Adapted from a speech given to the Sales and Marketing Executives of Cleveland (SME), February 13, 2006, and dedicated to all the no-shows.
When this talk was promoted through ads in Ohioâ€™s largest newspaper, I was overwhelmed with calls and e-mails from three types of people.
The â€œsuper richâ€ called to inform me that Iâ€™m really not that rich. So let me state up front: â€œI am not Peter Lewis rich.â€ (There, Peter, I hope youâ€™re satisfied.)
Then thereâ€™s the old-guard, East Side â€œweâ€™re rich, but we donâ€™t talk about itâ€ crowd. Having grown up on the West Side, I say: â€œWhat possible reason could there be to make a fortune if you canâ€™t brag about it to your Irish friends?â€
And to the third group, I say â€œthank you.â€ You are the Doubting Thomases. You donâ€™t believe anyone can get rich in Northeast Ohio. And it is to you I dedicate this talk. Once I, too, was a Doubting Thomas. But after studying the secrets of this regionâ€™s rich and practicing their principles for the last ten years, I have become rich beyond my wildest dreams. And you can, too, right here in Northeast Ohio.
My story begins in 1996. Cleveland was celebrating its 200th birthday and I wasnâ€™t far behind. Cleveland could look back on 20 years of progress. We had the worldâ€™s best orchestra; the worldâ€™s best health care; Americaâ€™s only official Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; and the Indians were winning.
Everywhere I looked people were getting rich, in law, accounting, insurance, construction, real estate, manufacturing, banking, printing, venture capital, advertising, public relations, automobiles, health care – even mattress making. It seemed like everyone was getting rich, but me. I was working hard, but just couldnâ€™t get ahead of my bills. What did rich people know that I didnâ€™t? I had to find out.
I remembered a book my mother had made me read in high school called â€œThink and Grow Rich.â€ The author, Napoleon Hill, had been hired in the 1930s by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to study the rich. Times were bad in America and Carnegie reasoned that if Hill could discover how the rich got rich, maybe that knowledge would help America get back on its feet.
I saw my course of action. I would study Northeast Ohioâ€™s rich – 40 in all – to learn their secrets to success. I never intended to go public with what I learned, but I didnâ€™t know that Cleveland would drop like a rock after 1996. We went from â€œcomeback cityâ€ to â€œpoorest city in Americaâ€ with constant stories on all our problems from brain drain to unemployment, and from population decline to crooked politics.
If youâ€™re down on Cleveland or Northeast Ohio, who can blame you? However, there are people here succeeding beyond anything they ever imagined. So why not you?
Napoleon Hill discovered 13 secrets of the rich, though some were somewhat suspect, like getting in touch with your subconscious. So here are the six mine all had in common.
Rule #1: If You Want to Get Rich in Northeast Ohio, Leave.
Every one of the companies I studied began as a local company. They grew their businesses as fast as they could and expanded to other cities. Jones Day started with one office and now has 30 all over the world. Oswald Companies started here, expanded to other Ohio cities, then Florida. The secret to Rule #1 is that the rich use Northeast Ohio as their headquarters. They expect it to have everything they need to help their business succeed. And to a person, they believe it does.
Rule #2: â€œYouseâ€ the Goose.
I was surprised to find how often the rich referred to Northeast Ohio as the goose that lays the golden eggs. You donâ€™t have to sell Northeast Ohio to the rich. They know its assets, and they use its assets.
Rules # 3, 4 and 5 are important, but self-explanatory, so letâ€™s not spend time on them.
Rule # 3: Be Very Good at What You Do
Rule # 4: Be an Owner
Rule # 5: Be a Risk Taker
Rule # 6: Take Good Care of Goldie.
Our goose has a name, and itâ€™s – what else? – Goldie. The rich understand that community involvement and financial support, contrary to public opinion, are not exclusively acts of philanthropy. They are simply taking care of Goldie.
I would like you to pick up the $2 bill at your plate. I want you to help me sell Northeast Ohio as a great place to get rich with this $2 bill.
When I was reading my granddaughter the story of the goose that laid the golden egg, I pointed and said, â€œWhat is that?â€
â€œA duck,â€ she said.
â€œNo,â€ I said, â€œthatâ€™s a goose. And what is that?â€ I asked again.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ she said.
â€œThatâ€™s a bill,â€ said I.
â€œNo, grandpa – thatâ€™s two bills, one on top and one on bottom.â€
Goldie the Goose has two bills. The next time you hear anyone say anything negative about Cleveland or Northeast Ohio, walk up to them and give them this $2 bill and tell them itâ€™s from Goldie. When they look at you as if youâ€™re from Mars, just say, â€œSheâ€™s the goose that helps people get rich in Northeast Ohio.â€