The Primitive Podcast: Drayton McLane

Posted by The Prim Pack | June 10, 2020

The Primitive Podcast with Drayton McLane

Even with business roots stemming all the way back to 1894, Drayton McLane never knew his life would unfold to reveal multiple successful businesses and ownership of the Houston Astros for 19 years. But life has a funny way of showing you how to grow if you’re ready. Listen now to hear more from Drayton McLane.


Kade Wilcox (00:00):

Hey guys, Kade Wilcox here, host of The Primitive Podcast. Thank you for joining today's episode. Today we have Drayton McLane. Drayton McLane is a business owner, great, amazing leader, owned the Houston Astros for 19 years and sold his company to Walmart and is still at 84 years old doing amazing things. This is the second time I've had a chance to be around Drayton and listen to his wisdom. And every time I learn something new, I'm impacted greatly. He's someone I really admire. An interesting thing about Drayton, each occasion that I've met with him within two to three days after being with him, I get a handwritten card from him and it's personalized and it's something I really admire about him. And the reason I share that is I think it says a lot about who he is and the way he leads. And he's been doing that for a long time. And so like me, I'm certain you're going to learn and appreciate a lot about this episode. Thanks again.

Kade Wilcox (01:10):

Well Drayton, it's a real pleasure to have you on my podcast. A couple of years ago, we had you at one of our young leadership events and it was the largest one we've ever had. I personally really enjoyed it, I know a lot of other people did. Probably the thing that impacted me the most was you sent me a handwritten card a couple of days after the event and on the front of the card, it said, let your imagination get in the way, at least once a day. And you didn't know this about me, but my favorite thing to do is dream. So when someone I respect, like you, sends me a card that says, let your imagination get in the way it was permission to do that. And it made a huge impact on me. And even the first line in your card said creative leadership is one important part of life and you get an A+, and those words made a huge impact on me. I have that card right by my computer. I see it every day. And so I wanted to thank you for doing that and tell you the impact it had on me even, even two years into it. And so I really appreciate you being on the podcast with me this morning.

Drayton McLane (02:16):

Well, thank you, Kade. It's an honor to be here again. And I still remember that evening and that was a lot of fun. What was really interesting is the average age. That was a young group of people. Too often we go to meetings and we have people that are like I am, over 60 or over 70 years vape. You had such a young group. I felt young the evening I was there. So it's a great honor to be there with you.

Kade Wilcox (02:44):

Yeah, that's great. If you don't mind spending a few minutes kind of talking about your background, like where you grew up and how you got into business and a little bit about your business for our audience that may not be familiar with who you are.

Drayton McLane (02:58):

Okay. I'm Drayton McLane. I was born in Cameron, Texas. Cameron, Texas is in central Texas near Temple, Texas. It was a small town of 5,000, but I grew up in the town, had two of the finest Christian parents, had two older sisters and our parents really kept us engaged. They kept us under control. And my mother said something to me, but she also said to my two sisters hundreds of times that one of the most important parts of your life is who you select to be your friends. Choose your friends wisely, choose people that have value, have integrity, people that will accomplish things and choose them wisely. And your life will soar as well. As I was growing up in particular as a teenager, she would call me in at times and said, I'm not sure you were really selecting good friends.

Drayton McLane (03:57):

And she would give me some corrections on who I selected as my friend, cause she knew everyone in town. Later when I graduated from high school, I went to Baylor University and so I was 70 miles away. And I remember I was at Baylor as a freshman. I was gone for about six or seven weeks and I came home for the first time. The very first thing my mother did said, son, I want you to sit here and tell me about your new friends. I don't know any of them, but I want you to share with me who you really have enjoyed getting to know. So I've tried to practice that throughout my life. So I grew up in Cameron, graduated from high school and went to Baylor, which was 70 miles away. Had a great Christian experience at Baylor and graduated in 1958.

Drayton McLane (04:46):

And then I went to Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, and got an MBA. A lot of people asked me, they said, how did a kid in the fifties go all the way to Michigan State? Well, Michigan State had one of the really early outstanding MBA programs. It was in the top 10 with an emphasis on logistics, which I was interested in. So I graduated from Baylor then went to East Lansing and spent two years there getting an MBA. And then I came back in late 1959 and my father was in the wholesale grocery business. And he was doing about two and a half million in sales in 1959. He was distributing groceries at about a 50 mile radius. He and my grandfather had actually started the business in 1894.

Kade Wilcox (05:44):


Drayton McLane (05:44):

My dad, when he got out of college in 1921, he went to work for his dad. So in 1959, I went to work for my dad. I'd always wanted to be a businessman. I admired my dad and I wanted to be a strong entrepreneur.

Kade Wilcox (06:00):

Let me interrupt you there. So growing up did you talk to your dad a lot about that? Like you just mentioned how you admired your dad, you wanted to be a businessman. I have an eight year old son. And so he's watching what I'm doing on a daily basis and that's working a lot. And so do you remember growing up and like watching your dad and did y'all have conversations about that? What was that like for you?

Drayton McLane (06:27):

My father, when I got out of school in May, the ninth year, he let me have a week off and then he would get me up at 6:15 every morning and I'd go to work with him.

Kade Wilcox (06:42):


Drayton McLane (06:43):

My job was working in the warehouse. I was sweeping. I wouldn't do anything sophisticated, but I did that every summer, I worked there. My dad, I admired him for this, he never pushed me in any way, said son, you would be the third generation, I would like for you to come in to visit. He'd never mentioned that to me. I appreciated that. When I got out of Michigan State, there were 72 in my class there at the MBA program. And most of them were in their early thirties.

Drayton McLane (07:15):

They had had a lot of experience. I was 22. I didn't know a great deal. And about my highest qualification was driving a truck for my dad. And so the MBA program was very broad. It was a great maturing process for me. When I grew up and went to Baylor, which was kinda connected and all of a sudden I went a thousand miles away where I didn't know one person. And that was great maturing. I had to succeed on my own. So I came back and I told my dad that I had a job working for Kraft Foods in San Francisco. I was going to go to San Francisco and then in five or six years, I'd like to come back and go to work for him. And my father said something interesting. He said, son, that's a decision you need to make, but in five years, I'm not sure this business is going to be worth coming back to.

Drayton McLane (08:10):

I really haven't modernized it in the last few years and it needs to be modernized. And so if you're not interested, I'll probably either sell it or liquidate it in the next few years. But if you want to say, I'd love for you to come back and get involved, you need to decide that now. So here in my mind, after going to school for six years, I was off to San Francisco. I was single, life was great. And I went home that night and that was a very restless night. And I thought, how many people would give their right arm to have an opportunity like this, a business doing two and a half million, with about 65 people. So the next day I went back and couldn't wait to see my dad. I said, dad, I've changed my mind. I'd like to go to work for you. The biggest smile on his face. Until the day before he had never talked to me about coming to work for him.

Kade Wilcox (09:05):


Drayton McLane (09:06):

So I was excited. And I said, well, great dad. He had a little over 60 employees. And I thought I was going to be his number one assistant. I said, what will be my first job? And he said, son, you will work on the third shift at night loading trucks. And it just crushed me. Here I was about to take a trip to San Francisco and live there. And I said, dad, I've been to college for six years. He said, son, that doesn't qualify you for anything we do here. Learn it from the ground up. Well, I appealed to my mother and she said that's between you and your father. My father left me with the people on the third shift at night and that was the best lesson I could have had. I learned to appreciate people who do the work. And these people knew the business. They taught me of the steps the business went in later. As I was trying to manage the business, I could understand how I could make corrections because I saw how it worked. So that was the best thing that ever happened is working that 18 months on the third shift at night, getting to know the business.

Kade Wilcox (10:21):

That's awesome. So where did it go from there? How long did your dad continue in the business before you were elevated to a leadership role?

Drayton McLane (10:31):

Well, that was in 1959 in late 1959. After I worked on the third shift and did other work in the distribution center, then I got involved with sales and he let me work through various parts of the business. And then in about 1964 that's when I began to take different responsibilities and assumed more and more overall responsibilities of the business. And it was still a distribution center that had not changed much. They didn't have a forklift, they didn't have pallets, they hadn't modernized the business. And it was in a warehouse. My grandfather had started it, my dad had expanded it many times, but it was an old warehouse. And so I went to my dad one day and I said, if this warehouse burned down, the only people that would be disappointed would be you and I. Most of these people are minimum wage workers and they could get a job somewhere else. We'd be the disappointed ones.

Drayton McLane (11:45):

I want to be in a business where if it burned out, everybody would be devastated. I said, how are we going to start all over, if it caught fire? And I said, we needed to build a new distribution center. And he said, well, that's a good idea. Why don't you think it through and come up with a plan? So I came up with a plan to build a new distribution center. Cameron, where we were, was a town of about 5,000 and it was 35 miles from Temple. At that time, Temple had about 30,000 and then Waco was about 60 miles away. And Austin was about 70 miles away. So I told my dad, I said, we ought to build a new distribution center, but because of the investment, we shouldn't put it in Cameron. We should put it in Austin, Waco, or Temple. You see, I was prejudiced again. I was still single.

Drayton McLane (12:36):

I was excited. If Austin didn't work Waco or Temple. So he said, well, let me think about it. He asked me how much I think it would cost to build that? And I got with an architect and we found out we wanted to build about a 45,000 square foot distribution center. And this was a 1965. And we found that it was going to cost about $700,000. And my dad said, wow. Our business at that point had a net worth of about 400,000. And I told my dad and he said, well, son, that's a pretty big investment. We would have to go into debt. The business had no debt. And at that time he was 64 years old. And my mother was a year younger. And he said, we could liquidate the business or sell the business and we'd have $400,000 or $500,000 and we can live comfortably, but we'd have to go into debt.

Drayton McLane (13:37):

And he said, well, let me think about it. The next day he said your mother and I have talked about it. And if you're willing to stay and do this, we're willing to move forward. And he said, but you can't build it in Austin. And you can't build it in Waco. So you'd have to build it in Temple. So my heart sank a little bit. My mother and dad were in their middle sixties, they had comfort and an estate there and they were willing to risk it all. That's what entrepreneurs need to do at times. And that's while it's hard. But one other caveat, my dad said, now, son, we're willing to risk this, but said, I want a commitment from you, but I thought you bet. And he said, if we build it in Temple and it's not as much fun as you think it is, it's not as easy or you get discouraged.

Drayton McLane (14:28):

I don't want you to hand it back to me at my age. He told me I've got to pay off this debt. It's your responsibility. And I said, dad, I don't care if it takes me 70 years. So we built a new distribution center and moved into it in 1966, by then we were doing about 8 million. And so we moved in 1966 and then I moved to Temple. My dad continued to commute but he entrusted me. So I really started running the business about 1964 or 1965. I put a computer in the back in 1964, I computerized the business and that really drove him crazy. But he trusted me to do that. The employees thought it was a tragedy, everybody in town, theaters were just emerging.

Kade Wilcox (15:27):


Drayton McLane (15:28):

And they thought, boy, this and that. I remember a friend of my dad told him one day. He said a lot of people called him D and his name was Drayton also. So, he said, D you know what? The biggest mistake he ever made, he said, what was that? And he said, you should have never sent that kid to college.

Kade Wilcox (15:46):

That's great.

Drayton McLane (15:47):

But now you hear that today in some things you do, even though we're so technical, there are new ventures out there in technology. Why do that? Why not just stay with where you are, but you can't stay still. You got to constantly, and you talk about dreaming. I love to dream too. And you have to have dreams.

Kade Wilcox (16:10):

So fast forward a little bit. So you obviously took over the business. It rapidly grew. And so what was that experience like?

Drayton McLane (16:20):

Well, we moved to Temple and our format then was we sold rural small, rural grocery stores in small towns like Cameron and others, but big supermarkets were certainly growing. Safeway was very dominant in Texas. At that time, HEB was a strong retailer. That's very strong today. And other big supermarkets were taking the big end of the business. We were servicing small stores and you think we're so smart and we're so strategic in that. But I say baloney, most of the time. One night I stopped at a 7-11 store to buy something. And it wasn't in the store. Then I said, well, you don't have this item? He said, no, we've got a lot of out-of-stocks. We got a very poor supplier. And I said, who are you buying from? And he said, from a wholesaler in Houston, Texas.

Drayton McLane (17:18):

And I said, well, who should I talk to? Who is your boss? And he gave me, I can remember his name. And this was about 1967 or 1968. He said his name was Alton Lang. And he was a district manager in Temple for six or eight, 7-11s. So I couldn't wait until the next day. So I called Alton Lang and he said, yeah, I've heard of you. And I told him, I'd like to start supplying his store. And he said, well, it's not that simple. He said, all the decisions on who we buy from are made in Dallas. And I thought, wow. He said we sure need a good supplier, but I can't make a decision like that. I have to buy from who they tell me. So he told me the merchandise manager was Pete Exelon.

Drayton McLane (18:05):

Well, this was in about 1968. And so I thought, well, here's a great opportunity. So I pulled down the book in Baylor. I took a course in business letter writing. And I pulled down my book and I bet I spent an hour writing a letter to Pete Exelon. I really did a good job. Well, and I mailed it and about six or seven days later got a letter back. I got crushed. I got a letter from 7-11 and it was my original letter. That's what really ticked me off. He sent my back and wrote on the bottom of the letter, Not Interested Exelon. I was crushed. So I thought I'm not going to let that rest and get the best of me. So I decided the first of every month I would write him an original letter. And I sent seven of them, never heard a word from him. One day, my phone rang and said McLane. And I said, yes, sir. He said, Exelon. That was it. He said, you're going to be in your office in the morning. I said, yes, sir. He said see you in the morning.

Kade Wilcox (19:19):


Drayton McLane (19:21):

So I wrote him seven letters. And he came down and we negotiated, it took a period of time, but we started supplying 64, 7-11s in Waco, Temple, Belton, Killeen, and Austin, that got us really focused on the convenience store industry. And we really started capitalizing on that. And from that forward for 32 consecutive years, McLane Company grew in sales 30% or more. And so we started accentuating it in the convenience stores and other forms of grocery logistics, but it all started, it wasn't my brilliance, I just stopped in that 7-11 one night and it started. So you're a whole lot smarter than I am. You can see these things, but it's the series of events that occur. You got to follow up on them. Don't get discouraged.

Kade Wilcox (20:29):

Yeah, that's powerful. So there's two other things I want to cover in your experience just cause I find them really fascinating. How does one start aspiring to own a major league baseball team? So I would love to hear that story. And then I would love to hear and catch up on your high speed rail and how someone starts, again, these are big things. The everyday person doesn't just kind of wake up and think about these things. And I would love to hear how those originated in your mind and the whole process around those two things.

Drayton McLane (21:03):

Okay. You're talking about major league baseball and then talking about high speed rail. I was in the grocery logistics business and so that's more exciting than owning a baseball team. People from time to time ask would you rather continue owning a baseball team or be in grocery logistics? I say that's easy. Grocery logistics. I remember when I was on an airplane and the lady was sitting by me and she said, what do you do? And I told her that I was in the food logistics business and she looked at me and said, I bet that's boring. I unloaded on her. She was glad when we finally got to Dallas.

Drayton McLane (21:39):

I was telling her I can get so excited. I can get so excited about food logistics and it's complicated and it's doing it efficiently and doing it low cost. So whatever you're doing in life, get excited, get fired up. You asked how I got into the basketball business. Well, it's like how I got into supplying convenience stores. There was a group of supermarkets that we worked with in Houston called Randall's. And they were owned by an individual named Bob Olmstead, who was a very creative guy. And I had a lot of admiration for him. I spent a lot of time with him. And the biggest bank in Texas at that time was called Texas Commerce. And Ben Love was the President and CEO of Texas Commerce. So one day again, my phone rang and it was Bob Olmstead, and Ben Love on the phone. They said Drayton, we've got a big idea we'd like you to participate in. I said, great.

Drayton McLane (22:43):

And they said, we're thinking about buying the Houston Astros. The Astros had been owned for several years by an individual in New York city named John McMullin. And he said, we've been negotiating and we have four others. And so we would like for you to come join us and you'll be the sixth and you'll be engaged with us on this project. Shows you my vision, I said, I'm having too much fun in the business. I really don't have any interest in doing that whatsoever. And I said, I think I'm going to hang up on you. But I wasn't. One of them was my customer and the other one was my banker so I wasn't going to hang up on them. And they said, why don't you come down and sit in the meeting? And just out of respect for them, I drove to Houston and had the other partners.

Drayton McLane (23:33):

And we negotiated with John McMullin and John was feisty. He was aggressive. He was provocative. And they were attacking him and he was attacking them and we had five or six negotiating sessions and just got nowhere. And I remember Bob called me one day and said, Drayton, Ben and I have decided that we're just going back out. This is not good. We can't make a good deal with John McMullin. And we're just going to cancel the whole thing. I said, okay, then I got thinking about it. I said, you know, I really got fascinated about this baseball deal. And I'd like to look into it. So I called Bob and Ben back and said, I've gotten fascinated. Do you all object if I tried to negotiate with John McMullen on my own. And at that stage, I had been to three major league games in my entire life.

Drayton McLane (24:34):

So I was, and they said, boy, if you're that big of food, go ahead. So I called John McMullin and he said, okay, McLean. He said, why don't you fly to New York? The Astros were actually playing the Mets. My youngest son, his name is Dennis. He was 14 years old. He was a fanatical New York Mets fan. He knew more about baseball than I did so I flew to New York with my 14 year old son, we went to a game with John Mcullin and then sat in on the negotiation sessions. I've always found you don't attack people. You try to work through them. You recognize them, you see how you can get mutual benefits for each party and get in and out. And out of three sessions I bought the Houston Astros by myself. And I've been to three games in my entire life.

Kade Wilcox (25:31):

How long did you own the Astros?

Drayton McLane (25:35):

19 years. A lot of fun. So I stayed in the grocery business and continued to live in Temple, and got an apartment in downtown Houston. So I've spent about half of the time down with the Astros and half with McLane businesses. And it was interesting. It was fascinating. And in business, just my personal view, I think we stayed too confined in one area. I knew thousands of people in business leaders in the food industry, but I didn't know a lot of people outside of the food business. And that was one of the reasons I wanted to do that, to get to know other people. I would challenge people, it's not for everybody, but at the time I bought the Houston Astros, I was 57 years old. So some thought, boy, he's an old guy that needs to go retire. But I think it's good to get out. You get very secure. When you have a successful business, you get very secure and you get more conservative and you don't use creativity and you cease to become the risk taker that you were in the early part of your career. So that's one of the reasons I wanted to buy the Astros. I wanted to do something that I'm really not totally sure what I'm doing.

Kade Wilcox (27:02):

Yeah. That's awesome. That's amazing. Thanks for sharing that story. I want to shift if you're okay. And I'm just going to ask you a series of questions about leadership, but I'm really curious to hear and learn from you. So the first one is, what do you believe are the primary responsibilities of any leader of an organization or whatever? When you think of leadership, what are the two, three or four things that you feel like essential for any leader?

Drayton McLane (27:30):

I think to be a good leader, you got to know yourself. Too many people have a lot of technical knowledge or that, but they really don't know themselves. So number one, I think you need to sit down and write it out. And this is what I tried to do in my early twenties, write down who you are and what you want to do. Number one most important is write down your integrity, who you are, what are your values? In my case, it was my Christian belief and honestly, integrity and accuracy and principles. I keep those cards that I put those on and I look at those. So as you get into a situation, look back to your values and say, no, I can't do that. That violates my values. So number one, know yourself, know your values. And early on, I was not married. Then later I was married and I had two sons and then put your family in the right perspective.

Drayton McLane (28:31):

They fit into your life. Don't put them over here that you'll pay attention to them later on. I worked very hard in my business, but I would give time during the week and the weekend to my family. So write down your values and write down who you are and what your integrity is all about. My father early on did something that was a great benefit to me. And I'd like to share it with you. He developed me in the grocery business there in Cameron. He said he had two friends. He said, pretty soon, you're going to know everything we do here. And you're going to fall in a trap and you just keep doing it. So he sent me to see a wholesale grocer in Florida and one in Illinois. And in both places, I saw some things they were doing.

Drayton McLane (29:23):

It was pretty good. I came back and I put those in our business. Well, those 65 employees said this kid's pretty good. He came up with this idea. I didn't come up with that. I saw that in Florida. So he said, son, you need to have mentors. And I think I mentioned this one when we were in Lubbock that night. Throughout my career, I'm 83 years old, and I still have mentors. You need to have somebody that gets you out of the day to day flow of your business and makes you think differently. And I had several rules for my mentors. It was easy for me. They had to be smarter than you are.

Drayton McLane (30:12):

That was easy for me. But most people, if we're going to go have dinner tonight or have lunch with somebody or on the weekend in particular we go with people we have fun with people that make us feel good. My mentors didn't make me feel good. They turned me upside down many times. So number one, they're smarter than I am. They couldn't be a relative of any kind or anyone associated in my business. And the reason was that they need to tell you really who you are and where you're messing up and what you need to do. And you go to them. And two mentors I had a plan. I couldn't bring an agenda to them that I wanted to talk about. They brought it to me, or they would just take the current events, whatever's going on big in the world that day, is what he said we should talk about.

Drayton McLane (31:10):

And it develops your thinking process. It makes you see bigger things and it gives you a great deal of confidence and courage to you and to people. Get you a mentor, but get him away from your family, your business, and then go spend some time there. I didn't spend a great deal of time, I'd go see one in Chicago and fly to Chicago and get there four or five in the afternoon, and we'd have dinner that night. We probably talked until one or two o'clock in the morning. We'd have breakfast the next morning and leave. And it would just change your thinking. It gives you a bigger perspective. So I really encourage you to get a mentor and then get you goals. You gotta get goals. I'm a big dreamer and my goals are generally weekly goals.

Kade Wilcox (32:06):

That's powerful. Thanks for sharing that. Very, very good. How do you treat failure? When you think back on your successful career, certainly you've had plenty of successes, but what about the failures? How have you personally treated failure throughout your career?

Drayton McLane (32:23):

If you're going to be an entrepreneur, you're going to make mistakes. Don't let mistakes bother you. We all make mistakes and own up to your mistakes. Look at leaders that have made mistakes that owned up to them quickly and said, that was my responsibility. I remember president John Kennedy, when he and his group were organizing the invasion of Cuba, that failed. It was a big embarrassment. He went on TV and said it was my responsibility. I approved it. And I accept responsibility. The world forgave him of it. The ones that try to hide and blame somebody else or say, it's not my fault. So don't be afraid to make a mistake. Can I give you my three rules?

Kade Wilcox (33:11):

Yeah, absolutely.

Drayton McLane (33:13):

I encouraged our executives and I had three rules. Number one, you can never violate a law and you can't violate your personal integrity or the person you are doing business with. You can't violate the law or integrity. Number two, whatever you're doing, don't bet the company store. If you only got a million dollars invest two hundred thousand and set 700,000 aside. Number three, if it fails and blows up, make sure you're still alive. You didn't disappear when it exploded. So if it blew up in your over the side and it blew all the clothes off of you and singed your hair and all that, you're in great shape!

Drayton McLane (34:03):

You didn't bet the store on it. You set 700,000 over here and you didn't violate your integrity or you didn't violate any law. You're in great shape. And you learn more from your failures than you do your successes. You learn what doesn't work. Concerning discouragement and especially baseball. One time we gave Carlos Lee was from Panama, was a great hitter, and we gave him a six year contract for a hundred million dollars. Think about this. We only wanted him to succeed three times out of 10. So in baseball, you fail more than you succeed. And he was making 30 million a year. And so we only want him to succeed three out of 10 and he's a hero. So don't let mistakes bother you. Accept responsibility. You're still in good shape and move on.

Kade Wilcox (35:07):

Yeah, this is great. Thank you for sharing. That's really good. I've been around you, what I've heard about you from people who know you well, you're a faithful Christian, you're a faithful husband, you're a faithful father. And by pretty much all measures a successful business person. And what I would be curious to hear in your perspective is throughout your life, how have you managed aspiration with your love and your affection for the Lord, for your family? I always experienced that tension, right? And I'm curious like how you approached managing being really driven and your aspirations and wanting to succeed, but also being responsible and being present and being engaged with things that really mattered to you, specifically your faith and your family. So what's your advice there and how did you manage that?

Drayton McLane (36:03):

That's a complicated question.

Kade Wilcox (36:04):

It is, isn't it?

Drayton McLane (36:06):

I'd like to revert back when I said, get to know yourself, what's important to you and write it down, remember when you were in second or third grade, they said, if you write it down you're more likely to remember it. The ability to remember it is much stronger. So write down your values and what's important to you and where your family fits into it. And don't just write the family as a total. You gotta spend some time with your wife alone where she feels a part of what you do. And then you certainly need to spend time as a family unit with your children and individually with your children. You need to spend time in your business and that will be the vast majority of your time. And then you need some personal time to feel good.

Drayton McLane (36:59):

Dr. Ken Cooper, when he wrote the book, Aerobics, in 1968, I read the book and it talked about running and talked about running a mile. Well, that was in 1968 and I was in my late twenties or I was 30. And I thought, well, I can run a mile, I went out and I couldn't even run more than a hundred yards, but I'm going to get in shape. So I started running, I have run since 1968, I've run three to four times a week. I don't run competitively against other people, I prefer to run by myself. That's how I clear my head. People run to help their heart and all that, I was running to help mentally. You finish running out or three miles, and I generally do it at 5:30 in the morning, I would feel like a million dollars. And I'd run a mile and I would run in my neighborhood. And you know what, maybe in that neighborhood, there were 3000 people. I was the only one out there running, that made me feel that I was doing something nobody else was doing. And it gives you a sense of accomplishment. So whatever you do, play golf, play tennis, something by yourself that you feel good about and it helps you. So prioritize your work there and then set goals in each one of those areas.

Kade Wilcox (38:24):

Yeah. That's good. Thank you. I have two more questions for you. One of them is how do you stay inspired? Again, you've had all this success, you're at the end of your career, not the beginning of your career. And you're still energetic. You still have vision. How do you continue to stay inspired and engaged and empowered when, if I could just be candid, many people your age have hung it up 20 years ago and you haven't. How have you stayed inspired and engaged and continuing to contribute really meaningful leadership?

Drayton McLane (39:00):

Do you ever step back and think where you were and where technology was 10 years ago? Look at our lifestyle today. What we can achieve, what we can do, what medical science has achieved today. And I want to run with the first team. You know, when you were in grade school, you wanted to be on the first team. So I want to run with the first team. So you have to keep up with technology needed to keep up with new patterns of what's happening in the political world. And so I try to set goals and stay engaged, and I let others take the day to day. I have two sons in our business and they really run the business day to day. We have a lady who is in my office, and she runs all of the day to day administrations there. I give them ideas. I drive them crazy.

Drayton McLane (40:01):

And that's to stay engaged and set objectives and to be productive. I remember when I was running, what was really embarrassing when I ran through the neighborhood and I remember where I used to be, and I'm not anywhere close to that now. You slow down in life and in your business you slow down. So give the baton to the next guy, let him do it, but you should be an encouragement and try to move the businesses forward. And we have seven or eight different businesses. They're totally unrelated businesses, technology to a sports business and to stay engaged and to stay with those people. And as you get older in life, it's your attitude. And Kade I like hanging out with you. I've been looking forward to this for two or three days. I like to be around people like yourself that are eager and trying to do the right thing. If you're around those people, I don't want to be around 80 year old people.

Kade Wilcox (41:16):

That's great.

Drayton McLane (41:17):

Yeah. I can still remember that night in that office building where we were and again how young the people were and they thought, who was this old man? What's he doing here?

Kade Wilcox (41:30):

No, it was great. They were all there because that old man was there. It was great.

Drayton McLane (41:35):

It's really back to what my mother said when I was seven or eight years old, who you select to be your friends. How about being with people that want to go somewhere that are not negative and that won't to set goals and try things and fail and not let failure bother you. I've made so many mistakes. I bet on the wrong horse many times. And you know, when it explodes, you're still alive, you're in great shape.

Kade Wilcox (42:07):

I love it. My last question for you, this is a fun one. If you could speak to your younger self, what advice would you give yourself based on what you know now?

Drayton McLane (42:17):

When I grew up, I was very reserved and when I went to Baylor, I did fairly good at Baylor and had fun, but I didn't show leadership. And I didn't really mature till I went to Michigan state. Can I tell a small story?

Kade Wilcox (42:49):

Please! Absolutely.

Drayton McLane (42:51):

I graduated from Baylor early and I graduated in December when most of my class graduated in the spring in May. And so the Dean let me come to Michigan State and my class had 72 people in there and they had had the fall semester. So when I got there in January, it was their second semester. Well, most of the men in the class were in their late twenties, early thirties, and a lot of business experience. Well, one of the classes I was in was in a seminar discussion and there were 10 or 12 in there about two weeks or so into the class. When the professor came into the class, he said, McLean, when the class is over, I want to talk to you. I thought he must be really proud of me because I had just gotten there. He's going to say, you're doing a good job.

Drayton McLane (43:44):

He said I've been observing you. And you're adding no participation in this class. You're adding no value to this place. You're a graduate student, and I don't think you're working at a graduate level. And I'm going to give you two weeks to either improve dramatically or I'll ask the Dean to dismiss you from school. I thought, man, I've come a thousand miles. And this guy has chewed me out. I don't want to tuck tail and have to go home and say, well, he didn't make it. So I became very assertive. Or started getting into it. And he let me stay in, I did okay. I needed to be kicked in the rear end. So have you ever been kicked in the rear end?

Kade Wilcox (44:38):


Drayton McLane (44:38):

So I got this swift kick and I thought if I had used that skill the four years at Baylor, I would have advanced a little faster. I was very reserved. Were you ever reserved?

Kade Wilcox (44:53):

I don't think so. I was pretty much born this way.

Drayton McLane (44:58):

It took this professor to get me going. We all need a swift kick along the way.

Kade Wilcox (45:05):

Yeah, that's good. Drayton, I can not tell you how much I appreciate all your time. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for your thoughtful answers. I have no doubt that our audience is going to learn a tremendous amount when they listen to this episode. So thank you for taking time to be with me today.

Drayton McLane (45:22):

Can I say go bears?

Kade Wilcox (45:25):

I'm going to edit that part out.

Drayton McLane (45:29):

Okay. Hey, you're in charge. So I knew I'd get a smile out of your face.

Kade Wilcox (45:34):

Thank you, Drayton.

Drayton McLane (45:35):

Go Red Raiders.


Stay Up to Date With Primitive

Subscribe now to receive your free, all-access pass to the wisdom and lessons learned from your favorite local leaders. Only on the Primitive Podcast.