Sep 12, 2023
The Business of Meetings – Episode 183 - 15 Minutes of Shame with Des Hague
Today, we are both honored and delighted to have Des Hague joining us on the podcast!
Des was enjoying a fascinating career in the hospitality industry when his life took an unexpected twist and he found himself entangled in the pervasive web of cancel culture. He courageously chronicled his experience in a book he wrote called Fifteen Minutes of Shame, which officially hits the shelves today.
In this episode, Des dives into his career trajectory and tells the story behind the pivotal moment that forever altered his life. This episode is one of the most enthralling episodes Eric has ever recorded, so you will not want to miss it!
Des Hague is an author and a highly regarded innovator in the international business community having more than thirty years of experience leading global companies. His forward-thinking approaches as president/CEO of Centerplate, president of IHOP, and president of perishables at Safeway, as well as high-level executive positions at Maytag and 7-Eleven, helped those companies achieve sustained growth and robust competitiveness in an uncertain world.
Hague currently serves as co-founder and CEO of Hague Enterprises, sits on the boards of Messenger Sports, Ikoniq Inc, MRGN, and YoungCaruso, and is an active mentor, advising several start-up ventures and working with numerous private equity groups to create more than half a billion dollars in returns for investors.
Outside of the business world, Hague has received numerous community leader awards and helped raise more than $100 million for various nonprofits. Hague holds an MBA from the American College in London and resides in Colorado with his wife, Carol. They are the proud parents of two sons, Patrick and Desmond Jr.
Des was born in Belfast to an Irish mother and an English father. At the time, interreligious relationships were stigmatized and their family faced much adversity, including the destruction of their business due to the violence in Belfast. After fleeing to the UK and settling in a village near Sheffield, Des’s mother became seriously ill with ovarian cancer and soon succumbed. Then, his father married a troubled woman plagued by alcoholism and violent tendencies. Des faced increasing abuse at the hands of his stepmother, beginning with psychological torment and eventually escalating to physical violence when she was intoxicated. At age nine, Des felt compelled to intervene to protect his younger brothers from her brutality. Despite his fear, he stood his ground, motivated by his mother having taught him never to strike a woman, and endured years of abuse, often on a nightly basis. Des has agonizing memories of near-miss assaults, hospitalization after brutal attacks, and his father's inexplicable inaction. At fifteen, he finally reached a breaking point and left home, embarking on a journey of homelessness and self-reliance, determined to carve out a new, more stable life for himself.
Fish and Chips
Being homeless, Des turned to a family friend who owned a fish and chips shop for a lifeline. His journey into the world of hospitality began in that fish and chips shop, peeling countless bags of potatoes each day. Things eventually shifted when Des embarked on a journey to expand his horizons. He opened the first video shop in his town and diversified into other businesses like butcher shops and convenience stores. At 17, Des managed all the properties, gaining valuable experience and business acumen. Despite his young age and being challenged with dyslexia, he thrived in the business world, soaking up knowledge and skills.
From Trauma to Entrepreneurship
Des's life took an unexpected turn when he faced a traumatic incident, suffering a violent assault. Despite his size and self-perceived toughness, the ordeal left him shattered. Then, he ventured into a food caravan business, and on the very first day, a car accident destroyed his business and left him homeless again. That setback failed to deter him, and he managed to secure a job at Wimpy Burgers. That marked the start of a journey that would eventually lead him into corporate enterprise.
The Power of Education and Resilience
Despite a lack of formal education and challenges along the way, Des's thirst for knowledge was unquenchable, and he sought to pursue an MBA. However, the academic world questioned his suitability due to his unconventional background. Undeterred, Des devised a plan and presented himself to the decision-makers. He undertook aptitude tests, and within two years, he earned his MBA and became passionate about continuous learning.
Relocating From the UK to the USA
Des's dream of relocating to the United States eventually came to fruition when his wife secured a prominent position at PepsiCo. The immigration process was fraught with hurdles, but his determination saw him through, and the move laid the foundation for his subsequent endeavors within corporate America.
A Cascade of Adversity
Des's life took a harrowing turn when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, his son battled depression after suffering concussions from sports injuries, and Des received his own diagnosis of prostate cancer. In an effort to maintain his image as the rock of the family, he kept his illness hidden and tried to manage everything alone.
While grappling with pain, and struggling to cope with overwhelming stress, Des succumbed to temptation and engaged in infidelity. That episode left him deeply ashamed because he knows that he should have sought help and taken a sabbatical from his responsibilities instead of allowing his ego to prevent him from doing so.
The Infamous Video and Cancel Culture
Des's life took a dramatic turn when a video clip from an elevator surveillance camera, showing him disciplining a dog, surfaced on Twitter. Even though the video was taken out of context, an avalanche of online hatred descended upon him, with thousands of people demanding his firing, threatening his family, and even physically attacking his son.
A Police Raid
The police, prompted by the video, raided Des's apartment in Vancouver and launched an investigation. Although he did not get mistreated physically during the raid, the situation intensified his trauma, and the online harassment continued relentlessly, targeting his family and making Des feel besieged and vulnerable.
A Conversation with the Board: The Resilience of a Leader
Des’s leadership journey took an unexpected turn when the board had a change of heart after initially expressing their support following the social media incident and asked for his resignation within 24 hours.
The Power of Cancel Culture
Cancel culture is a formidable force that plays a pivotal role when social media trolls amplify negative stories and target individuals with a track record of philanthropy and good deeds. Some corporate leaders lack courage when facing such situations. Social media platforms have become very powerful in shaping public opinion, often without a proper understanding of the person behind the headlines.
Embracing Hope and Resilience
Des’s current status in life bears testimony to his resilience and determination. His sons have embarked on successful careers, his wife has fully recovered, and his current plans include launching a podcast and writing a second book. Despite his past challenges, he remains optimistic about the future and the possibility of returning to a leadership role in the corporate world.
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