Advice from the judges

Exceptional, July 2013

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Most great entrepreneurs are lifelong learners. And they appreciate the wisdom of others. A number of EY National Entrepreneur Of The Year® judges – many of whom are entrepreneurs themselves – share some nuggets that contributed to their business success.

Don’t talk - listen

Jeff Yabuki, CEO, Fiserv. Brookfield, Wisconsin

Laugh, believe, take chances, and trust yourself.

Teri List-Stoll, Senior Vice President, Proctor & Gamble. Cincinnati, Ohio

You want to learn how to lead people. Coach a baseball team of 10-year-olds. When you win, it’s not about getting more out of the top three players; it’s not about burying the bottom two. It’s about getting the most out of the people in the middle. And that’s what a good leader does.

Larry Lenihan, CEO and Managing Director, FirstMark Capital. New York, New York

Take care of your customer, or someone else will.

Rob Moore, President and COO, Big D Construction. Salt Lake City, Utah

Don’t be afraid to be in a man’s world. If you work really, really hard, you can make it.

Laurie Cunnington, President, Ward Williston Oil Company. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Make sure you spend all of your time with people who you want to spend your time with, and that you’re working on things that you’re incredibly passionate and obsessed about.

Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group. Boulder, Colorado

Never forget that a fish rots from the head.

Wayne Goldberg, President and CEO, La Quinta. Irving, Texas

Don’t listen to negative comments. Everyone made fun of me. Ha ha ha - look where I am now.

Mary Ellen Sheets, Founder, Two Men and a Truck. Lansing, Michigan

Focus, focus, focus.

Deepak Sindwani, Partner, Bain Capital Ventures. Boston, Massachusetts

When the spreadsheets and all the analysis and all the details don’t align with your gut, take a timeout and think it through until you can get your gut to align with the analysis.

Chuck Davidson, CEO, Noble Global Energy. Houston, Texas

There is no such thing as a commodity. Every product can impart value and every product or service can garner real value.

Abe Reichental, CEO, 3D Systems. Rock Hill, South Carolina

We have to separate our business from ourselves. Even though our businesses may not be doing well, that doesn’t mean that we’re not doing well. And you arrogant guys out there, just because your businesses are doing good, that doesn’t mean you are doing good in many places.

Leah Brown, President and CEO, A10 Clinical. Cary, North Carolina

Pick your partners very, very carefully. It is a long road, with a lot of speed bumps, and you want to make sure the person next to you, or the people on your team, are people you trust, people you admire and people who are going to perform.

Adele Oliva, Partner, Quaker Partners. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Don’t fall in love with the business. You tend to want to look at your business with rose-colored glasses all the time. Be realistic as to where your business is and the things that you need to do to fix it.

Jose Mas, CEO, MasTec. Coral Gables, Florida

Always carry your own bags. No matter how successful you are, always stay humble.

Frank Jaehnert, President and CEO, Brady Corporation. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

When I was 26, a mentor saw a stack of messages on my desk and said, “What are those?” And I said, “Those are messages my secretary took.” He said, “Get rid of that. I don’t want any filters for what you hear. I want people to tell you what’s going on.” It was great advice, and to this day, my secretary doesn’t take any phone calls. I take them directly.

Howard Brodsky, Co-CEO, CCA Global Partners. Manchester, New Hampshire