#624 – Dick Janko: One in 10,000

Posted on | The Agurban

A few weeks back, we ran the story How does Alabama’s wealthiest man spend his money? We asked if anyone had a “Jimmy Rane” in their community. We received a couple of great stories. This week we would like to share this moving tribute to Dick Janko, written by Jack Rooney, President, Capitol Strategies Consulting, Inc, in Springfield, Illinois. I’ve known Dick Janko ever since we started doing research for BoomtownUSA, looking for people who were helping transform their communities.  Dick’s name was mentioned by several as such a person and I’ve gotten to know him over the years.  He is the “real deal” with a passion and a willingness to do whatever he can to make his area the best it can be.

Dick Janko:  One in 10,000

The average person will live out their life without coming in close contact with such a man as Dick Janko. His business, family, and charitable efforts alone would make him someone that you or I may never meet in our lifetime. What makes Dick a truly unforgettable character though is the tremendous love of his hometown Starved Rock Country area and everyone connected to it. (This region is located southwest of Chicago, and covers an area that lies within an approximate 25-mile radius of Peru, Illinois.)

Dick grew up like nearly every other Slav, Italian, Polish, Irish, or Lithuanian kid in the LaSalle/Peru area in the 1930’s.    Like the thousands of others like him, his parents taught him the value of hard work, the importance of supporting his church, school, and community, and that love of family is sacred.

Dick often repeats the story that once when he was in grade school and had returned to the classroom from recess, his teacher raised the roller map to reveal this message on the blackboard behind, “1 in 100 make things happen, 1 in 100 fully realize what that person has done.” Successful business folks will often say the number is closer to 1 in 1,000 or even 1 in 10,000.

His passion for business in his early years quickly makes him somebody you would not find sitting on just any old barstool. Like many great business people will tell you, it was not his successes in those years that raised him but rather some very solid economic defeats. From these valuable lessons, Dick gained tremendously valuable insight that benefit him and his family businesses even today.

So this Dick Janko guy doesn’t sound so special so far huh? Well, once Dick had learned a few key business lessons by 1960, he went on to drive a beyond impressive list of successful large scale commercial real estate, manufacturing, and distribution business ventures. To this point though, nobody has taken the time to clearly lay out these in total, documenting the specific benefits that they have brought to Starved Rock Country communities, families, people, and lives through the thousands upon thousands of jobs these efforts created.

It must be said that a tremendously important part of Dick’s unique capabilities revolve around his skill, passion, and tenacity in creating powerful, synergistic, working partnerships. His ability to bring investors, companies, banks, real estate, and labor together to create Great things is something again that few if any of us would have the opportunity to view first hand. This is something that he rarely comes out and states in so many words, but rather he leads by example, continually having a number of these large-scale partnership efforts in play at one time.

Still not fully getting it? Listen to this. He and his wife go ahead and raise up four Janko’s with all the same Great characteristics that they possess. Then, they send them all to St. Bede Academy and Notre Dame of all places. So, the Janko’s double down on this Greatness and figure out how to replicate themselves! Wow!

Now your average highly successful family leader, business man, and community leader would take all that and call it a day. Not Dick Janko. Dick at 90 has the energy of someone in their thirties…arrives at work early every day…makes himself available seven days a week at almost any hour to help those in need, assist a young entrepreneur, or just to talk to a friend. People will tell you, Dick treats all friends the same, those he has known for 70 years and those he has known for 7 minutes.

How many guys do you know, that after several paragraphs like this, there is still more?

  • In total he has been in intensely focused large scale business dealings for 70 years!
  • Continually refers to, quotes, and makes contact with people he has met and worked with across these 70 years
  • Sends out email notices almost daily containing news articles that are relevant to current business and other dealings
  • Hands out hundreds of self-help books every year to people he knows and doesn’t know
  • On a weekly basis, organizes groups of people from all directions to work on important shared ideas and goals

Dick’s greatest passion in recent years has revolved around the Starved Rock Country Alliance and all the economic, community, and tourism benefits that this group is driving now and into the future. He has always believed that Starved Rock Country has awesome potential from all these directions and believes that these teams he is helping put together will take the area to new heights. As with his success in raising him family, Dick knows that his Greatest success will be in his ability to replicate himself…creating more “1 in 10,000” people.