3 things: Lessons learned from Joe Dudley

3 things: Lessons learned from Joe Dudley

I had the pleasure to meet Joe Dudley, Founder of Dudley Products after a speech that he made at WOF for a business plan competition. He spoke with deep passion and conviction about his story and the spirit of entrepreneurship. His speech was marred by his physical limitations, but he was confident and bold in his delivery. Here are three things that I learned:

Pain as motivation

In the first grade, he was labeled mentally retarded and suffered from a severe speech impediment. As a teenager, he grew very fond of one of his tutors. She was encouraging and he enjoyed being around her and vice versa. They were best friends and his first love.

Naturally, he saw her as girl friend material and worked up the courage to ask her to go steady. She declined. She told him that she liked him as a friend but preferred to date someone else because Joe was not too smart.

The rejection crushed him and served as motivation.

I realized that if I didn't put something in my head, then people would be taking things away from me for the rest of my life.

He struggled in school but worked hard through his disability.

The sting of losing his first love fueled his desire to succeed despite his disadvantages. He started Dudley hair care products in 1967 by selling his products door to door, saving money on product packaging by reusing containers that he recycled from trash bins. He built Dudley hair care products into one of the most popular brands for African-Americans and says that he never plans to sell the company.

Know you competition

Each day the antelope knows that he has to outrun the fastest lion to live. And each day the lion knows that he has to outrun the slowest antelope to eat.

I'm not sure if this was an original quote or not, but the message is simple - in life there's competition. You have to wake up each and every day with a game plan for your life. If you are not planning and controlling your own life, then it's being controlled by someone else's plan.

Learning, earning, and returning

Mr. Dudley is well into "retirement" age but still works and shares his story to motivate and uplift others. He spoke about segmenting your life into 3 phases - learning, earning, and returning.

The idea is that you spend the first 20 years of your life gaining an education and valuable skills that prepare you to add or create value for your own or someone else's business. The second phase of your life, the next 20 years, is spent converting that value into tangible assets for you and your family. And, in the last phase of your life, you should focus on giving.