Entrepreneurship focus of Kansas City alumni networking event

Posted on Jun 18, 2015 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Kansas City Networking Night Lexmark

The first in a series of business-focused networking events for Kansas City area alumni was held June 17 at Lexmark Enterprise Software in Lenexa. The company’s president and CEO, Scott Coons, was the keynote speaker.

Jim Brown, j’92, president of the Kansas City Alumni Network, introduced Coons, e’91, who spoke to a group of nearly 40 Jayhawks in the massive lobby of the sustainably constructed building, which boasts 240,000 square feet, a dodgeball court, amphitheater, two-story slide and full-service cafeteria for nearly 800 Lexmark employees who work in process and content management software technology.

“We have a lot of fun,” Coons said. “We believe happy employees make happy customers.”

Coons, who will retire in July, has been with Lexmark, formerly known as Perceptive Software, for 20 years. In that time, he’s learned some valuable lessons for building a successful business, including these tips, which he shared with the group:

1. Focus: Our saying around here is, “You’re not defined by what you do. You’re defined by what you don’t do.” Too many times you see project managers trying to solve the world’s problems with their product, instead of just getting the product built and finding its first customer.

2. Put in a little extra effort every single day. Don’t let something that can be done today trickle into tomorrow. Get it done today. Stay a little late or start a little early.

3. Work is never done. Too many young employees don’t know what hard work is. We have to spend a lot of time helping them understand that hard work is the first thing you have to do to be successful.

4. Prepare for a number of short races. It’s not a marathon. Win the first race and move on to the next one. You might not be around if you don’t win the race in front of you.

5. Surround yourself with winners. Give people a great deal of latitude and let them do their jobs. They will make mistakes. Mistakes are fine; they help you learn. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.

6. Don’t always do what you’re told. The experts aren’t always right. Have the motivation to prove them wrong.

7. Listen to your customers. It’s hard to listen to customers when things are going wrong, but that’s when you’ll learn the most from them. Customers will tell you exactly which product to build; you just have to listen.

8. Don’t make a habit of spending more than you make. Some startups get ahead of themselves, and then they’re in a leverage position they don’t want to be in. Do your business conservatively.

9. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Happy employees make for happy customers.

10. Decide who you are and what you are, then go for it. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. You have to make a lot of sacrifice. You have to put in a lot of hours and have a lot of support from family and friends. But if they’re in your corner, they’ll understand the time and dedication it takes to get there.

To view of a Flickr album of images from the event, click here.

—Heather Biele

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