Just as education and expertise are essential to entrepreneurial success, so are foresight, innovation and courage. If he's learned anything, he says, business success follows "a singular focus in creating something new, something different, something people want, then being able to produce that product or service that fills that need, and doing it cheaper and better than what's available."
He followed that formula in the list field and is following it again, providing high-value, low-cost business and sales leads via Database101 and Infofree.com. It's all about delivering what he terms "the wow factor — when the customer says, 'This is great, this is what I've been looking for.' I think a passion to excel in that sense makes a person an entrepreneur. You have to have the vision, you have to be observant as to what need is there in the marketplace. And then, of course, you've got to be able to take a risk.
"Believe me, before I started InfoUSA, I had two other businesses where I failed—an Indian furniture import business and a semi-precious stone import business. I lost a bunch of money, I had a lot of debt. I never thought I would be able to repay that." When the list business proved profitable its first year, he paid off his debt and never looked back. As he's discovered, setbacks are inevitable—it's what you do with them that matters.
"A failure is not a failure, it is like a learning experience," he says, "and just like I tell my employees and my sons, 'Never be afraid of failure.'"
Decades of success have not left him jaded. He still enjoys starting new ventures. "It's always exciting to hire people and to create new opportunities and to gather together a family of talented people."
Though he takes "great satisfaction" in what he's accomplished, he says, "you cannot just look back, you have to keep on moving forward."
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