5 brains I want to pick

Last week I was able to spend some time with Frank Hanna, a businessman, merchant banker, and Catholic Philanthropist, that I’ve wanted to meet for quite some time.  Meeting people like Frank is one of the best parts of my job as CEO of Three Pillar.  There’s nothing, to me, more fascinating than learning how entrepeneurs and leaders got into business, the lessons they’ve learned, and picking up tidbits of wisdom from them.

Frank is one of my “top 5” – the people I’d most like to get to know and learn from (a.k.a pick their brain).  This got me thinking about whether I’ve ever actually locked in who the other four are.  So, here you have them, in no particular order (ok, they are alphabetical).  I think it’s an ever-evolving list, as circumstances always chance, but as you can see, each of them are quite diverse and they seem to reflect my core values and what is important to me.

Frank Hanna – Frank is a serial entrepreneur (interesting tidbit: 100% of Hanna males over the past four generations have been entrepreneurs), a director of CompuCredit, and the CEO of Hanna Capital.  He is the author of What your “Money Means: And How to Use it Well” and one of three central figures in the Action Institute’s “The call of the Entrepreneur“.  Frank has a passion for entrepreneurship and truly sees business as a vehicle for living out the Catholic faith.  I respect Frank for his business accumen, passion for entrepreneurship and most importantly the way he lives his faith.  I found Frank to be incredibly personal, insightful, and well rounded.  He’s definitely someone I could learn a lot from – in all aspects of life.

Jeff Henely – I don’t know a whole lot about Jeff, the Chairman and former CFO of Oracle.   Most people are more familiar with and would probably replace Jeff on this list with Larry Ellison.  What I do know is that one of my directors, Ed Johnson, for whom I have a great deal of respect and from whom I have learned an immense amount, considers Jeff one of the best and brightest he’s ever worked with.  Ed sold one of the companies he founded to the Saga Corporation when Jeff was Saga’s CFO.  I imagine that Jeff is quite the deal maker and financier given Oracle’s appetite for M&A.  I know this, if Ed respects and could learn something from Jeff, I definitely could.  As a result, Jeff makes this list. 
Michael Hyatt – While I’ve only known of him for a short period of time, if there is any one person that I’ve modeled my leadership after over the past six months it’s Michael.  I’m quite fond of his blog, and follow his tweets regularly.  I have a great deal of respect for people who are “in the world but not of the world” and from everything I can tell, Michael is one of those people.  He has excelled in his professional life and has embraced technology and social media as a means for leveraging his position to lead, inspire, and witness to his faith and core values.  People seem to follow Michael online because of his business expertise, but Michael remains himself and is unashamed and transparent about his entire life – including family, church, and personal beliefs.  I believe this is exactly what Christian businessmen are called to be.
Steve Jobs – Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, is cut from a different mold than Frank and Michael.  Steve is known as a aggressive, demanding and sometimes brutal leader.  An entrepreneur, inventor, and creative genius, I am fascinated by his ability to build deep customer loyalty.
Truett Kathy – the founder of Chick-fil-A would make this list for no other reason than creating my favorite fast food chain, chicken sandwich, and breakfast.  The fact that he is unabashed about his Christian principals is an added bonus.  Despite constant criticism for lost revenues, Truett has been unwavering in his decision to keep Chick-fil-A closed on Sunday so that employees can attend Church and spend time with their families.  I love the fact that Chick-fil-A also sponsors the Peach Bowl.  I don’t know why, I just think that’s cool and a little out of the box from what others would expect from a committed Christian CEO.

In conclusion, let me mention that there is nothing that has surprised me more than the willingness of CEOs and successful entrepreneurs to share their knowledge, and even mentor, “up and comers” like myself.  The vast majority are incredibly generous with their time and passionate about helping others.  For that, I am truly grateful.  I have learned nearly everything about business from individuals like those listed above who I’ve already had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with (if you want to know who some of the key ones are, take a look at Three Pillar’s board of directors.