What makes some people more successful than others? Dave Howlett always wondered.

Six years ago, while working as the vice president of business development at an insurance brokerage, he observed it was the nice guys (and girls) who got ahead.

“It’s what others say about you when you’re not in the room,” Howlett said.

Since he loved to speak publicly — he joined Toastmasters, an organization that helps people become better public speakers, about 15 years ago — he created a speech called Knocking Down Silos and it was a hit. The third time he did it, Howlett, 50, found himself speaking to 300 people.

Three years later, the public speaking was going so well, Howlett quit his job and created a new company called Real Human Being, which is based out of his home in Oakville and it quickly became a full-time gig.
He starts his speech by asking — rhetorically — if anyone likes what’s going on with the economy.

The he starts into his “good-news message.” Howlett tells his audience that people remember what you do more in bad times than good. And that people can take control of their own destinies.

On one level, Howlett’s talk is about networking. He offers up some networking skills and suggests that you don’t just hobnob when you want something, but you need to make it a regular part of your life.

But he also has a powerful message about being a nice person who lives with integrity and honesty. He thinks truly successful people — those that do well in their personal lives and careers — got this way by thinking of others, not just themselves. He adds that these people also confident without being arrogant.

“But if I put up a big poster and said: ‘Come out and learn how to be a nice person.’ No one would come,” says Howlett. “If I put: ‘How to get a job and clients,’ we’ll get 300 people.”