The Hero Club Story

Rob Ryan earned national attention when he grew his 1989 start-up company, Ascend Communications, to more than $2 billion in sales by the late 90’s. Lucent Technologies acquired Ascend in 1999 for approximately $20 billion in what was termed at the time the “largest technology merger ever.” In fact, until Microsoft bought Linked In for $26.2 billion in December of 2016, it remained the biggest sale of a single tech company for 17 years!!!

Rob had a belief that he should give back and he did, when he sold his company, he set aside 10% of the ownership to be given to employees. $2 billion in one day, Thus, setting a record for the making on the most numbers of millionaires in one single day.

Mr. Ryan is a creature of habit. He was having lunch one day in a local café, the same café where a soon-to-be blockbuster movie was being filmed – “Mrs. Doubtfire” starring Robin Williams. So, when he stepped outside the café after lunch he was not surprised to see a line of people waiting for what he assumed were fans wanting a photograph or the autograph of the megastar comedian and actor.

But they weren’t.

They were there to see him.

It was a gathering of his employees who knew his lunch plans and spotted his car with its signature license plates “Ascend 1” (his wife having “Ascend 2”) in the café parking lot. It was their chance to speak to the CEO of the company.

When he stepped out to the afternoon sun, they started to clap and shake his hand, patting him on the back. He confronted them asking why he was the “object of all this special attention?” This happiness and joyful adulation?

To recognize him as being a hero.

One by one they stepped up. To tell them their very personal stories of how his sharing would change their lives.

You see that day he sold the company, unlike some other CEO’s he didn’t take the money and run. He shared it with the people who helped him make the company successful. That day in 1999, he made janitors, night watchmen, secretaries and so many others, instant millionaires. Overnight and he didn’t have to. Think about it $2 billion dollars is a lot of money. Even more, given it was almost two decades ago.

This act would be enabling them to pay for the education of their children, pay for an operation for a loved one or pay off their mortgages- and the like — they said, “Mr. Ryan, you are our hero!”

Heroes: We are looking for the men and woman with noble ideals that they put into practice.

People of spirit, tenacity, and values included in themselves and the organizations in which they run. These traits give them the skills to overcome life’s difficulties. And companies who make a difference. Run with a purpose.

We will ask you to sign a pledge to recognize and practice:


  • Communicates a clear vision of where they want to go
  • Ability to implement ideas and drive change
  • Focused commitment to values to all stakeholders
  • Never afraid to share credit with teammates
  • Relentless. When knocked down, they get back up
  • Willingness to do any job required to succeed
  • Guided by a servant mentality to people, causes, organizations
  • Driving belief in sharing success and wealth


  • Exemplify results that are outside the industry norm
  • Bottom-up organizations: engage all their business units in building and making the organization more efficient
  • Rooted in success based on values to their community, stakeholders, or common good
  • Recognizes strengths and weaknesses and strives for continual improvement
  • Performs work or builds products that inspire
  • Transparency is exhibited with clear a vision, values and practiced throughout the organization
  • The brand is valued, reflective of the promises delivered
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