Entrepreneurship isn’t fail-safe, businessmen tell students
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
In an hour spent talking about how to succeed in the entrepreneurial world, the most important message for a standing-room-only crowd Monday morning in Grand Canyon University’s Howerton Hall was about dealing with failure.
Three members of the Camelback Society, a Phoenix association of Christian businessmen, spoke to students in the final installment of the school year in the Colangelo College of Business Dean’s Speaker Series. Brycen Snyder, Aaron Klusman and Ryan House all have had numerous achievements, but what really got them talking was when they were asked what they learned when their careers went awry.
Snyder had to do an about-face in 2008, when he was working in real estate and the market collapsed. He knew a friend who had been in the billboard business, started asking questions, transitioned and has been a principal in Boulevard Outdoor Advertising ever since.
“Don’t be paralyzed,” Snyder said. “I was paralyzed when real estate went bad. You’ve got to find something to fill the gap. You’ve got to find solutions, solve the problem. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Klusman grew up focused on becoming “the best baseball player in history” and, after playing at Arizona State and making honorable mention on the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America team, signed as a free agent pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But his dream died after two years of rookie ball in Ogden, Utah, and he set about on a path toward a new competition — venture capitalism — that hasn’t been easy, either. Nevertheless, Klusman is managing partner of four companies, founded ZoYo Neighborhood Yogurt, is a partner in the development of Dunkin Donuts franchises and even started a clothing line while he was in college.
So Klusman has things all figured out, right? Hardly.
“There are times I struggle and think, ‘Why bother?’” he said. But Klusman’s athletic training has come in handy, and he has applied those principles to being an entrepreneur. “The only way to grow is by training the muscle,” he added.
House, like Snyder, found himself on the outside looking in when the homebuilder he was working for as a project manager went under. But he stuck with it and has built a successful career in real estate.
“Sometimes (overcoming) failure is not having a willingness to fail,” he said.
House also stressed the importance of being able to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses and where you are in your career development. Family and friends will tell you what you want to hear, he said, so you need to seek opinions from others — even people who don’t like you.
“If you’re not getting the view from 30,000 feet, you’re going to lose perspective,” he said.
Another way to get that perspective, Snyder said, is to have at least one good mentor, but it’s equally important to not be too harsh on yourself when you fail. We hear stories all the time, House noted, about people who failed, persevered and then succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and we judge them on the end result, not the mistakes they made.
“I always felt that pressure to quit,” he said, “but it’s amazing how you blink and realize how much better off you are than four to five years ago.”
Klusman compared it to how things that bothered us in high school are now “like blips on radar.” And he had the best line of the day when he described what his line of work is all about.
“Being an entrepreneur,” he said, “is like jumping off a cliff and having to build an airplane before you hit the ground.”
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.