Eric Lefkofsky on What It Means to be an Entrepreneur

People have often asked me what makes someone a good entrepreneur and my answers have always been a bit convoluted.  But when you really stop and think about it, this quote sums it up perfectly. The ability to invent new pieces is a quality shared by all great entrepreneurs.

When something is not working, you can either keep pounding away at it, endlessly suffering the same fate while you build up scar tissue; or you can adapt, change, pivot.  In other words, invent new pieces. No one has done this better (maybe ever) than Steve Jobs. He continuously self-examined the fate of Apple and was willing to shift strategy and chase new products or focus on entirely new markets when his back was against the wall.

I am absolutely amazed at how often people seem paralyzed to take action.  Whether its someone with a great idea that just never takes the first step.  Or a disgruntled worker that has an idea of how to improve something at their company but instead spends their time complaining, instead of fixing.  Or an entrepreneur that knows he or she is struggling and yet feels immobile and unable to scrap their initial plan and start over.

I have never been afraid to act.  It is one of my greatest strengths in business.  When I have an idea or reach a conclusion, I act on it, immediately and without reservation.  I don’t over-think the movement, I embrace it.  You can’t always be right, so you have to get comfortable with the fact that you are often going to be wrong.  You are often going to fail.  But like a baseball batter who tries to hit home runs, the true measure of success is the net sum of all of your hits versus all of your strikeouts.   In other words, you have the luxury of being judged over time (over an entire career), not an individual turn at bat.

The first business Brad and I did together was Brandon Apparel Group. It ended up being a huge failure. We over-leveraged the company and it eventually crumbled under the weight of that debt when the industry began to consolidate against us.

Our second business together was Starbelly. We started that company in 1999 and despite the fact that our shareholders made lots of money, the business itself was also a failure. We never reached the full height of our potential. The business never really took off.

With two pretty big failures behind me, I never slowed down. I never thought of stopping. I just put my head down and kept moving forward, kept working toward success. I knew that doing nothing would seal my fate far more decisively than any single action I could take.

Had we tossed in the towel after Brandon and Starbelly (which most people would have done), there would have been no InnerWorkings, no Echo, no MediaBank, and maybe no Groupon.

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