Last month, our world lost Jim Liautaud, someone who had such a big influence on The Junto Institute that it demonstrated why he had the endearing nickname, "Big Jim". Jim was the first person who believed in the crazy idea I had five years ago to integrate emotional intelligence training into a leadership program for startup founders. The reason he believed it is because he had proof it could work. That proof was a forum concept he conceived and put into use with mid-level and top executives. I asked him if he thought it could work with startup founders and leaders, and he believed it would. That belief led to my decision to license The Liautaud Institute's forum process for Junto's first two years.
No other person outside of our team has had such a profound impact on The Junto Institute. Not only did Big Jim's "product" help contribute to ours, he was also a mentor, cheerleader, and father figure.
When I turned down a job offer from him, he gave me the confidence I needed that my kooky idea could work. He told me if I ever needed capital that he would invest. He took great pride in seeing Junto get launched and then hearing of our progress and outcomes. In fact, he would smile broadly, barrel chested, when I shared the impact our Apprentices were experiencing from their forum participation.
A successful serial entrepreneur, inventor, and patent holder, Jim dedicated himself to positive psychology and emotional intelligence after exiting his last company nearly 20 years ago. Despite his business accomplishments, in recent years he became far better known as the founder of The Liautaud Institute and the Chicago Family Business Council, the benefactor of UIC's Liautaud Graduate School of Business, and the father of Jimmy John Liautaud (yes, that Jimmy John).
Big Jim had great passion for entrepreneurs, leadership, and emotional intelligence - the foundation on which our program is built. He was old-school when it came to the nuts and bolts of business: bootstrap when you can, raise money when you have to; be scrappy but ask for help; sell like crazy but take care of your customers.
But he was very new-school when it came to the principles of building relationships with partners, employees, investors, vendors, customers, friends, and family: listen with your ears and your body, make people feel good about themselves, be empathetic, reflect on what you say and do, and my favorite... "it's not about you, it's all about them."
Because of his influence of our program, everyone in the JuntoTribe will always carry a little bit of Big Jim Liautaud inside of them. And he'll continue to look down on us forever with that big smile and big heart.
Video courtesy of the Chicago Family Business Council.