Konneker Keynote Speaker Juliann Larimer Draws a Crowd

CEO Speaks to an Overflow Audience

Culver-Stockton College held its 6th annual Konneker: Leader in Residence conference on Monday, September 30th at 7 p.m. in Merillat Chapel. The event’s keynote address was given by Peak Ryzex President and CEO Juliann Larimer. Larimer, the daughter of alumni and donor Joseph Schwan ‘59, has worked for companies such as IBM, NCR, Accenture, Motorola, and Zebra technologies. Larimer also attended and received degrees from Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University. Chris Gill, Dean of Student Life, introduced Larimer to a packed Merillat Chapel.

Pullquote Photo

An organization cannot outperform its leadership”

— Juliann Larimer

“Two Truths and One Lie”, named after the popular icebreaker, was the title of Larimer’s keynote address, which she aptly began with two truths and a lie about herself. However, Larimer’s focus was not the icebreaker game but more importantly how it related to leadership, prefacing her main points with a definition of leadership which she defined as, “…a process whereby a student of promise, drawing upon integrity and the best values of faith and the human spirit, motivates others to achieve a common goal.” Larimer qualified that statement with another saying that, “An organization cannot outperform its leadership.”  

After defining leadership and how it relates to organizations, Larimer hopped into her first truth about leadership: “Every Leader Has a Brand-You Own Yours.” Exemplifying this, Larimer used water as an example, talking about how water from a faucet is free, yet the bottled water industry 12.2 billion dollars a year because they know how to brand it to appeal to consumers. “Branding attaches value to the brand,” said Larimer.

Furthermore, Larimer dissected branding claiming that it is more than just a logo, and is instead, “…a set of intangible emotional associations that exists in the minds of your customers.” Such intangibility insulates a company from product commoditization and new competition because of the reputation you are able to build, according to Larimer.

Beyond that, Larimer heavily emphasized how the brand of a company is influenced by the brand of its leader with a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. His character determines the character of the organization.”

Larimer even followed up with examples about Kevin Johnson, owner of Starbucks, and Dr. Karen Bartuch, a woman who has worked in business with Motorola, along with being a police officer, and has spoken at TEDx.  Larimer could not stress enough the importance of a brand as it took up a good half of her speech. 

It can be simple. It must be authentic. And you get back what you give.”

— Juliann Larimer

Larimer’s second truth was that “Being a leader is hard, but worth it.” She spoke about Walt Disney and how when he was building his first theme park he had to decide whether to have either water fountains or bathrooms and how he had to navigate which choice would anger customers less. She continued with an example of a day in her life and how despite doing all she can to improve the company, there are still negative reviews and people who will try and tear leaders and businesses down.

However, the biggest take away she gave was that the best motivator in a successful workplace is gratitude; which she defined as, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

Larimer also made it clear that gratitude as a motivator needs to be done correctly stating that, “It can be simple. It must be authentic. And you get back what you give.”

Finally, Larimer told the lie: There are only Born Leaders. Larimer kept this part of her speech quick and to the point; only relating a story about a research project done on customer service agents and why some stay at their job longer than others. The simple answer was that those that stayed at their jobs longer and had better service numbers used Google Chrome or Firefox. These people refused to be content with the default browser they were given, and take control and step outside the box. Leaders aren’t born, they are made by the mentality they have, claimed Larimer.  

Larimer ended her speech with the answers to her initial icebreaker before answering some crowd questions. As she exited the stage the room was filled with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.