional business and models. He did not bother with the
details of markets, costs and profits, or technical analysis. Rather,
he used simple analogies and personal stories to show a room of Ross
students what successful entrepreneurship is all about. He emphasized
the importance of knowing your strenghts and what kind of person you

Mr. Orfalea’s story of failure and eventual success in
entrepreneurship is touching and motivating. As the founder of Kinko’s,
Mr. Orfalea is now a well-reputed businessman as well as one of the
most successful entrepreneurs in the world. He helped create a business
service empire that now services millions of people. In America,
Kinko’s is not just a company name but also an epitome of efficiency
and quality in business and customer service.

Nevertheless, Mr.
Orfalea was not always at the top of the pedigree. As a child, Mr.
Orfalea had many shortcomings and disadvantages. Troubled by dyslexia,
Mr. Orfalea had difficulty learning to read when he was young. As a
student, he was untrained in technical and mechanical vocation. Often,
he struggled with his grades and even found himself graduating from the
bottom of his class after high school. Yet, speaking to rows of
attentive business school students, the Kinko’s founder proudly
addressed these shortcomings making the audience wonder how in the
world he became so successful.

Ultimately, Mr. Orfalea’s secret
ingredient is simply his desire for success and prosperity along with
his aptitude for managing people and relationships. Mr. Orfalea states,
"Ever since I was young, I’ve always known that I wanted to start my
own business." Despite facing many disadvantages, Mr. Orfalea was
accepted to the University of California, Santa Barbara. While
attending college, Mr. Orfalea continued to experiment with
entrepreneurship until he founded Kinko’s in 1970. From its beginnings
as a one-room copy business that had a hard time fitting a single copy
machine into its office, Mr. Orfalea followed his business instincts
and the basic concepts of "price, place, product, and promotion" to
grow his venture into one of the leading business and copy service
companies in the world.

As an entrepreneur, Mr. Orfalea was gifted with the ability to manage
people, not things. He focused on making his employees happy. When
Kinko’s was in its early stages, its employees would get free meals
before the weekend. Later on, Mr. Orfalea always made sure that those
who worked for Kinko’s were fairly treated. He listened to his
employees and took their advice because he believed that the employee
was the true owner of the company, not the executive. "What can I do to
the employee? Nothing! What can a worker do to me if he is not happy?
He can steal from me, he can provide poor customer service, and he can
lie to his other workers about how bad I am." Mr. Orfalea made sure to
let his audience know that the employee was the real owner and as he
puts it, "with happy hands comes happy registers."

Mr. Orfalea emphasized the importance of customer service and
satisfaction as the foundation of successful entrepreneurship. As a
business owner, Mr. Orfalea needed to make sure that he could build
long-term relationships with his clients. It does Kinko’s no good if
customers copy only one or two pages and never come back. The business
only runs when customers continue to return because they are satisfied
with the service received.
Even to this day, Mr. Orfalea is an avid
entrepreneur. One of his ventures, Espresso Royale, has become a
successful coffee and beverage chain especially in the Ann Arbor area.
Likewise, Mr. Orfalea is following the same models of high quality
customer service and continues to emphasize the establishment of
relationships between the employee and the manager.

As a man who
is eager to share his knowledge of business to the rest of the world,
Mr. Orfalea is currently taking many initiatives to help students gain
a better grasp of what entrepreneurship is and what it takes to
overcome the difficulties of starting one’s own business. Students who
are interested in Mr. Orfalea’s story and what he has to say about
investing, entrepreneurship, and life should look for his biography
"Copy This! Lessons from a Hyperactive Dyslexic who Turned a Bright
Idea Into One of America’s Best Companies."


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