Duane Spires is a man of many talents. He is an entrepreneur, MMA ring announcer, a dynamic speaker on entrepreneurship, and more. Through his experiences he has faced many successes and failures, but has always come back to create something new, usually bigger and better.
Duane recently spoke to nearly 1,400 students at the 2012 Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) National Conference in Chicago. Duane was a keynote speaker and the emcee for the event. The following is an interview with Duane about his entrepreneurial endeavors and his advice to young entrepreneurs.
Michael Luchies: How many business ventures have you been involved in?
Duane Spires: I have been in well over 10 business ventures in my life. Some had a mediocre level of success, some failed, and some became larger than I had ever planned for.
Michael Luchies: How have you been able to find success as an entrepreneur?
Duane Spires: I have been able to find success by first understanding that there are no “secrets to success.” There is a basic correlation between success and three criteria which are: goal setting, hard work, and the discipline to work through any roadblock along the way. So many entrepreneurs will do an amazing job at writing down their goals and then their lack of hard work and discipline to succeed, actually cause them to fail and ultimately give up.
Michael Luchies: Through reading articles and press releases, it seems like all of the great entrepreneurs of our time never fail. Do all entrepreneurs fail? How are they able to move past and overcome their failures?
Duane Spires: You must understand that all entrepreneurs have small failures along their journey to success. It’s inevitable. In fact, if I ever hear another business owner say that they have never failed, I know they are lying.
The best way to move past and overcome failure is to know that it is going to happen in the first place and not let it crush your motivation. Napoleon Hill, author of “Think And Grow Rich” stated that “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
This message is simple and effective for all entrepreneurs. I feel that if you learn how the failure happened, and then brainstorm a way to improve, you will have a clear picture of what you need to do to become successful. The only way to fail is to give up.
Michael Luchies: At the 2012 CEO National Conference, you were quoted as saying “Failure creates two things: fears if you let it or fortunes if you learn from your mistakes.” Did you have times during the development of your company where fears took over and you almost gave up?
Duane Spires: I always recognized that my fears were simply mistakes from my past sneaking into my present life. I knew that as long as I could create a story about my fears that I could control them and still take action in the face of them. I never considered giving up even when I was afraid because I knew that I would eventually figure out solutions to my temporary business problems/roadblocks.
Michael Luchies: When, if ever, are fears a healthy thing for an entrepreneur?
Duane Spires: Fears are healthy because without them we do not have the ability to realize when we are doing down the wrong path in life. Fear is natural and it keeps us safe. As an entrepreneur, we must respect our human nature to be safe, but still take calculated risks in business. I always tell my audiences that it’s okay to fear something that can actually hurt you like: Fire, sharks, and falling 100 feet to your death, but most “business fears” will cause no physical harm to your body other than bruising your ego.
Michael Luchies: How many times should an entrepreneur fail before they just give up?
Duane Spires: When an idea does not work and is not profitable, I suggest that entrepreneurs should find someone else to mirror who is successful in that same industry. If they cannot find another person who is successful in their same line of business, then their idea may not be worth pursuing and they should try something new. “Giving up” as an entrepreneur is for losers. If I lost my youth sports summer camp business, I have a level of business, marketing, and sales knowledge that would enable me to start a completely different business in a new industry.
Michael Luchies: What advice would you have for someone who has failed running their own business?
Duane Spires: Learn from their past and figure out what they did wrong. Notice I didn’t say figure out what “went wrong.” I feel it’s important for entrepreneurs to take 100% personal responsibility for all business failure. This will allow them to have an amazing level of confidence that their failure could have been prevented, or they have the ability to start a new venture. Lastly, using a fighter analogy, I would say this: Keep in mind that the first step to getting back on your feet when you are knocked out is to open your eyes and look up. From there, you can stand back up, dust yourself off, and fight another round. Even champions get knocked down once in a while.
A lot of great advice from an inspiring entrepreneur. Taking responsibility from failure is the first step to growing from the experience and overcoming it. Thanks to Duane Spires for taking time out of his busy schedule for the interview and good luck in the future.