Healthy, Wealthy, and Wired
HOUSE OF BUSINESS MAGAZINE – APRIL 2001
Meet Paul Zane Pilzer and you’re likely to notice the sweat on his brow. Not surprisingly–this Park City, Utah, businessman, after all, is an economist, professor, author of four books, software mogul, art collector, and global entrepreneur who’s starting a new venture that he believes will be part of the next trillion-dollar industry. But, look again. This guy’s sweating, all right, but that’s because it’s mid-morning and he’s out on his mountain bike, attacking the steep trails around his home. Or if the snow’s good, he’s probably challenging the nearby slopes on his snowboard.
At 4 each afternoon, you can find him lifting weights or working on flexibility with his fitness trainer. And, yes, in between workouts he also works hard on his business projects.
To say that this home-based multimillionaire runs these interests from a home office would be technically inaccurate. The truth is, Pilzer says, he’s rarely in his office. “I may not see my office for days,” he jests. That’s because Paul Pilzer uses technology–specifically, a wireless phone system and a computer network–to conduct business from almost every room in his three-level house in the mountains of northern Utah.
Although he owns several homes, Pilzer chose as a full-time residence the one he describes as a former “ski house that I never intended to live in.” He and wife Lisa Dang, who’s recently completed renovations, wanted to raise their infant daughter Miriam in a small town. The house is warm and uncluttered, with extensive, alder cabinetry and a large brick fireplace located centrally in the great room. Like Pilzer’s life, the house has few barriers and a natural sense of flow.
Wraparound decks and floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides offer fabulous views of the surrounding Wasatch and Uinta Mountains as well as Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort ski areas. Lights can be raised and dimmed by remote control devices throughout the house–or via the family’s six computers.
The upper level holds a library, office, and a wood-paneled guest loft. The middle level is completely open, with expansive, overlapping kitchen, dining, and living areas. The master bedroom is the only room on this level with a door that closes. The lower level consists of two bedroom suits with baths and a sauna plus a one-bedroom apartment with a living room and kitchen. There’s also a home theater–complete with a Sony VPL-VW10HT projector and a 16-foot diagonal screen–and an office for Dang. A former biochemist, she now works as a writer and graphic artist, specializing in illustrations for independent comic book publishers. Outside is a large Jacuzzi.
Wired for action
During the construction and renovation, Pilzer wired every room with at least one, and sometimes two, phone hook-ups. He installed Category 5 wiring for a LAN network and remote satellite cable jacks–although he doesn’t currently use them. Instead, he favors a wireless network and other tools that keep him in constant touch with his many business interests–while physically freeing him from the confines of his office.
First there’s the Siemens wireless phone system–a single answering system plus eight satellite handsets placed throughout the house. “All I need for the wireless phones is an AC plug,” says Pilzer. The handsets can also be hooked onto a belt for complete mobility, and Paul and Lisa can also use the units as an intercom system–communicating with each other from anywhere in the home.
To make the phone system even more versatile, the Pilzers also use Plantronics and Radio Shack headsets for hands-free communication. Another benefit: The headsets pick up only the sound of the speaker’s voice directed into the mouthpiece, eliminating all background noise. “I can be changing the crying baby and answer the phone, and all the client will hear is my voice,” notes Pilzer, who adds that wearing a headset around the house has become second nature.
The final essential ingredient is a $149 Lucent wireless Internet access card for each of their six computers. It means Paul and Lisa can check e-mail, stock quotes, or late-breaking news from any computer in the house-and communicate with each other via AOL Instant Messenger. The network also lets them access any of the three laser printers stashed on each of the three floors as well as either of their two color printers.
“The wireless laptop has changed even the way I read the paper,” says Pilzer. “I hook right into the New York Times, clip articles, and paste them into e-mail to discuss them with colleagues.”
Technology, he adds, has made a substantial difference in his home office capability. “It’s gotten me out of the home office without losing any productivity, and put me with my family more,” notes the first-time father.
He’s currently readying the house for one more beneficial piece of technology–videoconferencing. Although he tries to limit business travel to establishing an initial relationship with a client or to speaking engagements–he averages two speeches a month–Pilzer is sure videoconferencing will make meetings even easier.
Technology’s personal benefits
Technology also has its personal benefits. E-mail, for instance, means Pilzer can readily keep in touch with his extended family. “We keep up to date on daily happenings, so when we see each other, we don’t have to spend time catching up,” he says. “We can just go have fun.”
And Dang uses the couple’s iMac, hooked up to a 60-inch Mitsubishi HDTV, to view her work in large format or to display digital photos she’s editing–baby pictures, frequently–before emailing shots to family members around the world.
Pilzer’s interest in home-based technology is hardly new. He’s been a licensed amateur radio operator–call sign WA2DDR–since the age of 9 and still plays with ham radio set-ups for both overseas and domestic radio communication.
And he doesn’t leave techno-toys behind when he leaves home. He and his bike- and board-riding pals keep in touch via FRS walkie-talkies. Pilzer can also listen to his portable MP3 audio player–and his bike’s equipped with a Panasonic PV-DV910 digital movie camera. Dang uses the digital images to make family “MTV-style” videos, using the iMac for video editing.
Pilzer brings along portable Yaesu ham radios on camping trips, and the family Jeep Wrangler is equipped with an Aiwa CDC-MP3 audio player with steering wheel remote control.
And it’s not only the technology that comes along on outdoor adventures. The gear for mountain biking and hiking now includes an infant carrier for Miriam, who at the age of 12 weeks accompanied her parents on a sailing and scuba expedition to islands off Greece and Italy.
Committed to openness
A commitment to openness, change, and new ideas–combined with hard work, scholarly exploration, perseverance, and overcoming obstacles–is the foundation on which Pilzer has built his professional life. For years, he has filled books, cassette tapes, conference rooms, and lecture halls with his philosophy that humankind moves forward by the advancement of ideas; that we should be quick to discard ideas that have outlived their usefulness; and that we have a responsibility to identify new solutions to world issues.
Take, for example, his first book,Other People’s Money, which was about the savings and loan crisis. Pilzer predicted the S&L problem in 1983, began a manuscript about it in 1984, and testified before Congress in 1985, warning it would grow to a $200 billion dollar disaster. Congress didn’t believe him–and publishers rejected the manuscript. When the crisis deepened in 1988, publishers started calling him, and Other People’s Money became a bestseller.
Pilzer was appointed as an economic adviser to the Reagan and Bush administrations and has been an economic commentator for National Public Radio and CNN.
His credentials are impressive. Pilzer graduated from college in three years and received an MBA from Wharton Business School when he was 22. He was a vice-president at Citibank–the company’s youngest–when he was 24. Simultaneously, he started several entrepreneurial real estate businesses, earning his first million by age 26. At 30, his worth was up to more than $10 million. Then in 1978, he began teaching at New York University one day a week.
“I love teaching,” says Pilzer, who has continued to do so for over 20 years. “It keeps my mind fresh. People should constantly be learning the latest information and philosophies–and we should be offering them to youth, and seeing how they respond.”
His 1990 book, Unlimited Wealth,described how for centuries our theories on wealth had been based on the idea of limited resources–land, gold, steel, oil, etc.–and the belief that those who controlled those resources advanced financially. But technology, said Pilzer, was transforming the notion of wealth–allowing people to use the unlimited resource of knowledge combined with computer power to find new solutions to problems, reduce costs, and create products and services that had never existed. In other words, he predicted the proliferation of wealth made possible by the Internet.
In his 1995 book, God Wants You to Be Rich, Pilzer argued against what he described as a social bias against wealth, saying that one individual’s success almost always benefits all of society. He also continued the theme of the value of human ingenuity.
His three bestsellers firmly established Pilzer as a business writer-and thinker. He speaks each year to approximately 500,000 people, and more than 10 million audiotapes of his speeches have been sold.
Doing big business
But Pilzer is also a business doer. He founded Zane Publishing, a company that creates CD-ROM-based educational and re-training tools–and ensured its success by securing a distribution deal with network marketing giant Amway.
He recently sold his interest in Zane and is tackling another major problem area from his Utah home headquarters–the nation’s healthcare industry, or “the sickness business,” as he calls it.
“It’s very clear to me that the health and wellness business–and healthcare–are now the absolute primary needs affecting people’s lives,” he says.
Pilzer believes that we live in a “healthocracy” with the population divided by our level of health and fitness. His fourth book, The Next Trillion–scheduled for print and tape release this spring–identifies illness and obesity as economic conditions, related directly to low-income households. He points the finger at processed-food companies who benefit handsomely from keeping 25 percent of the U.S. population clinically obese and a full 55 percent seriously overweight.
With his new focus on health, Pilzer is once again doing as well as thinking. He is currently developing an Internet-based insurance product for entrepreneurs and individuals that will reallocate the $5,000 per year that the average family currently spends on health insurance premiums. Noting that most families use insurance only for serious illness and critical care, his product will invest $2,000 into a high-deductible, catastrophic care policy. The remaining $3,000 will go into a wellness policy that could be used to pay for proactive management of health including not just doctor visits but products and services such as health club usage, homeopathy, massage, healthy foods, vitamins, and nutritional supplements. Any unused portion of the wellness premium will roll over into the subsequent year–and over time, the interest earned from the account should self-fund the entire premium, he explains.
Prophet of prosperity
Often referred to as a “prophet of prosperity,” Pilzer is well known for his ability to put complex economic concepts–the “sickness business,” for example–into terms that are understandable to the average person. He is always on the lookout for a more efficient tool, an industry that has not yet been tapped, a new approach. “I try to reinvent myself every five to seven years,” he reveals. “I am continually seeking something new because that makes life exciting.”
The Pilzers have recently begun another home construction project–a three-story, 4,800-square-foot expansion of their Park City home. The addition will include a second apartment, three bedrooms, six baths, a children’s den, a metal-welding shop for Dang, and three large Hummer-size garage spaces. It will be capped by a two-story office, accessible by a glass elevator.
Reflecting on his dynamic career, Pilzer says he’s filled with enormous gratitude for it all, from the “incredible financial rewards” to having been given the opportunity for “studying, writing and teaching.” Ultimately, he says, “I want to teach or write what people need the most.” Taking seriously his belief that all should teach what they have learned, Pilzer serves as a part-time rabbi at a nearby Jewish temple, where he instructs post-bar mitzvah youth.
“I like them because they are not embarrassed to ask questions,” he explains. “They are still open to new thought.”
Just like Paul Zane Pilzer himself, who delights in embracing change, technology, and new ideas as he weaves concepts of home, work, pleasure, and profit into the fabric of his life.
Siemens Wireless Phone System:
Pilzer spent $250 for the base station plus $95 per handset extension. All eight handsets have the same functions as the base unit, and they share programming, so once the information is programmed into one unit, it can be accessed from all.
Plantronics and Radio Shack Headsets:
$19.95 to $39.95 each. When hooked up to the phone handsets, the headsets provide hands-free communication.
2 Micron Millenia PCs, 3 IBM notebooks, 1 iMac: $1,000-$2,200; with Lucent wireless network cards at $149 per PC. All computers are equipped with MP3 audio files, music, and CD-R writers.
3 Hewlett-Packard LaserJets, Hewlett-Packard 1220C wide-carriage color printer, Epson 870 Photo Color Printer.
Canon S20 3.34 megapixel digital camera: $517; Panasonic PV-DV910 digital movie camera: $700.
Sony VPL-VW10HT home theater projector: $5,900; 16-foot diagonal screen; 60-inch Mitsubishi HDTV.
ISDN lines but Pilzer will be upgrading to DSL. House is also wired with satellite cable jacks.
For fun and games:
FRS walkie-talkies; portable Yaesu ham radios; Jeep Wrangler with an Aiwa CDC-MP3 audio player with steering wheel remote control.