July 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts July 2003 Current Issue
July 2003
Short Cuts:From the Front Lines

Firms seek speakers with a military and business bent

Pilot at the podium: James D. Murphy, Afterburner Inc.
Pilot at the podium: James D. Murphy, Afterburner Inc.

Lessons learned on the battlefields of Iraq and Vietnam are making their way into meeting rooms, as corporations hire speakers with military backgrounds. “Companies see the business world today as a hostile environment, just like fighter pilots in their cockpits do,” says James D. Murphy, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based motivational presenters Afterburner Inc. (, whose list of Fortune 500 clients include the likes of Home Depot, Pfizer and Wal-Mart.

Afterburner’s own corps of 55 fighter pilots all have business backgrounds. But what really attracts clients, beyond the top-gun appeal, is these speakers are active reservists living the scenario they preach. “In combat there is no room for error, and that’s what we teach,” says Murphy.

Janis Nark ( runs a clothing company and has been speaking for years on issues of change and stress. Lately, though, it is her 26 years of military experience clients want to tap. “People ask if I can use a military angle to equate what their business is facing,” says Nark, whose clients range from Toys R Us to women’s groups. “Today,” she adds, “when people hire a female speaker, they want to hear more than stories about their children, because getting up and going to work every day, for many people, is like going to war.”

Some speakers, like Richard Pimentel, a senior partner at Chatsworth, Calif.-based Milt Wright & Associates Inc. (, take the personal realities of the battlefield to the podium. A decorated Vietnam veteran who nearly lost his hearing in an explosion, Pimentel speaks to audiences on disability issues and overcoming adversity in the workplace.

• C.A.S.

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