The CEO of Ziglar, Inc. talks with the Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about following in his famous father’s footsteps, expanding the company’s reach and why Americans should think positive about the economy.
When Tom Ziglar walked away from a professional golf career to join his father, Zig Ziglar, in the family business he thought he would eventually regret giving up his dream. Instead, he says, “it was replaced with something better. Most people don’t have the opportunity to work for a company where people literally write you a letter and say you changed their life.” His father’s sales training and inspirational messages have touched hundreds of thousands of lives for more than half a century.
Four years ago the elder Ziglar, now 84, fell and hit his head, resulting in a brain injury and short-term memory loss. Still an essential part of the company, he handed over the day-to-day operations to his son, Tom, who is carrying out his father’s legacy.
Opportunist: The name Zig Ziglar is synonymous with sales and success. What is the Ziglar philosophy?
Tom: You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. We don’t tell anybody anything new. It comes right out of the Bible and it’s simple and easy to understand. We give companies and individuals the tools, skills and values they can use to change their personal and professional lives.
There are five components to it, and the key words are hope, identity, will, skill and refill. Anytime you hear Dad speak the first thing he does for the audience is create hope and encouragement, which is what our country needs more than anything right now. He’ll ask: How many of you today believe there’s something you could do in your personal, professional or family life to make things worse? How many think you can do something to make things better? Whether you realize it or not you have the power to make things better or worse and the choice is yours.
Tom: I was blessed. Dad always had time for my sisters and me and, of course, at home he was a normal dad. He led by example and never expected us to follow in his footsteps. There was no pressure; he wanted us to do whatever we did best. I’ve met some inspirational people but Dad is by far the No. 1 influence on me. I admire Dave Ramsey and Seth Godin, but nobody runs a close second to Dad.
Opportunist: Is your dad a born optimist?
Tom: Dad is probably the most motivated, positive person you’ll ever meet. Even he would say there are people who are born with an optimistic view of the world. But since he was a boy—and he was the 10th of 12 children by the way—he’s been about hard work and hustle. His early sales career wasn’t successful, though, until an executive named P.C. Merrell took him aside and said he’d never seen such a waste. He persuaded Dad that he could be the national sales champion if he did two things: believe in himself and work on a regular schedule. After that he set appointments for the same time every day, and started investigating what it meant to believe in himself. He went to No. 2 salesman out of 7,000 that year.
Opportunist: How did your dad become an inspiration to others?
Tom: As he became successful in sales he was promoted to sales training. He discovered that it wasn’t sales skills that people were missing, it was personal development: attitude, character, image, etc. If someone has a bad attitude and a bad self-image you can give them all the skills in the world and they won’t be successful. He started changing his presentations to focus on personal development instead of sales skills.
Opportunist: “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude,” is probably one of Zig’s most famous quotes.
Tom: Yes, and I believe attitude plays a great role in success. Let me give you our definition and how it works. Dad says a positive attitude won’t let you do anything but it will let you do everything better than a negative attitude will. There’s a difference between positive thinking and positive believing. Positive belief is based on a set of facts that give you the comfort that says, hey I’m qualified to do this. Look at the recent U.S. Open. Roy McIlroy is immensely talented and it was a breakthrough win. He’s ranked high in the world and has won at every level. His competitors believe he’s one of the best players they’ve ever seen. He already had the facts to back up his win.
When you have a dream, goal or vision for what you want to become you need to read and study and immerse yourself in that area every day—and let go of negative thoughts and negative people. I heard a statistic that said if you take the average income of the 10 people you associate with the most that’s usually within 10 percent of what you make. (Laughs) So, if you want to make money hang out with people who make more money. You want to reach down and help people and mentor them but human nature says that if you’re in a group that’s negative or going nowhere with no goals the chances of taking them with you are slim. Seek out and associate with people who have goals and who have the right character and who do things right. When you do what smart people do, you become smart, and you perpetuate success.
Tom: Dad has another famous quote and it’s my favorite: You are who you are and what you are because of what has gone into your mind. For the last many years we’ve had a constant drip of negative news. A lot of it is based on fact, and so when you have a fact you’ll accept it and make a plan to do something about it. If you can’t do anything about it then you move on. If it’s just a perception you cannot let the perception determine how you operate. You can change who you are and what you are by changing what goes into your mind
Our economy is stagnant right now because people are afraid to take action. If everybody woke up tomorrow morning and said it’s just like 1996 and everything is great, it wouldn’t matter what the economic indicators are saying. Yes, the country is in a lot of debt and we have a housing problem but you cannot constantly worry about what’s coming next. The way you fix it is you recognize it and address it and start focusing on the positives.
The title of your magazine is the Opportunist. Aren’t more millionaires made during times of recession or depression than any other time? People perceive change as negative but a lot of times it’s the greatest opportunity to perceive what is great. If you can leave the house thinking, "Wow! Things are different; this has given me an opportunity!", then you are perfectly positioned.
Opportunist: Tell us about your path to CEO.
Tom: I started out packing boxes in the warehouse and moved to production, where I worked on video and cassette duplication. Then I moved to selling materials to individuals and companies and was eventually promoted to sales manager and became involved in developing core products. It was totally different than coming in and starting at the top. I didn’t have the experience to come in higher than I did.
Opportunist: How many employees does Ziglar have?
Tom: We have 12 people at Ziglar and we have a team of about 15 independent contractors.
Opportunist: What changes have you brought to the company?
Tom: We have expanded into the world of social communities, Twitter, blogs, and live video webcasts to present the tried and true message of hope, integrity and positive thinking to a whole new audience.
Opportunist: What are some of your most memorable experiences with Ziglar?
Tom: Dad was hired as a secret guest to speak to 15,000 people at an Amway convention and a man approached us about 6 p.m. to see if he would sign autographs. Dad wasn’t scheduled to speak until 11 o’clock at night but Amway always run over and we figured he’d be done at 1 a.m., so we told the man to return then. He said no. He wanted to be first in line. About an hour later, I said “Hey, tell me your story,” and he explained that when he moved to Chicago from Central America his brother gave him a copy of Dad’s book See You At The Top and told him it would teach him English and change his life. Then the guy started crying. He had been an alcoholic and he and his wife were nearing divorce. Dad’s book helped him save his marriage and change his life. You could tell he was a working man who was doing everything he could to get ahead, and he felt he owed a great deal of his success and happiness to Dad and his message. He waited in line for seven hours for that autograph.
Opportunist: You have a bachelor’s degree in political science. Do you have any aspirations for a career in politics?
Tom: (Laughs) In college I thought politics would be fun. And I spoke at a Tea Party event one time. But now it seems so ruthless. You have to be good at it. It’s a true calling. So, no, I don’t see a political future.
Opportunist: You have a book coming out in January 2012. Please tell us about it.
Tom: It’s called Born to Win, and it’s Dad’s capstone legacy book. The subtitle is Your Ultimate Success Book. Imagine 84 years of wisdom and experience, billions of miles traveled, millions of people spoken to, thousands of interactions of success with people in all walks of life. There is one person who can write your ultimate financial investing book, and that’s Warren Buffett. Zig Ziglar is the only person in this country who can write your ultimate success book.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications.
Tom Ziglar Live at Round Table http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBRcbqnkxbw
Zig Ziglar - Life Lessons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zvt4Hy7i_Gs
Zig Ziglar - Attitude Makes All The Difference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRMogDrHnMQ
Zig Ziglar - Having a balanced life http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7uj0tdBgtc&feature=related