Most people find their pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Dan Brattland found his at the end of a neighbor's driveway-past a ferocious, snarling dog.
It was 1979, and Brattland, then 17, was going door-to-door in Bloomington, Minnesota, asking neighbors if they would pay him to sealcoat their driveway. "One guy had a long driveway, with a dog at the end of it-a big, mean dog," recalls Colin Sievers, Brattland's partner in that long-ago enterprise. "I said, 'Dan, let's go to the house next door.' But Dan said, 'No.' "
The teenagers made it up the driveway but not before the dog had sunk its canines into Brattland's leg. It was a painful way to learn the salesperson's age-old lesson about the value of getting your foot in the door. Whether out of pity or genuine need, the dog's owners hired the pair. For payment, Brattland agreed to a barter arrangement, accepting a set of audiotapes by noted motivational speaker Tom Hopkins.
"I listened to those tapes, which were about how to sell anything, and I knew selling would be my profession," Brattland says.
Today, Brattland has made his fortune promoting educators, authors and business trainers as speakers. President and founder of Peak Performers International Inc. (PPI), based in Minneapolis, his company grossed more than $6.5 million last year.
In a competitive field, Brattland has found success by adding value to the conventional concept of motivational seminars. Instead of barnstorming from city to city, offering one-day seminars, Brattland has turned his company into the home team in 11 cities, hosting a series of eight monthly educational gatherings in each town. The audience becomes a "club" whose members-business owners, middle managers and sales professionals-share an interest in self-improvement.
While it's possible to buy a ticket for a single session, the whole series is marketed as a membership for $495. Members get access to all eight monthly programs-and, just as important, to each other. With average monthly attendance in each city between 1,000 and 2,000, networking flourishes. And business is booming: The company's 62 full-time employees sold 94 seminar series last year.