Larry Campbell (hi Dad!) dropped out of high school at 15, later serving in the US Coast Guard for 8 years until he was involved in a devastating auto accident. Instead of saying, "look at what I've lost" he said, "what's the opportunity in this" and began a career as a professional clown and magician; later owning a successful chain of magic stores. Out of his challenges and difficulties, he also inspired and motivated others to succeed.
One of the many things I admire about my Dad (aka Zeezo the Clown) is that he has already written his eulogy and truly spends each day living up to that image of who he wants to be remembered as. (see previous post) Yes, he's made mistakes, been flat broke and definitely had his share of trials. But an amazing positive attitude and inner confidence brought him through each time to higher ground. His ability to give joy while selling is truly an example of how to succeed in business.
The clown suit is retired now, but not the performer. Zeezo regularly does motivational speaking - to motivate, not earn a fee. He also volunteers his talents for many non-profit organizations and performs magic shows to give back to those around him. I also know there are thousands and thousands of restaurant and other service professionals around the world that remember the engaging bald man who performed magic and brightened their day.
We have all been influenced by successful people. Take a look at who has inspired you to be the best you can be and then be your best in their honor. As I look at my work ethic, drive and passion, I realize that I have been influenced by many people; people that believed in me and encouraged my success while leading by example. I hope I honor them as I continually striving to be better, serve more and go forward as an example to others.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not to be interpreted as kissing up. It truly came from the heart. Thanks, Dad. My passion, love of sales and desire to give back are truly a gift from you.
3/16/09 - Over the past 2 years since I wrote this original post, I have had quite a few people contact me about the influence Zeezo had in their lives and wondering how he is doing now. Many are now entertainers themselves and all have expressed gratitude for Zeezo the Clown. If you would like to contact Zeezo (a.k.a. Larry Campbell) feel free to email him at email@example.com. Here is an article Richard Haddod recently wrote...
Salesman or cheater, what I learned from an honest clown
By Richard Haddad
When I was a youn man I worked for a chain of magic and novelty stores called Zeezo's Magic Castle. The company slogan was, "We Only Sell Fun".
It was a wonderful job for a teenage boy because I was able to learn and perform magic every day after school and earn money from commissions selling the magic tricks and novelties like disappearing ink and squirting cameras.
Zeezo the Clown was the owner of the store chain. His real name was Larry Campbell, and he was not only a successful businessman and entrepreneur, but also a master teacher, seeking to help his employees reach their highest potential.
The magic store and Zeezo's mentoring proved to be the perfect equation for me to achieve success. One day the employees were gathered for an annual event to recognize the top salesperson of the year. It was an honor to learn that I would be named as the leader in sales. I understood there would be a generous bonus check awarded during the ceremony. At 15 years old it was an unprecedented boost to my ego to have outsold seasoned adults.
During the awards presentation Zeezo openly praised me for my ability to gather an audience at the mall storefront and achieve such high sales numbers. With his polished bald head and bright wide smile he continued to address the audience as he slowly lowered a white envelope toward my anticipating hand. But just as my fingers started to close on the envelope Zeezo quickly jerked it upward, snatching it from my grip. Then turning to me, speaking only so that I could hear, he said, You're very good as what you do, but if anyone ever walks out of one of my stores with something they didn't want, you will be out of here.
Turning again to the audience he made the envelope maneuver seem like nothing more than a playful joke, now handing me the check as the audience began to applaud.
Standing there at what should have been a moment of basking glory I felt all pride drain through my shoes and onto the floor. I didn't know it at the time, but I would later be thankful for this enigmatic moment of covert humiliation. Larry Campbell was looking beyond the moment.
He later explained he wanted me to remember that moment because it didn't matter how good a salesman I was, if I sold someone something they didn't want then I was cheating them and no cheater would work for him.
I know now that he was trying to teach me to put integrity before greed and glory. It's a principle I have never forgotten and have always tried to inculcate in my employees and my own children.