14Jan
Image of a man crossing a bridge to success

Why Experience Can Be More Valuable Than Money

Image of a man crossing a bridge to success

I have the privilege of being involved with an exciting entrepreneurial movement at my MBA alma mater (Weber State, where I now also work).

As part of my involvement, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with one of Utah’s best entrepreneurship experts, Alan Hall. Alan is a huge supporter of the University. He is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and is also the Chairman of the Board for the WSU Foundation (of which I’m Executive Director). As Alan visits with many here at the University, I’ve found that he consistently shares some comments centered around the following premiss:

Business experience can payoff in more ways than money.

I couldn’t agree more! It can be easy to distract yourself so much with making money or raising capital that you miss out on the experience needed to build a great business. I know, because I’ve done it.


In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success, he repeatedly mentions the “10,000-hour rule”, claiming the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

He’s right. To build a great business you must practice!

I can not emphasise this enough. If you want to succeed, spend 100% of your efforts learning and understanding what it takes to get your business up and running, living and breathing. Practice is indeed really the only sure way to perfect.

Trial and error

Learning how to run a business takes a lot of focus and is generally a learned skill. Very few people are born with the ability to run a company. Trial and error is the best way to really learn how to run a business.

Get too caught up in raising money and your bottom line, and you will miss out on many of the day-to-day operational decisions that no one other than you should make. No one.

The experience gained from making all the decisions of day-to-day operations is critical to your progression as an entrepreneur. At some point you will likely divide and delegate, but it should only be after you know every nook and cranny of your business personally.

As an entrepreneur not focusing all your efforts on making money or raising capital may seem like a foreign concept. When I first got started, money was all I focused on. I paid less attention to the experiences associated with the creation, operation, growth and exit of the business. As a result, I lost valuable time gaining the experience (and success) I needed.

Hindsight is 20/20.

There is no way I would have been able to understand this post 10 years ago the way I understand it now.

It is so clear to me the experiences I’ve had shaped me into the entrepreneur I am today. It wasn’t the money I raised or made. Those are merely byproducts associated with the milestones of my career. Important ones at that, but still, byproducts of doing the actual WORK.

If you are thinking about starting a business, DO IT NOW. The sooner you get started the better. Once you have enough experience, making money becomes almost second nature.

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • Your posts always make me want to start my business RIGHT NOW.

    I think, if and when I start my business (my goal is within the next year and a half) it will be 50% me and the other 50% your motivational posts.

    Keep at it.

    • Devin Day

      Hey John, your right Alex rights some motivating posts. I have just started a couple projects that I have been putting off. No time like the present.

      Questions for you: What’s keeping you from starting the business now?

    • Alex Lawrence

      Good 🙂 That is part of their intent. I hope whatever it is, that you find the right opportunity to pursue. Timing is never perfect, so focus on the opportunity first!

  • Great insight. But coming from Greg and Alan I wouldn’t expect anything less. Two amazing entrepreneurs (and all around nice guys).

    I thinkwe often overlook experience because it’s also one of the more painful parts of being an entrepreneur. Trial and error can hurt. But in the long term, it can make all the diferrence

    • Alex Lawrence

      Thanks Bryson. Agreed – Alan and Greg are some of the very best. Trial and error does hurt (hence the “error” part), but it is essential to growth – perhaps in business AND in life. I hope the older I get the less the error part comes in though 🙂

      Thanks for commenting at the blog.

  • This is an awesome peice of encouragement for a new entreprenuer like myself. I look forward to more information and insights from you all.

  • To give another perspective, I’m an senior BSBA at Chapel Hill, and opting for an unpaid internship with a local start-up venture is the smartest thing I could have done to help boost my chances of success with the looming, although inevitable job search. Although I’m not getting a monetary payoff, I’ve learned more in two months than in all of my other internships combined.

    Ron Clabo, the founder of GiftOasis and my boss, is a veteran in internet marketing and has acted as an incredible mentor to me. Being a start-up, I’m given much more responsibility and flexibility than I would in a mature company, and I get invaluable insight into what it takes to develop a successful company. Until I began working with Ron, I had never had experience with internet marketing or web analytics. “Organic web traffic” and “SEO” were terms that simply had never been introduced to me in a formal class setting. Now that I’m interviewing for several analytical positions, I can reference examples from my day to day internship experience. Interview questions that would have previously landed me on my face were manageable, if not an opportunity to show off a little 😉

    I would encourage anyone to pursue an opportunity with a start-up even if the position is unpaid. The learning curve is steep, but you will emerge with invaluable insights.

    Emily Adams
    GiftOasis.com

    • Alex Lawrence

      Hi Emily, welcome to the blog. Thanks for commenting and best of continued luck in school. Regarding your internship explanation – YOU NAILED IT! I teach Internet Marketing now and the stuff we go over is a foreign language to 90%+ of graduating Seniors in the business school. You made a wise choice in my opinion. Do us a favor, keep in touch and let us know what is next for you.

    • Yeah…Internet Marketing is still to come in MBA Marketing Courses…Books are too Old 🙂

      • Alex Lawrence

        Too many programs are behind – they need to speed up quickly and offer more Internet marketing courses if they hope to have any chance to catch up.

  • Ok I want to Start is NOW but How to generate the required Capital?? the life blood for any Organization…

    • Alex Lawrence

      Try Lendio.com for access to loans 🙂

  • I remember the evening Greg came to speak to our class at Weber. He told us that if you were 30 with a family getting started (on your own business) would be exponentially harder if not impossible. Since it was a dream of mine and was, and am, married and over 30 it was a bit deflating but also a direct challenge. I graduated, moved my family out of state and started my own business, which failed. My paycheck was essentially experience. Now four years later we’ve restocked the war chest and we are ready to embark again, wiser this time, and with a partner. We are building it as a business not a job and we have structured our operating agreement to develop experience.

    • Alex Lawrence

      @James – thanks for coming over the blog man! Love that you went at it and are back at it. There is no doubt a trail of “failures” in any legit entrepreneurs past (myself included). While they still suck, it seems like it’s almost a requirement. I’m excited for you and your new direction. I can say this; you are really doing it and going for it – and that means you can call yourself whatever you’d like in my book (entrepreneur or otherwise).

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