Dwain Farley | Paralyzed at 17, Adopting 7 Special Needs Children, and Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur with Multiple Exits

Dwain Farley is a Vistage Chair and the Founder and CEO of LeaSarHan Capital Investments. Vistage is a great organization of peer-to-peer roundtables for CEOs and Dwain leads private peer advisory groups for CEOs and business owners to help them step out of the daily grind to think differently, gain insights, take bold actions, and generate spectacular results. LeaSarHan Capital Investments (LCI) is a privately-funded investment firm providing growth equity and guidance to small and mid-sized companies generating positive annual free cash flow and attractive growth prospects within their industry. 

Dwain is the former CEO and Partner at Ontivity, a leading construction and wireless infrastructure company for the cell tower industry in the southwestern US that was acquired by New Braunfels in 2016. He also served as the CEO of Domino Printing and Enterprise Information Systems, Inc. (EIS).

In this episode, John Corcoran, host of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, is joined by Dwain Farley, a Vistage Chair, to talk about how to become a successful entrepreneur with multiple exits. Dwain also talks to John about his background, the companies he has founded, the challenges he faced growing his businesses, and his experiences in mentoring fellow executives as a Vistage Chair.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Dwain Farley recalls an accident that he went through when he 17 years old and how it shaped his life
  • Dwain shares how he started his entrepreneurship journey after college and what it was like to work with companies without an accessible entrance
  • The conversations Dwain has with his kids about disability
  • Dwain talks about growing his business, outgrowing his target market in Arkansas, expanding to Dallas, and the challenges he faced in the process
  • How Dwain ended up being in a Vistage Group and what he loves about it
  • Dwain discusses why he decided to sell his business, his experience of moving to the corporate environment, and why he decided to create a new company and not retire after the sale of his company
  • Dwain’s experience as CEO of Domino Printing, surviving the 2008 economic recession, and his transition to the cellphone industry 
  • How Dwain mentors executives in the current COVID-19 crisis at Vistage
  • The people Dwain acknowledges for his accomplishments and success
  • Where to learn more about Dwain Farley

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

Today’s episode is sponsored by Rise25 Media, where our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners, clients, and strategic partners. We do this through our done for you business podcast solution and content marketing. 

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:14  

Welcome to the Revolution, the Smart Business Revolution podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution. John Corcoran.

John Corcoran  0:40  

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, the host of the Smart Business Revolution podcast. You know, each week I talk to, actually twice a week, I talk to really inspirational and interesting CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies and organizations like YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Lending tree, OpenTable, x software. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. 

And, you know, I wanted to introduce today’s guest, interesting guy who I connected with through LinkedIn. His name is Dwain Farley and Dwain has got a very interesting background 30 plus years of entrepreneurship and different levels. And especially at this point in time we’re recording this in July of 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to unfold, I thought that it’d be really valuable to have some sage, educated seasoned entrepreneurs to come on the show and share some of their stories, not just their own stories, but also working with other founders as well. And he is also currently a Vistage chair, which is a great organization of peer to peer roundtables for CEOs. So we’re gonna dive into that in a moment. But first before I get into that, I also want to also mention a few other vested shares I’ve had on the show recently Matthew Griffith Griffis from London, England. He told the story of a company he’s involved in, which is kind of like an escape room for entrepreneurs really cool. So check out that episode Tonya Twitchell. Also, this is a chair from Las Vegas, she told the story of five family members who died in a short period of time and how that inspired her to give back in a moment we’re gonna hear Dwain’s personal story what inspired him into entrepreneurship and then also check out the episode with Carl Arnold from San Francisco who built the host hospitality business to over 100 million dollars and now is also invested share really great story from him as well. 

But first, before we get into all that this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media. At Rise25 we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. If you’re listening to this you’ve ever thought, should I do a podcast as well as listening to one? Well we say yes, we specialize in helping you to get that done. So if you haven’t been in any business with a high client lifetime value, this will be one of the most valuable assets we guarantee. So you want to learn more, go to rise25media.com or you can also email us at [email protected]

All right, Dwain. So I’m really excited to have you here today. And you’ve done an amazing story. So at 17 years old, you had an accident, which shaped your life, and the rest of your life, and also, in a way, guided your life course into entrepreneurship. So, tell us what happened. What happened during that accident.

Dwain Farley  3:33  

Well, John, thank you very much and appreciate you having me on today. Exciting to be here. Like you said when I was 17 in high school, friend of mine and not necessarily real friends, just some from some friends from work. We’re out. One evening, one Saturday night goofing off and silly things that 17 year olds do. I end up falling backwards, headfirst. down about 30 feet off a cliff on the way down, caught a tree or two and ended up landing, fundamentally on my neck, they said. But here they had to take it. So back on. They said if it hadn’t been for the heavy jacket I was wearing it was in November of 81. And had it not been for the jacket I was wearing, which had a big kind of first color. They said it probably would have broken my neck. So I ended up breaking my back rasik Five, six, and so ended up in rehab for almost four months. So I came back as I actually came down to Dallas, which is where I’m at right now, down to Baylor rehab unit, which had just opened a spinal cord injury.

We have rehabilitation hospital, and so again, it’s been about For months there came back in, I guess, February or March. So yeah, very interesting experience. You know, people ask me what that was like, when they tell me what likely is not it wasn’t I wasn’t going to walk again. And so paralyzed from about my chest down. I don’t know that that really makes sense. I mean, I’m 17 years old, so I hadn’t quite figured out what that exactly meant. But anyway, I got down here to Baylor. They actually flew me down here in a Learjet from Northwest Arkansas, which was quite an experience as I was fighting my back when I did it. But I get here and there’s just, I mean, there’s a whole different environment. I walk in or I roll in there on a stretcher, for my first day of therapy. And, you know, there’s gunshot victims there. There are motorcycle victims. I mean, everything from spinal cord injuries to neck injuries to quadriplegics to It was just for someone who’s 17 years old never seen anything like this. It was just a very, quite honestly. I mean, I looked around and I remember having a thought, you know, compared to everyone else here, I’m in really good shape. Hmm. And so, yeah, that was kind of a life changing moment for me it was an amazing thing. And so yeah, the vast majority of people there were going to chop cycle accidents. And how did you pick yourself back up, you know, at 17 years old and not get dejected, not get depressed about your life, or did you go through a period of depression? You know, that was the answer. It took me about a year after the accident to really figure out the situation I was in. And so you know, there was a period of depression there. There was a there was some I went through two or three years there were

Yeah, there was just a lot of uncertainty in my head that I had to work through. And part of that was trying to go to school and get through high school and then on to college. Which Technical College up there north northwest Arkansas, I don’t even think is still there anymore. But yeah, it was 234 years of just a lot of difficulty. Yeah, I finally pulled myself out of that. Graduated. And then, you know, it’s kinda like, Okay, what do I do now? And thankfully, there were some people that I knew that allowed me to come in. And, you know, what I had studied was, you know, PCs, and I had a passion for that. I mean, in the sense that they were new. I mean, IBM had introduced their IBM XT and eight one. So now you know, what, three, four years down the road there? It’s like, wow, you know, these are starting to proliferate a little bit. I managed to cobble together enough money to buy an Apple TV PC.

Remember that?

John Corcoran  7:58  

I do. We actually had one.

Dwain Farley  8:00  

Yeah, there you go, Hey, this is a good one I had two floppy disk drives on this. So I mean, I was really high tech now. Yeah, I was really high tech. So anyway, put an ad in the paper and said, Hey, you know anybody who needs any help using their, their PC, give me a phone call. And so like three or four people call me. And, you know, the key to be an entrepreneur I’ve come to find out is, you know, put yourself out there, you know, having to ask, you know, here’s what I can do, kind of do it for you, and then keep following up, you know, what else do you want to do? What else do you want to do? And so that’s what I did you know, and then I got reformed referral to another referral, you know, then starting to put together PCs in my bedroom and selling those and then

John Corcoran  8:52  

This is why you’re in college. You’re doing all this

Dwain Farley  8:55  

had graduated from Scott from college. Okay.

John Corcoran  8:59  

So, next video. Yours and you actually said that you think that, you know, your injury made you feel that you weren’t sure who’s gonna hire you. So did that inspire your decision to go kind of work for yourself and just put something together?

Dwain Farley  9:16  

Well, you know, it’s kind of as I came out of school. Okay, what am I going to do? Do I go look for a job? Is he going to anybody gonna hire me? I mean, and then again, it’s like, well, why not just put an ad in the paper and see if there’s anybody who has the need for my skill set. Okay, didn’t have a great skill set. I mean, just got out of school and had some really good PC based skills that quite frankly, not a lot of people did. So it was kind of in the right place at the right time. And again, just kind of put myself out there and said, Hey, you know, who needs help at home or in your business, whatever. And some people reached out.

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