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Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. balances life, work, play

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Articles - November/December 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013


1113 LWP RobertPamplin
Dr. Robert Pamplin, CEO, R.B. Pamplin Corp.
// Photo by Alvaro Fontan

Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. has earned eight academic degrees and is the chairman, president and CEO of the R.B. Pamplin Corporation, a family-owned company encompassing construction, communications, manufacturing, agriculture, food and wine businesses, with annual sales of about $600 million and 4,600 employees nationwide. Pamplin, 72, has given more than 150 speeches in a year and works out 1.5 to 2 hours every day. The modern-day Renaissance man founded the Portland Tribune newspaper, is a noted philanthropist and authored 14 books. “I’ve worked all my life, seven days a week in some fashion, and everyone knows that I’m going to continue working until they shove dirt on me,” Pamplin says.

Biz tips “I’m a practical dreamer, a creative leader and an entrepreneur. Some visionaries aren’t practical, but if I dream up something I winnow it down to where it will work. I follow five key elements to be an entrepreneur: One, start off with something new. Two, keep it going. Three, complete the endeavor. You have to have stick-to-it-ness. Four, succeed over the long term. And the most important part of being an entrepreneur is generating new ideas.”

Lone wolf “The best part of my job is I’m independent. As a result, I look at it as ‘I really don’t have a job, but I have excitement, the stimulus of motivating myself and causing interest in success.’ When you are independent, you really help cast a brilliance on everyone around you that links everyone together. They become a part of this greatness when they join together to make history. Jokingly, I tell everyone that because I’m independent, no one can fire me.”

Home fires “For most people, vacation is going to a place away from home. For me, the pleasure is being with family and friends, to be associated with them, to rub shoulders, to understand what they are doing with their lives, to share stories. As you get older, there are a lot of stories you can tell from the past. Loyalty, trust and caring: that is the magic trinity of being a good family person and friend. The character of a person determines the quality of that person.”

Total recall "I like to arouse in family and friends a tension that helps capture the imagination and gives everyone a terrifically fun time. The most important part is it’s going to live in their memory. I will wake someone up early and they have no earthly idea what’s happening. I’ve arranged a gourmet breakfast on top of a hill in a vineyard where they can see Mt. Hood on a beautiful crisp morning. I will create all this and they’re just surprised.”

Happy endings “We have a small theater on our farm where we have original plays with top entertainers from Broadway. After the summer performance, the play is retired and nobody else gets to see it. We also do vignettes of three. A mini Broadway play, then maybe a magician. We usually end with a dance routine. The old MGM movies had beautiful dances with Gene Kelly, Jane Powell. I just watched Small Town Girl with my best friend, the love of my life: my wife, Marilyn.”


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