Don Crace, Owner and President of Dale Carnegie Training Franchises in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, was recently honored for his 30 years of service with Dale Carnegie. Don has been a dedicated proponent of Dale Carnegie Training, and he has worked with some of the largest, most successful companies and people in the world.
I had the privilege of interviewing Don and learning about his history with the organization, as well as his favorite moments and memories over the past 30 years.
Question: How did you get started with Dale Carnegie?
I started back in Minnesota with Mike Norman in 1976 as a Salesperson, then became a trainer about a year later. I worked in the Minneapolis area for 6 years, and then I moved from Minneapolis to Spokane to take over the franchise in 1982. We still have that territory today, and then I added Seattle in 1994 and Oregon in 2000. Somewhere in there, I ended up acquiring Boise – we have Idaho, Oregon, and Washington as territories.
Question: Who have been your longest and best clients?
Cam West Development is one of them. They’re a home builder, and I’ve worked with them for 10 years as a key part in building their company. In Spokane, MacKay Manufacturing is another. I’ve been doing business with them since 1982 when I moved here. Microsoft and Boeing are major clients we’ve done business with here in Seattle for the past 10 years.
Question: What accomplishments are you especially proud of over the past 30 years?
Being able to attract quality salespeople and trainers that stay with me.
Question: You’ve had great employees over the years, how do you keep them engaged and motivated?
Basically, I don’t set a lot of rules. I allow them to be free thinkers and always bounce things off me if it seems a little bit odd, and that’s probably been the best format for us.
Question: When did you know this would be a career for you?
Basically back in 1976. I had been working in insurance making very little money, and I found out that sales was a lot more profitable than just working within that company, so I decided I was going to stick to sales, and Carnegie sales were what I liked.
Question: What are some highlights from the past 30 years?
We were #3 in the world as far as volume in 2007. We have been doing significant business with Boeing and Microsoft for a long period of time, which is more rare in the Carnegie business. We think we’ve built a pretty solid relationship where people trust us.
Question: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen over the past 30 years? How has business changed? How has Dale Carnegie stayed relevant?
There was a time when a lot of focus was on soft skills and people skills. Then, in the mid-late 80s, more things went to the technical side, so everything was more math, more technical. That pendulum is swinging back towards the people side, and the ability to build trust and motivate people. The biggest challenge we see is getting businesses to see how important soft skills are – not just having the technical know how, but the ability to deal with people.
Question: If there’s anything you could go back and change over the last 30 years, what would it be?
Each year we tried to grow our business by 10-15% and add new people. I’d probably get more people involved and step back and let them run more things sooner.
Question: What advice would you give a person in their first year at a job or as an owner?
You never take off your sales hat. You’re always selling ideas, concepts, or yourself, and so always remember that you’re dealing with other people and they’re going to help you be successful.
Question: Are there any classroom moments that stand out over the past 30 years?
We had a guy who was the COO of Wal-Mart and he quit that job and came to Microsoft; he is the COO of Microsoft now. He’s a Dale Carnegie graduate, and at one of our graduations when he first came to Microsoft, he came in to give a talk at a graduation and said that he’s where he is now because of Dale Carnegie. He also mentioned that the fact that people took time to take these courses tells him a lot about them. He is one of few, rare people in world who have worked for the two richest people in the world. He said that Dale Carnegie has helped him get to where he is today.
Question: You are in business with your wife- any advice for other married couples in business together?
Be a good listener and always take the advice for face value – don’t question where it’s coming from.
A sincere thank you to Don for this interview, along with his service and dedication for the past 30 years. You are truly an inspiraton!