People measure success in different ways -- health, happiness, family, friends and a good job. But in the material world, nothing quite says you've made it like a billion dollars.
Such a financial achievement is a common thread among the headline speakers at this year's Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum, which takes place today and Tuesday at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
For instance, entrepreneur, Dallas Mavericks owner and "Shark Tank" TV-show celebrity Mark Cuban has a net worth of $2.6 billion, according to Forbes. The sometimes brash businessman is tonight's featured speaker.
Tuesday's all-day session includes Spanx shape-wear founder Sara Blakely, an Atlanta resident, and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of the ubiquitous online site Facebook, who closes the forum. Each of the women, according to Forbes, is valued at $1.1 billion.
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"Every year has a little different mix of speakers," said Kim Eason Rozycki, director of events and operations with Columbus State University's Cunningham Center. "But there's more of an entrepreneurial focus with this particular slate than there's ever been."
On Friday, Eason Rozycki said there were a few seats left for the 1,000-seat forum, which was launched in 2006 by retired Synovus Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Blanchard, with the assistance of CSU and its staff.
The lineup through the years has had a heavy political presence, starting with U.S. Senators Zell Miller and Sam Nunn in the inaugural event, and culminating with the star power of former President George W. Bush two years ago.
But there also has been a steady stream of authors (Ken Blanchard), military leaders (Colin Powell) and business CEOs (Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy, Aflac's Dan Amos and Ford Motor's Alan Mulally).
Cuban, 56, Sandberg, 44, and Blakely, 43, all come with credentials of taking startups or newer ventures and running with them. Albeit, in Sandberg's case, she was wooed away from Google by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2008 to help grow the social media site that now has 1.3 billion monthly active users. Still, Eason Rozycki said there will be plenty of diversity at this year's forum as usual. Other participants include:
Geoffrey Canada, author and founder of Harlem Children's Zone
Retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral John R. Ryan, president and CEO of the Center for Creative Leadership
Ronald A. Heifetz, senior lecturer and co-founder of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government
Author Marcus Buckingham, a top expert on employee productivity.
"They're all fantastic and they all offer different things," said Eason Rozycki, noting Chris Woodruff, a commercial manager and sales associate with W.C. Bradley Real Estate, also will speak briefly Tuesday morning about young professionals and leadership.
Tyler Townsend, a Columbus financial planner, will be attending the forum with his father, Ken, and Leigh Anne Thomas, a third partner in Townsend Wealth Management. The younger Townsend said he has only missed one or two of the events since 2006, and he particularly enjoyed President Bush, as well as former first lady Laura Bush in 2010. The political husband-wife duo of James Carville and Mary Matalin in 2012 also was entertaining, he said.
Aside from Cuban and Sandberg, this year Townsend is looking forward to Buckingham. He read his book, "First, Break All the Rules," about a decade ago.
"It's a book about managing employees, and it was when I was first starting to manage a team of any real size, 25 or 35 people. And it just gave you a new way to think about how to motivate people," said Townsend, marveling at the top-notch speakers the event has attracted "right here in Columbus."
Something new this year for the forum will be a simulcast of the event tonight and Tuesday by CSU at its University Hall Auditorium. The venue holds about 800 people, with Eason Rozycki saying the simulcast is open to CSU and Columbus Technical College students with valid IDs. Some local high school students also have been invited.
"From the beginning it was the goal of Mr. Blanchard to expose the younger audience, the younger future leaders of the community" to the forum and its leadership speakers, she said.
Cuban's appearance, which is expected to include a question-and-answer session, begins at 8:10 tonight. Tuesday's session kicks off at 7:55 a.m. and wraps up at 5 p.m., with the customary unveiling of the following year's lineup.
Eason Rozycki, who has attended every forum, said that will be another "highlight" of the occasion, considering next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the event. Without giving away any hints, she said of 2015's forum and speakers, it's "going to be bigger and better than before, and with more for everybody."