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Ray Allegrezza

Hubris can undo the best of us

October 14, 2013

Years ago, I shared a story with my then-young sons because there was a critical lesson attached - and I believe that important lessons are best taught early and often in life.

I share that story with you here, because I also believe that important lessons are timeless.

I began by telling my sons that there was a time in history when the Roman Empire ruled the world and that Rome was even referred to as the Caput Mundi, literally, the head of the world.

It designed and built incredible structures such as the Colosseum, which is still the largest amphitheater in the world. Legend has it that the Romans were so enamored with the edifice and their culture, that they said "When the Colosseum falls, Rome shall fall; And when Rome falls - the world."

That phrase opened the door for my teachable moment. I got to talk to my kids about hubris - and the difference between confidence, arrogance and complacency. I went on to explain to them the Roman Empire was at the top of the heap as the result of years of creating a foundation based on innovation, new technologies and protecting its citizens.

But for all the amazing things the Romans did right, they made fatal errors - they became arrogant. They became complacent and over time, they forgot what made them great.

The rest, as they say, is history. They also say that those who refuse to learn from history repeat it.
In my tenure with the furniture industry, I have witnessed the undoing of what were some very powerful companies, most recently, the unraveling of Furniture Brands International.

While I won't go as far as to compare FBI to Rome in her heyday, the company once had a reputation of innovation, great design and a stable of thoroughbred brands that were the envy of competitors and sought after by consumers.

You decide for yourself if the lesson about Rome applies to Furniture Brands. I only know that when it comes to lessons, life is a strict teacher. She often gives the test first, then the lesson.