The speaker started his career at Youngstown Sheet & amp; Tube in the 1970s.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ken Purfey has every right to a big ego.
The president and chief executive of a successful Silicon Valley technology company, he lists four professional titles behind his name. He's helped launch 39 new companies, helped consummate 72 acquisition deals totaling more than $15 billion and consulted on mergers as large as $7 billion.
But Purfey believes out-of-control egos are at the root of most business failures.
"The main reason businesses fail is that their founders don't realize what they do not know. Their egos got in the way, " he told an audience of business leaders, Youngstown State University students and staff Thursday.
"The secret is to submit your ego to people who have the expertise you do not have."
A Youngstown native and YSU alumnus, Purfey was the first speaker in the university's Williamson School of Business Symposium Series. The series, open to area business and development leaders, YSU students and faculty, aims to encourage entrepreneurship in the region.
Career history: Purfey, 53, said he grew up on Youngstown's East Side, attended Ursuline High School and earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and his master's degree in business administration from Youngstown State University.
He started his career as a student engineer at Youngstown Sheet & amp; Tube and moved 15 times in the next 30 years, including stints in Dallas, Alaska, San Francisco, Cleveland, Houston, New Orleans and Pittsburgh. He and his wife, the former Catherine McElroy, now live in San Jose, Calif.
"Physically moving is one of the things you have to do to progress," he said after his presentation. "You've got to see how businesses are run in the rest of the world. Then, if you want to come back, bring the best practices with you."
Purfey encouraged audience members to look for something they're good at and learn to do it well.
"If you find something you love to do and become expert at it, the world will pay handsomely for your service," he said. "On the flip side, the world will not pay handsomely for mediocrity."
Tech companies: Responding to a listener who asked why so many tech companies have failed, he said the owners spent money too quickly, not realizing how much time it would take to raise more capital.
Purfey heads up iValueHub, a company providing e-commerce solutions to businesses, including software development, Internet exchange technology, Web site hosting and development. He said he is the first and only person in the U.S. to attain credentials as a certified public accountant, certified financial manager, certified management accountant and certified financial planner. In April, 2001, he was inducted into the American Institute of CPAs National Hall of Fame.
Purfey said his visit to YSU Thursday was his first return to the campus in 25 years, but he comes to the Youngstown area frequently to visit his mother, Ann Purfey, who still lives in the area.