Introduction Excerpt: The Gorilla Dance By Reagan Lancaster
A short excerpt from Lancaster's new book
What is the gorilla dance? Before we get started I have to address the question: why the Gorilla Dance? What is it? The Gorilla Dance is when a person who doesn’t know you begins to tell you how big and bad they are. It is so common today for people to rush in andl tell you they are better than you before they even know you. They talk about how much money they have or what they have accomplished, or how they are a famous performer you’ve never heard of. I want it to be known right off the bat that unlike those people, I would prefer to be underestimated than overestimated.
As you get to know me you will understand. Coming from humble beginnings set me up to lead with a humble approach. Humility and being underestimated was strategic. As for those fake Gorillas you meet every day, they get washed up in the jet wash as we fly by them, never realizing they are just chimps.
We all start somewhere. I started in a small Texas town. We didn’t have two pennies to rub together—though we would have settled for one. That said, the lessons I learned growing up without, prepared me for a life of accomplishment beyond my wildest dreams.
Looking back, I feel enormously blessed for my upbringing; kids who grow up with everything don’t get the chance to learn what I did, lessons about hard work, holding down three jobs to pay for college, and the value of continual improvement. After all, being accomplished isn’t about being better than everyone else according to you. It’s binary, the numbers speak louder than words. If we line-up every teammate on a team and have a foot race over 40 yards we will find out who is the fastest player on the team.
Early on, I realized that we all have to play with the hand we are dealt. We won’t do ourselves any service by staying stagnant, complaining that someone else got a better deal in life, or failing to put 100% effort into whatever we do, be it school or work or hobbies.
When I started out, I worked in a program to become an engineer for Wang Laboratories right out of college. Three years later I started working for a small startup called Oracle. I became the number one salesman in the world out of Dallas within a few years. During that time I had to double my organization every year. Oracle grew 100% 12 of the first 13 years, so I realized I needed to lead better. I was told I could have the quota myself, I could make babies, or hire and train people. This led to a “work in progress – make plenty of mistakes” leadership role overnight.
After that, I decided I wanted to run my own show so I decided to strike out on my own. I went to work for a few small startups, one of which was i2 Technologies. We went from a few sales guys in the first 6 years to over 1000 sales guys after I had joined. I was the 19th employee. We did $26 million the first year I joined, then $76 million, $220 million, $360 million, $570 million, $1.1 billion, and $1.8 billion the following year. It was the fastest growth to $1 billion for any company in history in the software business. It was faster than Microsoft, faster than Oracle. We went public in 1996 and my responsibility at first was all sales, then pre-sales, then consulting and all field operations globally. We had amassed 7,000 employees and set records in my job 25 consecutive quarters as a public company at that time.
And I haven’t stopped working since.
Over the course of my career, I have acted as a CEO, Chief Revenue Officer, President, and officer for three of the most successful startups in the software field. During my time at Oracle Corporation, I had break-neck performance stats regularly and became the top salesman worldwide. I was named “Motivator of the Year” three years in a row by Sales and Marketing Magazine. I was named Top CEO in the tech space by Tech Biz Magazine.
At this point, I have been involved with over 30 exits of small software companies and evaluated thousands. I love what I do. I still love what I do. Today my ventures include Intellect Software, Sourcetap Technologies, Tige Investments, Titan Ventures, and Lancaster Ranch, among others.
But success doesn’t come easily. It takes hard work. I started out by applying all of the lessons I learned as a young man about hard work and a yearning to be the best. Life continued to provide opportunities to learn invaluable instruction on leadership and success. In retrospect I was thrown into the deep end more often than not and I chose to swim.
That said, I hope to share with you many of those lessons I have learned and continue to learn day in and day out so that you can achieve the same success I have. Proverbs 27:17 says “As Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”