March 2024


document copying and business service stores in the world. If you ask him his favorite job he’s ever had, this monstrous task tops the list. “When the equity firm was negotiating my contract, they put a clause in that would give me a bonus if I told them to shut the company down after nine months. When I took over, profits were negative $11 million. After the first year, profits were $120 million, then $180 million in year two. Kinkos was heading toward $240 million when Fred Smith of FedEx walked in and bought Kinkos for $2.4 billion dollars. It was the peak of my career, and it was the most fun thing of my career,” said Kusin. Forever the consummate mentor and people developer, Kusin would tell you the measure of his success when hiring for his businesses is to find people eager to take his own job. “There were 13 on my Kinkos turnaround team who went on to become CEOs. That’s probably one of my most proud moments in business,” he said, “because it’s the leadership principles in action. It’s people being a part of a team and leaving their ego at the door. It worked through incredible hard work and working together as a team.” Kusin never moved back to Texarkana after graduating from Harvard Business School, but always felt a pull to give back to the school district where it all started. Never one to waste his gifts, he generously gave his time to the students of Texas High. “I started meeting eighth and ninth graders in the district who showed potential, and it worked swimmingly for many years. There are students from that program who I still keep intouch with who are now in their 30s and are doing very well in their careers. With the help of Paul Norton, we developed a scholarship program where I aggressively taught students how to pursue the schools with the biggest endowments for scholarships.” With Kusin’s insight and help, Texas High students went from earning $3 million dollars in scholarships to now reaching upwards of $17.9 million dollars in 2020. “What I’m really proud of,” said Kusin, “is that it kept me connected to Texarkana.” When Kusin finally set out to write a memoir reflecting on his life’s incredible works, he had a daily ritual that cleared his mind and honed his creativity. Pounding out 45 minutes on the treadmill each day with a playlist stacked with 70s rock tunes, he prepared himself for the task at hand, and his first book, Always Learning—Lessons

on Leveling Up, from GameStop to Laura Mercier and Beyond is the glorious result. “The book focuses on the very good experiences, and I was not bashful about putting in the bad experiences either. That’s where you learn the most. Over the course of my career, I developed a set of leadership principles for business, and you can see how they built over time,” said Kusin. His goal for his book was to provide a road map to any young person starting out on their journey… one story at a time. Similar to his book title, Always Learning , Kusin could also be described as continuously innovating, which begs the question...

What’s next? “Ross (Perot) was obviously highly important to me as a mentor, which led me to realizing my passion for mentoring. At last check, I believe I’ve mentored close to 1,000 people. I am investigating starting a mentoring certification program, perhaps aligned with a university, that turns best practices in mentoring into a curriculum. I believe a full program would go a long way to weeding out mentors who are doing more harm than good in their mentoring roles. My focus on mentoring and everything I was doing in Texarkana with TISD is focused on paying it forward and leveling the playing field for others who haven’t had the advantages that I’ve had.”



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