Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Spring 2009

Larry Gelwix, winning coach and successful CEO, visits USU.

It’s not every day a business school looks to a rugby coach for advice.

And yet, the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business invited Larry Gelwix, coach of the Highland Rugby team in Salt Lake City and the inspiration for the movie “Forever Strong,” to be a Dean’s Convocation speaker last January.

Dean Douglas D. Anderson, who has worked with some of the best known business leaders in the country, introduced Gelwix, who is also CEO of Columbus Travel, at the convocation. Anderson described Gelwix as “one of the finest leaders I have ever met.”

Larry Gelwix

While Gelwix spoke he was filmed by three different film crews. One of them was gathering footage which could eventually be used as part of a special feature on the “Forever Strong” DVD. Students packed the auditorium, watched on a video feed pumped to the student lounge and other areas of the building and then stood in line afterward to get a chance to talk with him.

Gelwix shared with the students what he called the “five pillars of success.” They were as follows:

Practice “horizontal leadership.” He said the most common type of leadership, with the boss taking credit or passing on blame, is “ego driven.” With a horizontal philosophy, he said, “Everyone has the right of human dignity, of human respect, of not being humiliated in front of their peers, of not being ripped apart.”

“There’s no such thing as negative motivation,” he said. “There is not. You can terrorize someone; you can threaten an employee with his job; you can threaten a student; you can terrorize someone within your organization, and you will get a short-term behavior change. But you’ll never capture their heart and their loyalty.”

Gelwix emphasized the importance of respecting everyone, regardless of their responsibilities or job. He argued it is especially important to be respectful of those who aren’t in a position to help you.

“If you want to know what a person’s character is really like, I’m going tell you the secret; it never fails,” he said. “Watch how a person treats someone they don’t need.”

“Don’t play with snakes.” Gelwix told a story of a friend who was playing with a rattlesnake and got bit. He told the students there is a right and wrong, and they should resist the temptation to choose an unethical path just because it promises more profit.

“The essence of a lie is not the words you chose but the message that you convey,” he said.

“See the finished product.” He also said to recognize people for the potential they have and treat them as equals.

“It’s about seeing the potential in people,” he said. “As you go on to your leadership role, see the end from the beginning, as Stephen Covey would put it. See the potential. See the finished product.”

“Focus on the final score.” Gelwix encouraged the students to think about not what they are going to be, but instead, who they are going to be.

“Be men and women of integrity,” he said. “Be men and women of honesty. You’re going to get some penalty flags and fouls and missed shots along the way. You’re going to have some people take advantage of you, but you determine what the final score of your life is by not what you want to be but who you want to be.”

“Get out of the boat and drive the wagon.” Gelwix told the Biblical story in Matthew of Peter getting out of the boat in a storm and trying to walk across the water to Jesus Christ.

“I think that Peter gets a bum rap with this story,” he said, “because we always talk about his failure and his sinking … Peter got out of the boat.”

He also told a story of Salt Lake pioneer Brigham Young crossing a river as the frozen ice started to crack. When a follower suggested they stop and pray, Young said, according to Gelwix, “Brother, we said our prayers this morning, now you drive that wagon!”

“Some of us spend so much time in planning, paralyzed by fear, afraid we may look dumb, afraid we may fail, that we don’t get out of the boat and we don’t drive the wagon,” he said.

“The five things I have told you are true,” he said. “They are pillars of success that not only will not fail you, but cannot fail you. They will not fail. You put them in your business, you put them in your student life, you put them into your professional life, you put them in your personal life: you will not fail.”

For more pictures of Larry Gelwix speaking to students click here.

Watch Convocation Presentation