STORY PROPOSAL

Psychologist Ken Dychtwald has become a phenonmenon in business circles, the prophet of new markets and new opportunities created by "the aging of America." But I was skeptical -- the subject seemed like old news. And it was hard to see how Dychtwald could turn his expertise into something more than a personal-services company, a feat that has eluded Tom Peters and John Naisbitt, his fellow stump performers. So I spend a week with the wunderkind on the road, hoping to find out how he could make stale ideas fresh -- and profitable.

C.H.

KEN DYCHTWALD HAS THE FLU. What started as a tickle in the throat while he was driving down the turnpike from Newark Airport has become a burning forehead and throbbing temples by the time he arrives at Community Memorial Hospital, in Toms River, N.J., an hour later.

It's another week on the circuit: four speeches in four days. After 19 years as a professional speaker, Dychtwald has the drill down cold. Scan the setup and schmooze the host. Check the twin Slide projectors, the microphone, and podium, the screen, the lights.

"Being on the road is a drag," he admits. But the show must go on -- as chief executive officer of Age Wave Inc., the market-research, education, and consulting firm he started two years ago, it's his job to keep the company's cash flowing. And besides, even with a fever, the prospect of opening an audience's eyes still raises his pulse. He's been a crusader as his life; now, he's trying to become a businessman as well.

For most audiences, the first surprise comes when he's introduced. This is the "nation's foremost gerontologist?" This . . . boy? Psychologist; author; consultant to Congress, to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and to CBS Inc., Dychtwald looks more like an athlete -- a gymnast or a diver, perhaps, or one of those implausibly fit California surfers.

His message surprises them even more. They'll be yawning when the lights are dimmed, shifting uncomfortably in their seats at the prospect of an hour and a quarter on the "aging of America." Old -- ugh. Then he'll turn their heads around.

On the podium Dychtwald is a master, one of a handful in the country whose passion and presentation can command $15,000 an appearance. Forget the "graying of America." He talks about the "tinting of America." -- and the market opportunities that creates. Part demographer and part futurist, he can take such cliches as the growing number of American elderly or the aging of the baby boom generation and make them fresh again, give them meaning.

It is old news that by the end of the century almost 15% of Americans will be over 65, but Dychtwald shows just how total a transformation that will create. Take something as simple as doorknobs -- designed for young hands, hands that grasp tightly and wrists that turn easily. As America ages, the knobs on doors will be replaced by levers, designed for older hands. As we become the first nation in history to be dominated by its seniors, everything will change -- movie-theater seats and automatic teller machines, the colors we paint our walls, the speed at which we set our traffic lights. Now is the time to start paying attention to that future, Dychtwald is insisting. Americans over 50 already control more than half of the nation's assets and discretionary income; they are a huge market that most of us ignore or totally misunderstand. What a challenge to American business . . . and what an opportunity.

Working without notes, his jacket slipped over a chair, Dychtwald spins a spellbinding vision of the future, with a new-age promise at its core. He dispels fears, erasing the myth that growing old inevitably means a long, lonely twilight descent -- growing poor or frail or feeble. Dychtwald has spent 15 years working with the elderly, and brings back a more positive report. We can shape the way we age, both as individuals and as a society, he insists, if we seize the day.

Today's audience, 100 or so contributors and board members from Community Memorial Hospital, is smaller than he's used to, and he's working for a reduced fee. But they're particularly important for Age Wave. Dychtwald has been talking in hospitals about the opportunities in elder care for years, but Community Memorial is a customer, not just a client buying his time as a speaker. It has bought an Aging Resource Center, one of Dychtwald's first products -- and products, he's learning, are the key to his future as a for-profit prophet.

Like all the Age Wave products, the $150,000 Aging Resource Center (ARC) is a tough conceptual sell. At its core the ARC is a library -- 10 years of Dychtwald's research cataloged, categorized, and computerized for easy access. To seniors it offers information and peace of mine, and it helps them connect with the vast array of social services available today. By installing an ARC, a hospital can position itself as the market leader, the local hub of an eldercare network. Most hospital executives, however, are already being financially strained by elderly patients; Dychtwald's promise of more to come makes them squirm. To sell the ARC, Dychtwald has first to get them to accept the elderly as the market of their future, a market as potentially attractive as it is inevitable. Then he has to convince them that the ARC is a cost-effective way to reach that market.

It took Dychtwald four months to close the sale at Community Memorial; administrators heard his stump speech twice before they put down their 50% deposit. "Think of it as a franchise," Dychtwald told them. Age Wave will sell only one ARC in a region -- if not to Community Memorial, then to a competitor.

Fear of loss is an old technique, but it's new to Dychtwald. He'd spent his career as a gerontologist building a national reputation as an advocate for the elderly. Then he met Fred Rubenstein, executive vice-president of Institutional Investor magazine, and James E. Bernstein, M.D., the president and founder of General Health Inc., an INC. 500 company in 1985 and '86, and had his own eyes opened.

Age Wave is an experiment, an attempt to combine Dychtwald's decade and a half's expertise in gerontology with Rubenstein and Bernstein's 31 years of experience in growth companies. Dychtwald provides the content expertise and a social agenda. But Rubenstein makes the marketing recommendations, and Bernstein is in charge of operations and finance.

"I'm the student -- they're teaching me how to be a businessman," Dychtwald says. It's how he's always learned his skills -- "the mentor model," he calls it.

Rubenstein and Bernstein set him a rigorous curriculum, aimed at transforming what seemed, at best, a personal-services business into a fast-growth company, as asset he could sell. He would start with no capital -- no debt and no outside equity. He would have to live on cash flow, creating product and management as he went. They would show him how to use the leverage of the marketplace to spread his message further and faster -- and produce a business they could convert to $100 million in cash at the end of five years.

Dychtwald claims to feel "incompetent as a businessman half the time," but so far he's ahead of the projections the three men created at the company's initial planning session in the spring of 1986. By the end of that fall, Age Wave had reliable cash flow and 3 products in development. By year's end, the company was breaking even on sales of $300,000. By the end of 1987, with another 20 products in development, sales were up 900%, to $2.7 million, with profits of about $200.000.

In a few years, if the business keeps growing according to plan, Dychtwald hopes to be able to spend less time on the road. For now, with overhead running at $200,000 a month, the company still needs the cash flow that comes from his presentations. It is still his star power that dazzles the clients, too, which is why he has come to Community Memorial Hospital to see New Jersey's first Aging Resource Center launched. His presence adds value to the sale: two speeches and a press conference are schedule, plus a reception and a one-hour videotaping session.

"Having Ken here is a good as creating the center," Community Memorial vice-president Jim Martin marvels. "We pay him a hefty fee -- but it's worth it to position ourselves with him in our corner, the leader in the market.

"In the long run, these programs are going to draw big bequest money. If someone wants their name on our center, it's going to cost them $2 million."

By the end of his speech, Dychtwald is running on adrenaline alone, eyes red and voice ragged, his fever up to 103. But a bar and four buffet tables have been set up at the other end of the room -- cold shrimp and hot fettuccine, the best the hospital kitchen has to offer. Dychtwald sticks to herbal tea, working the reception until the last guest leaves and he can head for his room in the Holiday Inn.

"Are you OK?" Martin asks him as he leaves.

"Fine, Dychtwald reassures him, smiling wanly. "I've worked sick before."

And what is a fever, after all, when you're trying to change the world?

Friends in the hills around Ken Dychtwald's Berkeley, Calif., home profess to be baffled by his newly discovered fervor for company building. Until 10 years ago, he still had long hair and an earring. But the novice CEO himself see Age Wave Inc. as a natural, if unexpected, life passage -- a consolidation of all that had gone before. He's 38 now, a baby boomer eager to build something substantial for his wife and daughter, grateful for the Jaguar in the garage and the holiday in Hawaii. But he's convinced the goals haven't changed, that the inspiration that once led him to Esalen led also to entrepreneurship. He's still dedicated to "proving we can control our own evolution, through acts of will and risk taking." Trying to build Age Wave has been a way to test his capacity for both.

Dychtwald was just 20 years old when he plunged into California's nascent human-potential movement in 1970. The son of a retail clothier from Newark, one of the first in his family to go to college, he had never been west of Pennsylvania before he left Lehigh University and a planned career as an electrical engineer/physicist to move to the Esalen Institute. "It was another world," Dychtwald remembers.

He immersed himself "3,000%," studying t'ai chi, sensory awareness, and meditation, building his own biofeedback machine, experimenting with massage, practicing yoga up to five hours a day. He convinced Lehigh to accept part of the work toward his degree in psychology. He began writing a book called Bodymind, eventually published in 12 languages and still in print today.

But after three years at Esalen, Dychtwald started to get restless. When he was invited to run a year-long pilot program in human development and health in Berkeley, he jumped at the chance. Only after he gave up his shack at Big Sur and packed up for the move to Berkeley did he find out that the students would all be over 65.

"My first reaction was 'ugh.' It seemed foolish to waste time on them," he says. "Their lives were done."

Over the next several years at the Sage Project, Dychtwald spent up to 60 hours a week with his students, teaching them the skills he'd learned at Esalen, taking them on camping trips, talking for hours.

"They loved it," says Dychtwald. "It was an exquisite experience. I was fascinated by the depth of their lives."

Determined to learn everything he could about aging, Dychtwald left the Sage Project after five years, to regroup and study. Gerontology in 1974 was still limited principally to medical and social-work research. But Dychtwald's curiosity took him much farther afield, through demography, history, psychology, and anthropology, and eventually deep into science fiction. He worked like a man obsessed, reading some 30 books each month, hiring a secretary and a librarian to help him order his findings. To support himself, he still taught the occasional weekend seminar, and turned to his parents for help, "but I was still a hippie, and money was not what you needed,"

The more Dychtwald studied, the more impressed he was by the breadth and scope of the changes that were coming. "America was having an identity crises, but because of its gerontophobia, everybody was denying it. The foundation of the country, its demographic content, was turning upside down, and no one wanted to talk about it."

Ralph Nader must have felt something similar when he saw his first Corvair, Dychtwald imagined, or Rachel Carson when she saw her silent spring; he had found his mission. "I had been looking for a theme to my life, and here was a capital THEME." He would report on the challenge of the future, and in his reporting, change its shape, carrying his message to the decision makers in the media, healthcare field, and business, the individuals who would have the greatest potential to help him change the way America looked at aging.

Focusing on lifestyle issues rather than merely on medicine, Dychtwald became a national spokesman for the elderly. While many academics were skeptical of his research and style, other gerontologists compared him with Paul Revere, spreading the message through the countryside, or with Johnny Appleseed, spreading the seeds of the future.

But the early 1980s were also frustrating years for Dychtwald. "I was getting hired to speak a lot, but only by groups like healthcare professionals and the AARP. I thought that the Marriotts and the head of General Electric ought to be hearing it."

And "there was no money, either." While he could make $25,000 to $30,000 a year from seminars, presentations, and articles on aging, that wasn't enough to fund his research for even six months. By this time, he was 33 and tired of living poor -- of knowing his father kept the clothing stores open back in Newark, hoping he would come home.

So, on went the suit and tie. Dychtward & Associates hit the road: Ken Dychtwald executive seminar instructor and circuit-speaker extraordinaire, with the lessons of Esalen repackage to appeal to a corporate audience. "Yoga" dropped from his vocabulary; "stress management" appeared in its place.

"I was surprised by how much the corporate world was turned on to the human-potential possibility," Dychtwald says, "if I called it 'wellness."

By 1985 Dychtwald & Associates was thriving, grossing as much as $500,000 a year for presentations to such clients as Gillette and Sun Oil. But Dychtwald never thought of it as a business. He kept it funky, a handful of his friends around some desks, a checkbook, unbalanced, in a drawer. It was a means to an end, a way to fund his research on aging and uncover potential clients who would progress from hearing his wellness presentation to his "aging of America" speech.

Though business was booming, life as a crusader was slow going; just 15 calls a month or so from audiences who wanted to hear his message on the coming opportunities. He didn't think about riding the demographic trends himself, and in any case wouldn't have known how.

Then he met Jim Bernstein.

As a health-care provider himself, Jim Bernstein had heard Dychtwald speak at several national conventions, but they had never spend any time together until they met in the Washington, D.C., offices of General Health in 1985. Dychtwald was looking for a health-risk-assessment program to add to his wellness presentation, something he could help develop for a fee and sell for a royalty. But Bernstein turned the younger man's proposition around.

"Why don't you start a company yourself?" he asked. "Just hire General Health to make the product -- but you own it and sell it."

Bertstein went to the blackboard. "Call it, say, 'Bismarck Inc.," he suggested, after the German chancellor who first set the retirement age at 65.

"That's ridiculous. I wouldn't even know where to start."

"Look," Bernstein promised. "Next time I'm out on the West Coast I'll help you sketch out a business plan."

With sales at General Health up to some $2.8 million and growing at 80% a year, Bernstein was already working more than 100 hours a week; he had no intention of getting actively involved in another company. But there was a method to his offer. Sketching out one more business plan was no big deal, and if anything came of "Bismarck Inc." he'd have a new customer, creating a simple strategic alliance that would help him move product.

Two months later, on a Friday night in Berkely, Bernstein bought a copy of Lotus 1-2-3 and booted it up on a PC atop Dychtwald's dining-room table. "I took him through the standard Business 101 exercise -- what are your products, who would buy them, who would sell them." By the end of the weekend, after working through two nights in a row, they'd realized that "Bismarck Inc." was just a start. "We created a five-year pro forma with the columns set at 9. But we had to move them to 15 because the numbers were so big."

For Dychtwald, who had never even seen Lotus 1-2-3, the exercise was a revelation, "like first walking up to the edge of the Grand Canyon."

Dychtwald thought he had found a new mentor, a teacher who "instantly saw the big picture." But Bernstein was a reluctant participant. He'd enjoyed showing Dychtwald "the wonders of business," he admitted, and he'd be glad to manufacture products for Bismarck Inc. But he couldn't see himself doing more.

Yet within a year, Dychtwald's magnetism had attracted Bernstein to sit on a newly formed board of directors, taking an equity position for the investment of his time. "The amount of energy I've committed is way beyond what I expected, to Ken's credit," he says now. "He had the skill to rope me into the cause."

Fred Rubenstein, the second plank of the Age Wave board, had never heard of Dychtwald before the gerontologist was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Institutional Investor conference in 1985. He'd wondered at the time why the subject of aging was on the program at all, but by the end of the speech Rubenstein, too, had been convinced. With his own father 82 years old, fast approaching the end of life, Rubenstein's thoughts on growing old had been bleak, a vision of obligation and decline. Dychtwald's optimistic perspective lifted his spirits.

In Rubenstein, Dychtwald thought he had found a second mentor, a teacher with marketing skills that would complement Bernstein's strengths in organization and finance. But Rubenstein, also, initially insisted he was too busy to get involved in a second business; Institutional Investor Inc. was being positioned for sale at the time. While he agreed to help out with advice over the phone, he refused a more formal position. But before a year had passed, he too was on the board.

For both men, it was hard to separate Dychtwald's crusade from his personal charisma. Energetic and open, he was a striking California contrast to the Type-A men Rubenstein and Bernstein usually saw back East. What struck both men most forceably, however, was his eagerness to learn. "He's a good listener and a very fast study; he doesn't have a know-it-all attitude," Rubenstein explains. "We didn't have to beat him over the head to get him to do something," Bernstein adds.

For Dychtwald, taking the advice he is given was one part of his side of the bargain, a practice he has always followed with his teachers. "If you're going to choose these people you've got to defer," he insists. "You still need a maniacal will to build a business this way, but you've got to be willing to relax your ego and listen, too." Still, Dychtwald had his own contribution to make. He would be teacher as well as student, with no false modesty to get in the way.

"I'll show you the keys to the safe," Rubenstein told him.

"I'll show you the keys to life," Dychtwald replied.

When the Age Wave board held its first meeting at a spa near Tijuana, Mexico, in July 1986, Dychtwald brought a clear vision of what his company could become, based on the model of his Bay Area neighbor, Tom Peters. He'd continue to turn out articles and books, work the platform speaker's circuit, and perhaps add audiotapes or consulting services. "I thought, wow, we can make $4 million a year."

But the board wasn't interested. What would happen if he got sick, Rubenstein asked. Or if, after five or six years with a business on his shoulders, he decided he wanted to do something else, Bernstein added. If the company revolved around Dychtwald's personality, there wouldn't be an asset of value to sell, and asset building was the name of the game they planned to play.

Over the next five days Rubenstein and Bernstein gave their young CEO a lesson in strategic planning. Forget $4 million in sales; that wouldn't be worth their time. Their goal was more ambitious, an asset convertible to $100-million cash five years out. That would require building a company with $40 million in sales and 25% pretax profits, a company that could fetch 15-times multiple, at least. Age Wave would need more than Dychtwald's knowledge, access, and presence to reach the target; the company would have to create products that would yield a passive revenue stream for an acquirer, and build a team of managers trained to keep the products coming.

Bernstein insisted everything be established as if they were already shopping the company. Potential acquirers would look for steady earnings, so Age Wave would have to be profitable its first year. He'd seen too many start-ups chase sales growth, "but growth is not the issue," he maintained. "The bottom line is." There would be no debt: with limited concrete assets beyond expertise, the company couldn't borrow from a bank. But there would be no diluting equity for cash, either -- "that's just asking investors to subsidize your problems." Dychtwald would be expected to live on his cash flow, and to keep "everything totally visible and in order on the balance sheet with a financial structure that could stay in place to the $50-million range, with a good set of books and a strong controller, plus 12-month rolling cash flows -- "all the things you expect to find in a five-year-old business."

Though Dychtwald had never been much of a manager at Dychtwald & Associates, he went to Mexico determined to change. Business, he'd decided, was largely a question of skills; he planned to hire a team of Big Eight accountants to show him the arcana.

Mistake, Bernstein told him. You've got to know your own strengths, then attract people to provide the pieces you don't have. He had seen too many CEOs drain their energies with trivia, trying to be in touch with everything. Better for Dychtwald to spend his time "thinking about the implications of the aging of America, not worrying about time sheets." Dychtwald would work like the CEO of a five-year-old growth company, his job to define the mission and carry the torch, to attract good employees and work the road, spreading the message and looking for customers. Let Bernstein worry about operations and finance.

Rubenstein would worry about marketing. Dychtwald had come to the meeting with 15 different potential projects in mind, but Rubenstein made him focus. "Gee, you must have a lot of capital handy," he gently chided. Then: "We can help you fulfil all the dreams you have, but there has to be a reasonable sequence to them."

The initial criteria were simple. Dychtwald would have to learn to leverage, attracting joint-venture partners to cover development and marketing costs while trying to keep ultimate control of the product for Age Wave, hoping eventually to develop products that would keep on paying out over time.

Dychtwald found Age Wave's first three joint-venture partners in health care. The American College of Healthcare Executives paid $40,000 in marketing and distribution costs to turn Dychtwald's thoughts on hospital planning for the elderly into The Role of the Hospital in an Aging Society: A Blueprint for Action, a comprehensive and detailed planning guide. Marion Laboratories Inc., a giant pharmaceuticals company, put up more than $2 million to turn Dychtwald's ideas on training staff into a video series, an educational curriculum of 20 half-hour shows marketed as a joint venture with the Hospital Satellite Network (HSN). Age Wave's joint-venture partner for the Aging Resource Centers was each individual customer, billed a 50% down payment of the $150,000 fee at closing.

Rubenstein taught Dychtwald to set a premium price for his products based on their value to the customer, not their cost of production, then to deliver them with value added -- a planning blueprint 250 pages longer than required by the contract; an initial video program so strong that it subsequently aired on PBS; membership in the Age Wave Alliance for customers who bought an Aging Resource Center. Although none of the initial projects fulfilled the long-term annuity goal, each had at least a modest long-term potential, the potential resale of the blueprint to a trade publisher and the video program to medical schools, or the potential sale of new products by the pool of customers inside the alliance.

The managers who signed on to deliver the products and serve the customers are an ecletic group: a retired hospital executive who had felt "put out to pasture" and a fresh-faced Standford M.B.A. looking for a cause, a mother-daughter team and two married couples, including Dychtwald and his wife, Maddy, vice-president of education. Most, like Bruce Clark, had first met Dychtwald through one of his speeches, then been turned on because "he really believed he could change the attitude of the world." Michael Farmer, chief operating officer at HSN when Dychtwald negotiated the video package, was so impressed by Dychtwald's message that he took a 50% pay cut to become Age Wave's executive vice-president.

Dychtwald promised them: "It's your chance to move the world."

Apart from Farmer, few had much management experience; like their CEO, they were expected to learn about business as they built one. Bernstein taught them from scratch, starting with such simple concepts as cost of goods sold, margins, and yield, progressing to financial forecasting and reporting. More than skills, Bernstein tried to teach perspective, how to see the world in business terms. Mostly he asked questions, prodding and provoking, and forcing them to make, and defend, their own decisions.

Age Wave will be a holding company when and if it is sold, according to the business plan, with separate divisions for health care, housing, communications, and so on. So Bernstein set up each product line as a division from the start, and gave each manager full operational responsibilities. Each had to set his or her own profit-driven division goals, perhaps creating a new system to recognize, develop, and track leads or setting up a market-research program to survey customers and unconsummated sales. Each was expected to create, and stick to, a budget, and to find an underwriter for one new joint venture.

COO/CFO Bernstein was on site for three days a month; the rest of the time the managers reported to him through detailed weekly letters and regular phone calls. "It worked just the way I'd expected," he says. "People grow fast and do more, and they love it."

"The fact that Jim is now here makes us stronger, because it pushes responsibility down to the product manger, and forces a decentralization of decisions," Farmer agrees. "He's a master at not making decisions -- it's his Socratic style."

Inside the company's Emeryville, Calif., offices it is hard to tell exactly what Age Wave owes to Esalen and what it owes to entrepreneurship. When managers gather every two weeks to thrash out the allocation of resources and the coordination of work among themselves, it is sophisticated "matrix management" or the out-growth of an encounter group? Is companywide profit sharing primarily a motivational personnel policy or the legacy of the values of the new age? The Age Wave staff meets regularly at Dychtwald's hillside house, sprawling over the couches for freewheeling discussions: "safe openness," Farmer calls it, "the healthiest culture of any company I've ever been associated with."

Given the demands of cash flow, Dychtwald isn't around the offices as much as he'd like; he's on the road about half the time, although he stays in touch by phone twice a day. But while he's there he exchanges the role of student for the role of mentor, teaching the staff the lessons he's learned over 15 years in the field. That's the way he'll get off the road, after all; unless he teaches his managers to become experts in their own right, Age Wave will never get beyond the Ken Dychtwald show.

Life on the stump is numbing, hours of tedium punctuated by the adrenaline rush of performance. If this is Tuesday, it must be Dallas. Dychtwald's weekly road trip is almost half done: two speeches down, two more to go. Two more days of taxicabs and hotel rooms, of dining on nachos at an airport concession stand before strapping himself into seat 2B for the flight to the next performance.

Dychtwald makes the best of it, sustained by a sense of mission. "Fifteen years ago, I dreamed there was a job for me to do in this life, to change the way Americans think about growing older. Now, I have a chance to do it. If all else fails and that succeeds," he says, "it'll be a win."

But Dychtwald doesn't contemplate failure much; it's not in his nature. And he can see the Age Wave momentum building, just as his board promised. A meeting with Larry Tisch leads to a contract to appear on the CBS program "This Morning," and to help develop a TV special on aging for this fall. A speech to the Magazine Publishers Association is followed by stories about aging in Business Week, Time, and Advertising Age. Three years ago, he was getting 15 calls a month to talk about aging; now, Age Wave gets 150 a week.

His collection of mentors is growing as well. Bob Beck, the executive vice-president of Bank of America National Trust & Savings Association, for example, is helping develop a more formal human-relations program, with systemized training and incentive procedures. A $100-million salable assets is still at least four years away, but the foundation and structure are being put in place today.

"It's a trap to think running a business is something anybody can learn about." Dychtwald realizes now. "It's every bit as challenging and difficult as learning about any subject. I find the learning of it very exciting, watching a business form right before my eyes. It's almost like the business is a swaddling blanket in which my baby can grow. It's going to allow my dream to become real."

For that, he owes his mentors. "I've learned to see the world through their eyes. They give me the perspective of a lifetime. The most important lesson they've taught me is that building a business can be an art and a craft. It's like Zen -- the art and the perspective of it, not just the skill element."

Freed from day-to-day operations, Dychtwald has targeted 20 new potential joint-venture partners. He's considering developing exercise equipment, an educational series with a publishing company, a national chain of retail health stores with a hospital-supply house. Health care remains the most promising shot at an annuity product, however: Age Wave has 20 different health-care consulting protocols in development with a Big Eight accounting firm. While the initial fee is $700,000, long-range forecasts project $30 million to $50 million in sales a year, with 10% of all fees to Age Wave.

Age Wave products are still a tough sell, though. Most people still can't get beyond "old -- ugh," and fewer still can grasp the opportunities in his demographic vision. While audiences of CEOs seem to get the message instantly, when he actually tries to negotiate terms with their middle managers his zeal sometimes makes them uncomfortable. But building a business has taught Dychtwald about rejection, just as surely as it has taught him about Lotus 1-2-3.

It's given him a focus, too. Age Wave is a lever with which he hopes to move the world, but he's discovered it's also a way to change himself, to take the next step in his evolution.

"As much as I'm the process of learning to build a business, I'm in the process of learning how to become the leader of a company. Every inch the company grows, I grow as well."

He's at it every morning, no matter what anonymous hotel room he finds himself in. Johnny Appleseed has become the new-age chief executive, tuning in his business with fax and phone, turning on his Toshiba portable computer and modem. Password . . . yoga.

"We all need to find something that lets our hearts sing," he says.

"I also think we're going to make a lot of money."