• July 21, 2019

ELAM: Ross ‘n me, meandering down Wall Street - Odessa American: Business

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ELAM: Ross ‘n me, meandering down Wall Street

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Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2019 5:00 am

In October, 1974 I landed under the direction of Ross Perot who was tapped to head former F I DuPont, later DuPont Glore Forgan, and finally DuPont-Walston.

Younger readers can scarcely appreciate just how long a shadow Ross cast in those days. He was a graduate of the Naval Academy, met his sales quota at IBM for one year in a matter of days, and then started Electronic Data Systems, EDS, a pioneering software company specializing in Medicare claims.

Ross purred all the conventional invitations to take EDS public. He finally sold a paltry 15% of the company through a minor league Wall Street firm at the then unheard of 191 to 1 price earnings multiple. He was the first IT paper billionaire. He made international news in his effort to get Christmas packages to Viet Nam POWS. His short hair, fierce patriotism, and blunt remarks were a stark contrast to the Woodstock era.

Ross being Ross he flew all potential hires to Dallas for a personal interview, I visited with one of his lieutenants. And being Ross, he declared Wall Street did not know what it was doing and eventually he would be proved smarter than Merrill Lynch’s HR department.

Back then one had to be employed for a six-month training period and pass the Series Seven NASD exam before becoming a registered representative. We were as far as possible from Wall Street - indeed the school was on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles.

Other firms had new recruits doing gofer type duties with three weeks in NYC. Not Ross. We spent the entire six months in the most expensive training program ever devised. Five days a week, all day long, we were versed in both sales and multiple products, not just stocks. In that way Ross was way ahead of his time.

Modeled on Officer Candidate School we began with 42 and ended with 25. We joined Toastmasters and read Dale Carnegie. It was a dazzling backdrop of the Marina del Ray, the original Brown Derby, and the Queen Mary.

But it didn’t work. The market peaked January 1973 slowly declining 50% by December, 1974, hello Watergate and good-bye Viet Nam. The better brokers chafed at Ross’s white shirt, short hair dictum. Merging with Walston only took the latter down as well.

Ross Perot Famous Sayings:

This will knock your socks off!

Measure twice, cut once.

Most folks march down the field and then quit on the five-yard line.

People have asked me to run for office, but I would be a kamikaze as a politician. (This later proved to be quite accurate.)

And in regard to the developing bear market and Wall Street mergers:

We’re going to take no as an indication of long-term interest.

Ross Perot was the best salesman I ever met. Watching him address a crowd was a college degree in sales, marketing, and public speaking all in one hour.

And Ross used his wealth to help many individuals in ways that were never publicized.

RIP Ross Perot.

dennislelam@gmail.com

Odessa, TX

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