Doug Burgum is the remarkable entrepreneur who founded Great Plains Software and sold it for over a billion dollars (now Microsoft Dynamics GP). In a keynote address to aspiring business entrepreneurs and company founders, Burgum focused his remarks on four values that he explained are the keys to success: Passion, Courage, Perseverance, and Gratitude. Here are excerpts from his address:
Passion: Burgum’s advice: Do what you love and love what you do. Find passionate people and channel their passion. Become a “dangerous dreamer” by dreaming with your eyes open.
Courage: Burgum mortgaged his farm and faced numerous rejections from traditional banking and financial services institutions. You must be willing to take risks and surround yourself with like-minded colleagues with the courage to “do the right thing for others every day” no matter what.
Perseverance: The Great Plains IPO was 14 years in the making as the new company met challenges and made mistakes. Burgum noted that Thomas Edison had over 2,000 failed attempts when inventing the light bulb. When asked about these failures, Edison responded that inventing the light bulb was 2,000-step process. Similarly, Chester Carlson had seven years of rejections before his copy machine idea was bought by the company that became Xerox; and the Wright brothers endured 700 glider crashes (didn’t get the idea of using wheels right away) in the four years prior to their famous powered flight at Kitty Hawk.
Gratitude: This value pulls it all together for Burgum. No one can make it alone. Whether it’s the great colleagues that surround an entrepreneur, the family member believers, those angels who funded the first round, the company that acquires yours, or the banker that coordinates your IPO. It’s never just you, it’s all those who helped along the way. Paraphrasing Margaret Mead, Burgum summed it up this way: “Never doubt that a small, committed group can change the world.”
My take on Burgum’s keynote is that he is spot on—these values do indeed form the foundation for success. And I would add that once this level of achievement has been reached, giving back to the community might very well be the fifth key value for entrepreneurial success.