I spend a lot of time reviewing social media, scanning for what CEOs and other business owners and executives say. It's always interesting, and in most cases, I learn something new. One of the recent things I learned is how shallow people can be.
I read several Facebook posts from CEOs and C-Level executives making fun of other CEOs whose appearance didn't seem to fit the norm. The shallowness of the comments was absolutely stunning. Here were CEOs making fun of other CEOs, who were far and away more successful than they are, or ever will be. The one that really drove the point home to me was seeing the childish and derogatory comments about Willie Robertson, the CEO of Duck Commander, and a star of Duck Dynasty. Turns out, Willie was speaking at the Republican National Convention, and his appearance (sporting a ZZ Top-like beard and bandana) was enough to make some people apoplectic. They just couldn't come to grips with this person who seemed more like a backwoods bayou bumpkin than a CEO. The comments about Willie, and his appearance, were so childish and hateful, I wondered what he must have done to these people. I will admit that I personally got quite a chuckle from seeing people making fun of Willie, who is probably a smarter and more savvy CEO than they ever could be. It's a little ironic.
So, for all the shallow CEOs who denigrated Willie, here is some information about Willie Robertson, and why he should be held up as a role model, not as a brunt for your jokes.
Willie Robertson attended Harding University, and graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe with a degree in business. He and his wife were later honored as Harding University's Outstanding Young Alumni. After graduation, Willie took over as CEO of his father's business, Duck Commander, known for making duck calls. At the time, the business was operating out of his father's house. Since Willie started running the business, it has grown into a multi-million-dollar empire. He's executive producer of their outdoor reality series, "Duck Dynasty," that has over ten million viewers and a cult-like following that buys all kinds of Duck Dynasty branded products. Forbes estimates the business to be worth $400 million. Sources estimate Willie's personal net worth to be somewhere between $20 and $40 million. Moreover, he and his wife also wrote a best-selling book.
When I was a professor, Willie was exactly the kind of CEO I wish I could've had as a guest lecturer for my entrepreneurship class. But the beard and bandana? I guess that's Willie playing to his millions of fans. They certainly don't expect to see him in an Armani suit.
So, should we be making fun of Willie, or trying to learn from his success? I don't know about others, but I have already grown a beard, and I am contemplating whether a bandana might add something as well.
And here is some more information that should prove enlightening: Willie's father, Phil Robertson, the founder of the company, is no slouch either. He may appear even more gruff than Willie, but there is a lot more under that beard. In high school, Phil was all-state in football, baseball, and track, which got the attention of Louisiana Tech, and garnered him a football scholarship. He was their starting quarterback, and destined to be a pro football player, but decided to leave football his senior year to pursue his passion for hunting and fishing. The school's second string quarterback, a guy named Terry Bradshaw, took over. Bradshaw later joked that he wouldn't have won all those Super Bowls if Phil had decided to remain at Tech as the starting quarterback. He even compared Phil to Joe Namath. Phil later patented his now famous duck call and started the family business, Duck Commander. He also has a Master's Degree in Education, and taught young minds for a while. Star athlete, inventor, entrepreneur, businessman, TV star, and educator. Not too shabby for a guy that looks like he was stranded on an island for years.
As a coach, I meet CEOs all the time that don't look anything like I expected. I met one guy dressed like a 1960 lounge singer (including a pinky ring), another looked like a house painter, and a woman CEO that was dressed in yoga pants and a sweat shirt. And yet, all of them were highly successful in their respective industries. As they say, "you can't judge a book by its cover," and you can't judge a person by their appearance. Grow up and stop making fun of people who can run circles around you...it just makes you look foolish.