After finally allowing me to buy him breakfast, Peter Strople
and I made our way to his
designated corner booth at an Austin, Texas Panera.
The breakfast offering came partly because (for the second day in a row) I had been late in meeting Strople in front of my hotel.
And, even though I felt I owed him an apology and at least breakfast, accepting a free juice (Strople doesn't drink coffee) was not easy for him.
On Saturday mornings, Strople
, a soft-spoken Canadian who played semi-pro hockey in his
youth, uses this particular booth as an epicenter for meetings with everyone from governors and CEOs to students and retired CIA
agents - he
calls all of them friends.
And friendship is something that Strople
In fact, when you ask him how he
describes what he
says, "I'm a good friend."
As we sit down to await the arrival of some local entrepreneurs, Strople
says (without the prompting of any particular question): "I spend most of my time feeling overwhelmed and truly thankful."
pauses and tears begin to well into his
gaze goes out the window next to us and then directly to me: "Mostly, I think, 'Why me?' I'm the most average person I know.
I'm so grateful that someone like you would come down here and spend this much time with someone like me. "
Being a natural cynic, there are a few ways I could interpret this statement:
1. Peter Strople
is prone to flattery and is overdoing it a bit.
2. Peter Strople
is unbalanced or emotionally stressed out.
3. Peter Strople
is a truly humble and sincere person that knows the value of human connection.
Before I spent some time with the man, I would have been prone to assume a mixture of one or two.
But, now I know the answer is the latter.
I had traveled to Austin to spend three days with the "The Most Connected Man in North America" (a title that Strople
has been given by some influential people and, consequently, one that Strople
vehemently rejects "because it is just not reality").
But, all of them had an intimate connection with Strople
Many used words to describe him that they would normally reserve for their closest family members or even Jesus Christ.
"Peter Strople has helped me to see that there is a place in this world where love can be unconditional," says Suzanne Leonard, CEO of Vanguard, a leadership and speaker's bureau.
and I met with Leonard just one day after Covey's passing.
[Strople] gave me a new definition of humanity and has shown, with his
example, that it is about sharing love, much like the way it is described in the Bible.
is the author of how love and the business world connect."
While Leonard's praise may seem over the top, it is actually an accurate sampling of the way Strople's
friends feel about him.
In this light, the title of "Most Connected Man" is completely suitable for Strople
- despite his
protestations - if connected were to refer to the quality rather than the quantity of connections in his
Also, "Most Connected Man" may be the easiest way to describe Strople
since what he
actually does in terms of a traditional job title is difficult to define.
business card has no title or even company name - just "Peter Strople," phone and email.
is sometimes compensated for ongoing consulting or for new business that results from a connection he
facilitates, and he
has a special program that helps embattled CEOs in crisis (see Instant Change).
However, at any given point in the day, he
is in a meeting or on his
way to a meeting or on the phone in a meeting during a meeting.
is always helping his
friends move their businesses forward and or helping someone out of a problem.
For most this activity, Strople
receives little or no payment - nor does he
"I can't charge someone for something unless I am 100% confident in making an impact," says Strople
"It also goes back to something that Dave Thomas [yes, he
is referring to the founder of Wendy's] said to me, 'How much do you need to live off of, because if you can live comfortably on $100k per year then what impact can you make with anything over that?
So, I spend my time with the people that my friends have referred to me. In 2010, I had over 1400 meetings of which less than 95% ever led to compensation.
But when I am charging between $10k and $30k per day for my time, it doesn't take many paid engagements to support me. So, I can give much of my time away for those that are really in need or in crisis."
Being this intimately connected to so many people did not happen overnight, and, according to Strople
, it is not some special gift.
journey into American corporate board rooms started from the humblest of beginnings.
"My twin sister and I were put up for adoption at just 12 months and were adopted when we were three years old" says Strople
"My foster mother died when we were six.
So, in many ways, I was abandoned early on.
I did not go to college, and I barely graduated from high school."
showed a talent for hockey, which carries a special value in his
minor league career came to an end, he
stayed with the sport by becoming a scout for the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League
It was during his
tenure as a scout that he
took a summer internship with an IBM subsidiary.
was so successful at winning new business that the summer internship lasted two years.
"A lot of influential executives loved hockey," says Strople
"So, that would usually break the ice when it came to getting appointments.
Also, if I was going to go to a game, I would just invite them along.
Or, I would get them box seats for their family.
My coworkers who were still haggling with the gatekeepers couldn't believe it."
Several catalyzing moments in business relationships occurred for Strople when he joined GRiD, the company that invented the clamshell laptop, in 1981.
technique of creating informal introductions and steadily grew both his
personal network and the GRiD
In 1988 GRiD
was acquired by Tandy Corporation
and in 1993 GRiD
was sold to AST Corporation
Strople then joined Dell in late 1993 before leaving in 1996 to become president of Interleaf Canada.
In 1997 he struck out on his own and founded Zero2 with the goal of helping validate and invalidate business ideas as well as helping address businesses that were in crisis.
He was an advisor to Marsh and Enron in the late 90's where he developed an intimate understanding of how the Fortune 500 work and where he formed relationships with many c-level executives and their friends.
"Peter Loves You"
But, it was the the events of July 3rd of 2003 that completely changed Strople's
outlook on relationships.
After a long day of golfing with his
friends at a remote resort, he
suffered a major heart attack.
In a harrowing episode that involved heroic restaurant kitchen staff, a small town sheriff and questionable ambulance drivers, Strople
still has only 80% capacity with his
heart, and his
breathing becomes labored when he
walks up stairs.
"After that, I started to respect time even more," says Strople
"I didn't know how much more time I had, so I realized that I wanted to spend as much time as I could helping others.
And, I wanted to make sure that the people that were important in my life knew that I loved them."
As a result of this brush with death and as a way to speed up connecting people, Strople
created a personalized icebreaker.
makes a connection for a client or CEO, he
usually says, "Call them and tell them, 'Peter loves you'" - a proposal that sometimes gets funny looks from those he
instructs to use it.
"I decided to start using the term 'Peter loves you' since I was not sure when I would see them again," says Strople
There is little that Strople
would not do for his
A few years before his heart attack, he was contacted by a friend who was a large investor in a corporation.
The company's CEO had inherited the firm from his
father and was destroying the value of the firm.
That CEO was depressed and even suicidal.
Strople volunteered to meet with the CEO as a favor.
"I remember that the CEO was not too impressed with me," says Strople
"But, I just told him, 'Look, my friends are your biggest investors and they deserve a return.
If you can't do that then they want you out.
I want to help you.'"
did for him what he
That is, he
uses what he
calls "dream relationships" to help validate a company's strategy and offering.
got the dream company's CEO on speaker phone at that moment and asked h