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  • Cindy W. Hodnett

Qubein: Leaders can't be discouraged

Nido QubeinNido Qubein, president of High Point University, told attendees at the Furniture/Today Leadership Conference that 98% of Americans would rather be “comfortable” than “excellent.”
NAPLES, Fla. - As the electrifying opening of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" played in the background, High Point University President Nido Qubein took the stage to open the 17th annual Furniture/Today Leadership Conference.
     Charged with delivering the Mastering the Message keynote address, Qubein begin with a recap of one of the industry's most challenging economic periods.
     "The last few years have been nothing short of a mega disruption," he told the audience of furniture industry executives. "I think that only when you have a really screwy year in business do you begin to appreciate the really good years, but when you become a leader, you lose the right to ever be discouraged. Disappointment is a part of life, but discouragement is not a word in a leader's vocabulary."
     Under Qubein's tenure, High Point University has thrived during one of the toughest economic eras in U.S. history. According to figures from HPU, undergraduate enrollment has grown 248% since 2005 and residential enrollment is up 275%. The university purchased 700 homes to increase the campus' size from 92 to 360 acres, and 50 new buildings have been constructed on campus. Parent contributions increased from $12,000 to $16 million during the same period, reinforcing Qubein's assertion that parents wanted to send their children to a school that functions as an extension of home.
     "We created a vision for High Point University, and then we created a solid strategy for that vision," he said. "Then we committed ourselves to consistent execution. God, family and country equals a holistic education, an extension of home."
     Using props like a bag of Hershey's Kisses and a box of Godiva chocolates, Qubein illustrated the importance of creating value for a business. Pointing out that both the Kisses and the Godiva represent a pound of chocolate, he underscored how highly focused marketing efforts can lead to increased perceived value.
     "This bag of Kisses is four dollars," he said. "This box of Godiva is $40, or 10 times more expensive. Both are a pound of chocolate and both taste good. But the difference is that people buy Hershey's Kisses to eat and they buy Godiva chocolates to give. They are not buying chocolate, they are buying an experience. They are buying a relationship."
     On leadership, Qubein said that understanding the process, the product and the person were key components to success. He said that a leader who is afraid to fail is a leader "who should not have the right to succeed."
     "Our beliefs lead to our behaviors, and our behaviors lead to our success," he said. "You have to quit whining and fussing at the people you are assigned to lead. The potential of a human being is remarkable."
     Along with chocolate visuals, Qubein used a compelling video to underscore the importance of his message. At the beginning of the video, a blind man is seated with a sign asking for money. A short while later, a woman walks by and rewrites the sign, immediately followed by numerous donations. As the camera pans away from the gentleman, viewers see the recreated message - "It's a beautiful day and I can't see it."
     "If you change your words, you will change your world," Qubein said. "We renamed our maintenance department as campus enhancement and our housekeeping division as hospitality. You can choose optimistic, positive words or words filled with pregnant doubts. If you want to improve your results, then improve your beliefs.
     "Leaders inspire, educate and propel forward those they work with," said Qubein. "Every year, we ask people to commit $200,000 over a four-year period and we do that 1,300 times every year. We created a pool of distinction in an ocean of sameness."

     NAPLES, Fla. - As the electrifying opening of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" played in the background, High Point University President Nido Qubein took the stage to open the 17th annual Furniture/Today Leadership Conference.
     Charged with delivering the Mastering the Message keynote address, Qubein begin with a recap of one of the industry's most challenging economic periods.
     "The last few years have been nothing short of a mega disruption," he told the audience of furniture industry executives. "I think that only when you have a really screwy year in business do you begin to appreciate the really good years, but when you become a leader, you lose the right to ever be discouraged. Disappointment is a part of life, but discouragement is not a word in a leader's vocabulary."
     Under Qubein's tenure, High Point University has thrived during one of the toughest economic eras in U.S. history. According to figures from HPU, undergraduate enrollment has grown 248% since 2005 and residential enrollment is up 275%. The university purchased 700 homes to increase the campus' size from 92 to 360 acres, and 50 new buildings have been constructed on campus. Parent contributions increased from $12,000 to $16 million during the same period, reinforcing Qubein's assertion that parents wanted to send their children to a school that functions as an extension of home.
     "We created a vision for High Point University, and then we created a solid strategy for that vision," he said. "Then we committed ourselves to consistent execution. God, family and country equals a holistic education, an extension of home."
     Using props like a bag of Hershey's Kisses and a box of Godiva chocolates, Qubein illustrated the importance of creating value for a business. Pointing out that both the Kisses and the Godiva represent a pound of chocolate, he underscored how highly focused marketing efforts can lead to increased perceived value.
     "This bag of Kisses is four dollars," he said. "This box of Godiva is $40, or 10 times more expensive. Both are a pound of chocolate and both taste good. But the difference is that people buy Hershey's Kisses to eat and they buy Godiva chocolates to give. They are not buying chocolate, they are buying an experience. They are buying a relationship."
     On leadership, Qubein said that understanding the process, the product and the person were key components to success. He said that a leader who is afraid to fail is a leader "who should not have the right to succeed."
     "Our beliefs lead to our behaviors, and our behaviors lead to our success," he said. "You have to quit whining and fussing at the people you are assigned to lead. The potential of a human being is remarkable."
     Along with chocolate visuals, Qubein used a compelling video to underscore the importance of his message. At the beginning of the video, a blind man is seated with a sign asking for money. A short while later, a woman walks by and rewrites the sign, immediately followed by numerous donations. As the camera pans away from the gentleman, viewers see the recreated message - "It's a beautiful day and I can't see it."
     "If you change your words, you will change your world," Qubein said. "We renamed our maintenance department as campus enhancement and our housekeeping division as hospitality. You can choose optimistic, positive words or words filled with pregnant doubts. If you want to improve your results, then improve your beliefs.
     "Leaders inspire, educate and propel forward those they work with," said Qubein. "Every year, we ask people to commit $200,000 over a four-year period and we do that 1,300 times every year. We created a pool of distinction in an ocean of sameness."

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