Business Rx: Advice from veteran entrepreneurs

June 5, 2011

With commencement ceremonies wrapping up around the Washington area, we decided to pass on some of the advice we’ve heard this past year from some of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs:

David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, based in Washington

Rubenstein spoke in April to a crowd of more than 300 at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business about starting and running one of the world’s largest private equity firms.

“Entrepreneurs are people who want to do something and change something. Generally they are not as interested in making money as in proving their ideas work. You can be your own boss if your idea works. Everybody doesn’t have an idea that works and everybody doesn’t want to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.”

On being an entrepreneur, he had the following advice:

·The people who do well as entrepreneurs are people who didn’t listen to their parents.

·You have to be driven to prove that your idea works.

·Recognize your idea isn’t going to be what you ultimately do and be willing to adapt.

·Work through lots of tough problems and work lots of long hours.

·Communicate — you have to convince people to do what you want and to buy your product.

·If you are focused only on the money, you probably won’t be a good entrepreneur.

Seth Goldman, founder and chief executive of Honest Tea, based in Bethesda

Goldman spoke to more than 500 attendees of the March 31 Social Enterprise Symposium, hosted by the Smith School’s Center for Social Value Creation to encourage entrepreneurs to think beyond business as usual to ways to incorporate social good into their enterprises.

“Innovations have to fit the mission of your company, but they also have to fit the market.”

Goldman encouraged students and future social entrepreneurs to:

·Ingrain their mission in their career and pursuits.

·Be passionate and don’t give up. (Goldman admits he still wakes up in the middle of the night excited with new ideas for Honest Tea.)

·Create a team and succeed together.

·Be semi-realistic.

·Pay attention to objective realities.

·Balance life and work.

Ted Leonsis, Internet pioneer and former AOL vice chairman, now head of Washington Sports and Entertainment, the holding company of the Washington Capitals NHL team, Washington Wizards and Mystics basketball teams, and the Verizon Center.

Leonsis spoke in February to a packed house of students about his business ventures, what makes Washington an iconic city and the importance of being happy for success.

“You can be successful and not be happy — just watch the news every night. . . . But if you are happy, you are more likely to be successful. There is a science behind happiness.”

Leonsis said that science comes down to five traits:

·Be an active participant in multiple communities of interest.

·Have very high levels of self expression.

·Have high levels of empathy.

·Get out of the “I” and into the “we.”

·Always be in pursuit of a higher calling.

Several Maryland business leaders discussed global entrepreneurship opportunities during the April Emerging Markets Forum, hosted by Smith’s Center for International Business Education and Research. For aspiring entrepreneurs and those just starting out in their careers:

“Living, working abroad is tremendously valuable. Any sort of international experience is critical. . . . Don’t shy away from looking for work experience that will give you real hands-on nitty-gritty international trade experience. Succeeding in business means getting very hands-on.” — William Hutton, president of Baltimore-based Titan Steel Corp.

“Consider taking the dirtiest job, the one no one wants, that will teach you more than your peers.” — Susan Ganz, chief executive of Lion Brothers, an apparel company that started in embroidery more than 100 years ago.

“Take a long-term view, be entrepreneurial, consider a different path from the beginning. Take risks. Don’t be governed by short-term gains.” — Peter Bowe, president of Baltimore-based Ellicott Dredges, a company that makes equipment for mining and port dredging.

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