American guru is man in a million – and one to follow

BUSINESS guru Dan Pena is a classic American success story — and says he can show us how it is done. Brought up in a tough Hispanic ghetto of East Los Angeles, he was arrested five times, jailed in his teens and looked to be heading nowhere fast. Now he is now a multi-millionaire, living in an 80-room I 5th-century castle near Forfar, and he believes anyone who follows his theories can reap similar rewards. His success has certainly been spectacular.

In 1982, with $820 in his pocket, he founded oil firm Great Western Resources. Eight years later it was worth $445million on flotation. He has since had major successes with other firms, and he says his Quantum Leap Advantage method is the key. “I developed this methodology here in Great Britain in the early 1980s, specifically in Scotland, because I have lived here since 1984.

“It is not something I developed in the US, couldn’t sell, then came to Scotland. I developed it here, went down to the City, took their money and came back to try to help, coach, teach, cajole or drag as many Scottish entrepreneurs as I can across the goal-line.”

Last week he told 700 Aberdeen entrepreneurs the secret of his success for free. Mr. Pena, was guest speaker at the first meeting of the Aberdeen Entrepreneurs’ Club at the Aberdeen Stakis, an event co-sponsored by Grampian Enterprise on the suggestion of one of his partners based in Peterhead.

“I am very keen to help Scottish entrepreneurs because I live here and Scotland has been good to mc. especially Angus county,” he said, adding that his daughter was born in nearby Dundee.

Mr Pena left Los Angeles afler he flunked out of college and joined the army. He quiddy rose through the ranks, becoming and Intelligence and Security Officer at NATO headquarters in the late 1960s. He then took a degree in business administration at California State University, graduating in 1971. He embarked on a career on Wall Street but left the financial hub in the late l970s to set up his own energy and natural resources business.

“I was dead broke, fired, made redundarn and I had $820. I started a company on Friday, July 13, 1982, and eight years later it was worth $450 milIion. That was in a declining oil market. We did it through acquisitions. When our assets were declining in value, we went through a series of 20-plus acquisitions. I have done that not just once. I have been consolidating fragmented industries for 20 years.” He said he retired five years ago but is still chairman of several successful firms. I am in the construction and leisure businesses. At this stage in my life I have got to have fun otherwise I don’t want to do it,”

Mr Pena said there was no great mystery in making a business a winner, adding that his Quantum theory was mainly a distillate of the vital ingredients.

“They are precepts that people like Andrew Carnegie have been using for more than 100 years. It’s about raising one’s expectations. Most of the time our business success is more or less in line with what we expect it to be. If expectations are high, like Richard Bransori’s, results will be high. A myth we dispel is that geometric growth is not sustainable, you tell Bill Gates that! When you start your business and you go from zero to £50,000 in one year, you have grown geometrically. Then something happens — commonsense dictates you can’t grow at 100% a year so you sit back on your assets and you become satiated.

“Bill Gates and other men and women that have grown tremendously successful companies didn’t adhere to that. They believed they could sustain growth that was more than just arithmetic.”

“He said has method also focused on how to get funding. The myth is that it is difficult to get money out of financial institutions. Most entrepreneurs become uncomfortable, but we get them comfortable about it. I’m in a position where the banks will come to me here at Guthrie. We sit in the library and look at the 18th bole of my own 18-hole golf course. A senior lender came a few months ago and told me that he was £778million under-loaned. Right now they have never been flush with more cash.”

Despite his ease in dealing with high-powered executives and multi-million cash sums. Mr Pena says he can also relate to the struggling business novice.

“I made my money in the same trench warfare they are fighting every day. I didn’t make it by writing a best-selling book, I didn’t make it by selling tapes and I didn’t make it by putting bums on seminar seats. I understand what it is to miss a payroll, to be months behind in your mortgage payrnent . to almost have your car taken away because you miss a payment. I can relate to all that because it happened to me. I am a hands-on business coach. I didn’t read 700 books like one famous guru, I have made 700 transactions.”

He said many people had the potential to become a big business success. “All my 40 business partners have come out of seminar audiences. All of them.

“Instead of opening up an office for merchant banking in London or New York, I use seminars as a conduit for business transactions for me to look at. It is a lot more fun. I don’t have to deal with the City. I just get to deal with the entrepreneurs. We cut all the advisers out and I am able to help them directly. Sometimes that direct intervention is money, sometime it is just showing them how to get the money. The fact that you had credentials, or didn’t have credentials, doesn’t matter.

Mr. Pena sees no bounds to his own success and predicts a bright future for his current batch of projects.

These include Success and Development International, which is due for flotation in the US in March of April. It is currently the 152nd fastest-growing firm in the Inc 500 list published annually in the US.

Press and Journal
February 5, 1997
David Gault