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The Maverick CEO

Insights on the man behind one of the most successful companies in history - in Warsaw, IN


the maverick ceoIn 2007, USA Today listed the 25 American companies whose stock had appreciated by the highest percentage over the last two and a half decades. Dane Miller's Biomet was number seven. Bill Gates' Microsoft was number eight.


I recently devoured the new book on Miller, who founded one of the world's most successful orthopedic companies - Biomet, which is in Warsaw, IN. Here are some insights from this terrific read:


Many of our greatest leaders come from humble backgrounds: After marrying Mary Louise in 1966, Miller and his new bride hardly had anything. One of the reasons Dane took a job at Arby's was their policy to give each employee two sandwiches a day. He would eat one and take one home to his wife.


Miller gives great credit to his wife in supporting him as he built Biomet. He says, "Behind every successful man is a great woman - and a surprised mother-in-law!"


A great leader has a burning fire within that strongly believes in his product: Miller once was so confident that titanium was the most biocompatible metal that could be used in surgical implants that he had a small bar of titanium put in his own arm for nine years to prove it.


A great leader is confident: When Dane and others started Biomet, they only thought positively. "We were so committed and full of optimism that we didn't allow ourselves to ever consider the possibility of failure."


A great leader puts his or her people in position to do their best work: "Instead of long contracts full of fine print, his new employees were given a simple letter of agreement with a stated salary, plus a range of bonuses and stock options. Furthermore, no one was given a typical job description. As Dane explained, "A job description tells you the job you're intended to do, but it also limits your work by telling you what not to do."


A great leader instills confidence in the team: Miller never told people how to get there, in regards to doing their job. If they made a mistake, they were not yelled at. Instead, the book points out Miller would ask, "What did we learn?" and "Where do we go next?" People that weren't making mistakes were playing it too safe and not doing their job. Such methods led to remarkable team spirit.


A great leader is compensated based on team achievements: The book covers something Miller feels strongly about: reasonable pay for CEO's. "How could I justify taking home a seven-digit salary when there are people in training positions in our company making $6 an hour," Miller told the Washington Times once. He says his type of leadership was one of a servant rather than a star."In pro sports, you're buying an entity," Miller explained. "People bought Celtics tickets because they wanted to see Larry Bird, but no one buys a Coke because of its CEO." He feels the best way to compensate an executive is through equity in the company, the reward of success he can reap just as his shareholders do. Otherwise, he felt, when paying millions in salary to a CEO," at some point you're just satisfying an uncontrollable greed complex."


A great leader has gone through many challenges: The picture above represents a quote found by his longtime assistant, Cindy Helpler. "Would you go to sea with a sea captain that has only sailed on smooth seas?"


A great leader gives back: Miller has been enormously successful. He has given a great amount to non profits, communities (over 30 million of his own money to the restoration of his community), Church, scholarships and more. In the book he says one of his favorite quotes comes from William James, "The best use of life is to invest in something which will outlast your life."


"I've often heard the saying 'You can't take it with you'," Miller says in the book. "The important corollary to that is, it really matters what you leave behind. Especially those intangibles you leave with those around you. The part of you that stays behind is found in people's memories of you. Did you treat them with respect? Did you help them? Did you leave them better off that they were before? These are the questions that really matter."



I couldn't put the book down (The Maverick CEO ; Dane Miller and the Story of Biomet) and read it in a day or so, underlining many things to utilize in future Leadership Seminars and Keynotes. It is written by Dr. Patrick Kavanaugh, who is a Dean at Grace College. You can get the book at


In 23 years as a broadcaster, I interviewed hundreds of successful leaders. Check out the Programs area of this site to learn more about how my Leadership Keynote or Seminar could help ignite your event and grow your people in the critical area of leadership.


- Charlie Adams, Motivational Speaker
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