As a student and young aspiring entrepreneur, I make an effort to learn as much as I can about how to succeed in the business world, and frequently look to prominent people in business for their advice on innovation and success. I recently attended an event where Jim Bean, the Vice President of Retail at Apple, gave an insightful talk to a group of about 30 students and staff from Drexel University. During his talk, Jim discussed his experiences with success and failure, and gave insight into what he considered necessary lessons for new entrepreneurs. I found the talk very valuable, and wanted to share with others some of the wisdom he imparted.

Here are three things I learned from listening to one of the most successful people in the world today:

1. Take Risks

“Take initiative. Fail. Do it again.” In his talk, Jim stressed the importance of taking risks and not fearing failure. For many, Jim epitomizes success in Silicon Valley, making it hard to imagine he has ever experienced failure. For a young student who does not yet know quite what it feels like to take big risks and accept the accompanying possibility of failure, the fact that he was willing to take the time to share his failures with us made a big impact on me.

He related several instances in his career in which it took failed attempts to accomplish anything substantial. He emphasized that, as opposed to being merely a setback, failure can often provide opportunities to learn and grow. The idea of devoting years to developing a company and finding failure at the end of the road is extremely intimidating, so it was heartening to hear from someone who truly knows the ropes that failure can be a positive and even catalytic experience.

2. Build a Great Team

Jim emphasized how essential a good team is when launching a start-up, and that a terrible team with a great idea can mean nothing. An idea is wonderful, he said, but the team is what truly makes it happen. He also advised that when looking for team members, diversity is immensely important, and that both cultural and skill set diversity are essential in ideation and execution.  New ideas come from different ways of thinking, and these ideas will require careful execution, which in turn will require initiative. Together, the combination of new ideas, good execution, and initiative to make it happen will create something great, and the key is collaboration with a unique, creative, and diverse group of people.

3. Create Something New

Jim made the point that Apple wasn’t just making products— it was creating a lifestyle.  Apple products created a new technological and social ecosystem, introducing things to the market that people didn’t know they would want. Making existing products better is innovative, but there are so many new things to create and introduce to the market. Jim quoted Steve Jobs, saying, “it’s not the most things, it’s the best things.” Though the creation of new ideas involves the most risk, it also has the potential for great reward. These risks may lead to failure, but if that is the case, experiencing that failure can teach you something new. Learning from mistakes and persevering is how an entrepreneur works, grows, and ultimately becomes successful. Jim’s enthusiasm and lessons on the importance of failure, teamwork, and creating something new will stick with me while I create my own entrepreneurial failures and successes.


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