By Britt Benston
Real ambition starts early.
Rob Douk was born in a labor camp during the final years of the Khmer Rouge, the brutal regime in Cambodia that left roughly two million dead in less than four years. His family fled to Thailand, then to New York, where they arrived with literally nothing.
Douk’s parents worked their way up doing swap meets and managed to start a successful sport shoe store in lower Manhattan, effectively showing him what determination can make possible. They decided a better life was in store in Long Beach, California, home to a large Cambodian contingent, and moved there in time for Douk to go to high school.
Douk is one of four 2015 John Wooden Global Leadership Fellows and is pursuing a dual Global Executive MBA at Anderson and National University of Singapore. After earning a doctorate in psychology with a certification in behavior analysis, Douk worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District. He noticed an extreme deficit between the number of autism cases coming in and the qualified psychologists available to treat them. Worse, the more severe cases had even fewer treatment options. Douk was inspired to start his own company to deal with this deficit and take on the surplus of cases, all from the friendly confines of his kitchen.
“I have what I call my three Cs,” says Douk. “I look at character as number one. Is the character in line, even if execution is poor? Chemistry comes second. It’s the ability to jibe and tug and pull within any organizational dynamic. Competence is third. That’s the area I can mold the most, can ‘coach’ the most. There’s room to create more processes and guidelines. In my organization I have a lot of people with a lot of heart, a lot of character and chemistry. If their competence is lacking, I can change that.”
With his company’s future on a reliable track for growth, Douk and his wife have started a foundation to bring their behavioral psychology expertise to countries such as Rwanda and Mexico, where there’s very little treatment of autism available. Their nonprofit is called Hope Out Loud, and in addition to behavioral therapy for autism, they will build clean water wells, provide occupational therapy for human trafficking victims and educate underserved populations about self-sufficient health care and hygiene.
Rob Douk may seem as if he already has everything: a successful company, prestigious awards, fulfilling philanthropy, a loving family and a first-class global MBA experience. What drives him to do more?
“I owe everything to my parents. They inspire me. Really, they are my role models, pure and simple.”