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The Scaling Up platform helped this coach survive a life-threatening illness. Now he’s using what he learned to give back.

By Verne Harnish

After a long career in radio that culminated in selling an oldies radio station he co-founded in Wisconsin, Doug Wick was ready for his next chapter. In 2000, he became a business coach, working mostly with small businesses at his firm, Positioning Systems in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

When attending a workshop I led in Atlanta on the Scaling Up system for growing a company, however, he decided to shift gears. He loved the idea of working with scalable, middle-market companies. “That’s where all of the jobs are being created,” says Wick. 

Wick was also intrigued by the Scaling Up system’s emphasis on the 4 Decisions every company must get right: People, Strategy, Execution and Cash. “I loved the 4 Decisions and how the concept breaks a business down into the four essential decisions to focus on,” Wick recalls. “We had all of the tools we needed to do a good job in helping clients.” 

After getting certified to use the Scaling Up system, Wick began marketing his services to middle-market clients. He found many takers, starting with a car wash company in California. 

But in 2012, Wick experienced a setback. After feeling winded while climbing the bleachers at a sports arena, he had a checkup and learned the unfortunate news he had cancer: Acute myeloid leukemia. He went through five rounds of chemotherapy, with doctors telling him he had less than a 2% chance of survival. 

But Wick had a tool at his disposal that they did not know about. Using the same dashboard where he helped clients track their progress in meeting Scaling Up KPIs as a model, he created a health dashboard for himself. He set goals such as meditating daily, praying, making affirmations and researching new medical treatments and tracked his progress on the dashboard. A friend acted as a coach, checking in weekly to make sure he had meditated and done so the “right,” way, as prescribed in Joe Dispenza’s book How to break the habit of being yourself. Throughout all of this, Wick, a father of three, ran his coaching practice from his hospital room. “It helped me take my mind off of what I was going through,” he says. 

Fortunately, his condition improved to the point he could get stem cell transplant. Today, Doug is healthy and runs a thriving practice, guiding middle-market firms that are in growth mode. His main marketing strategy is blogging about the Scaling Up system. “People often reach out to me because they’ve read my blog and found it valuable,” he says. 

Currently, he is working with clients including a retail chain with 24 locations, a construction company involved with moisture-testing concrete floors, and a firm that helps Canadian companies bring more diversity and inclusion to their leadership teams. “It’s really rewarding to see how leaders can escalate the growth of a business and their people,” he says. 

Wick is now writing a book on how he survived cancer to help others overcome similar challenges. He was just interviewed by radio luminary Joan Herrmann for her program Conversations with Joan, about the book, which will be published in 2023. Herrmann’s wellness show “Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life” has aired on the same station as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity’s shows, and her guests have included Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield and Gretchen Carlson.

Wick finds that his experiences with surviving cancer have helped him to become a better coach. “When you’re in the hospital and facing the possibility of dying, it brings about a whole different aspect to what your One Thing is and how committed you need to be to achieving that One Thing,” he says. 

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

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