This archived article was written by: Jonathan Fox
Entrepreneur Rich Christiansen spoke on how to succeed in the business world Sept. 4, to business students of USU Eastern. He was a guest speaker in “an Entrepreneurial Forum.” The forum is held every few weeks by Professors Henning Olson and Russell Goodrich as part of their new class, “An Entrepreneurial Mindset.”
Christiansen is an entrepreneur who founded or co-founded 32 businesses. Although 11 of those were “complete failures,” 11 others have become multimillion-dollar companies. He says his “true passion and talent is in the startup and launch of technology-oriented companies.”
Having had so much joy and success in his field, Christiansen wants to help others succeed as well.
“I take great pride and satisfaction,” says Christiansen, “in mentoring young, talented individuals and helping business opportunities emerge.”
In his presentation, he taught students how to have the mindset necessary to be successful in the business world. He explained that for an entrepreneur, it is absolutely necessary to accept that failure is going to happen. He asked how many of those present in the room had started a business before. He then asked one person in particular how it was going, or how it went. Upon hearing that it was going fairly well, he said, “I almost wish that it had failed the first time.”
Christiansen explained that it isn’t that he didn’t want him to be successful, but that “it is more about failing efficiently than it is about not failing.” He wanted students to realize that in the real world, it doesn’t work out every time. And he hopes that they won’t get discouraged, but rather will adopt an attitude of persistence. If one idea fails, then try another.
“Starting a business,” says Christiansen, “is like trying to charge up Mount Everest. If you were to charge straight up the side of the mountain, you would die. It is physically impossible because you would increase too quickly in elevation for your body to adjust.”
Just as it is impossible to charge straight up the side of the mountain, it is nearly impossible to be successful starting a business by charging straight ahead. He suggests instead a series of “zig-zags” to rise to the challenge.
This zig-zag business model is outlined in his book, “Zig-Zag Principles.” There are three zig-zags: drive to profitability, adding processes and resources, adding scale.
Many people have good ideas, and they have all the motivation in the world, but often they lack the direction to turn that “drive” into “profitability.”
The first zig focuses on determining whether your idea has potential, and planning how to market it. Christiansen said that before worrying about producing your idea, you should worry about how you’re going to market it.
The second zag, “adding Processes and Resources” is the second step – actually producing it. As part of this, Christiansen discussed the importance of networking.
The last zig, “adding scale,” is about setting up your business so that it keeps going.
“Business gets really fun for me,” he says, “when I can make money while I’m sleeping, on vacation, or working on my next project.” That is what adding scale is all about, and that is the goal of putting in the hard work of starting a business.
As someone who has started 32 businesses, he tells people that the way to be successful is to have the right attitude – don’t get discouraged, and to break the task down. To zig-zag.