By Maureen Werther
Jay Rifenbary, president of Rifenbary Development in Saratoga Springs, was recently honored by Vistage Worldwide Inc. with the 2017 Speaker of the Year Award.
According to Vistage, the award “recognizes the MVP of the Vistage speaker community, which includes nearly 1,000 experts on topics ranging from leadership to health and wellness.”
Vistage Worldwide is a business advisory and executive coaching organization based out of San Diego.
Rifenbary graduated from the U.S. Military Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree, with a concentration in nuclear physics.
“You teach best in life what you want to learn the most,” said Rifenbary.
He lost his father at age 11 and never had a mentor. So by mentoring others and helping them achieve contentment and fulfillment in their professional and personal lives, he feels it is the work he was intended to pursue.
Rifenbary’s life has taken him around the globe, first as an airborne ranger for the military and later as a speaker and trainer. In 1989, Rifenbary, who is originally from Kingston, decided to pursue his life’s work and opened a book store called The Creative Mind in Newton Plaza in Latham.
“I did that because I thought I could offer something different to people,” he said.
The store specialized in selling motivational and self-help books and Rifenbary implemented “brown bag lunches,” noontime programs designed to offer people mentoring.
The store grew, largely through word of mouth and by 1993, Rifenbary sold it and moved to Saratoga Springs with his family.
He began Rifenbary Development and was soon speaking to school groups, professional organizations and businesses throughout the region.
Since then, Rifenbary has authored three books—”No Excuse!” “True to Your Core” and “Return to Your Core—which he has turned into training and motivational programs for a wide variety of audiences. He has spoken to thousands of people throughout his career.
The books focus on living a more purposeful life, understanding what truly creates happiness and cultivating personal awareness, integrity and responsibility for one’s life.
Rifenbary said he has always been fascinated in understanding what brings true contentment and fulfillment in life and how to best develop one’s character in order to achieve that fulfillment.
He believes that personal honesty, accountability and integrity are secrets to happiness.
“If I live by my personal values, then I’m an honorable person,” said Rifenbary, adding that, when people are out of alignment with their core values, they become unhappy and feel “out of sync.”
In his corporate training sessions, Rifenbary focuses on what he calls “servant leadership,” which he explained as “focusing on the people you lead, their personal development, character and growth, rather than on yourself.”
He sees core value development as the foundation of culture in the company, family and on the individual level.
“This is the foundation for the whole program,” said Rifenbary.
Rifenbary said he feels blessed to be doing this work, although he also admits that it can be emotionally draining at times.
“I have people laughing and crying. It’s a very authentic and genuine program. If I lose that, I won’t do it anymore,” he said.