Thursday, April 12, 2012

40 Years of Life Lessons in Entrepreneurship

I'm committed to finding new ways to do sustainable work. We are in the renaissance age of entrepreneurship globally, and it's just beginning.

I started these posts when growing our last business into one of the most honored startups in the country.

Today is the seventh anniversary for this Sustainable Work blog. What a ride.

My business partner Dave and I invented and manufactured some very cool ways to recycle industrial fluids in heavy industrial plants. In 2005 we were awarded the Small Business New Product of the Year, by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). NSPE certifies the highest engineering standards in the world.

We had wonderful customers on 6 continents including many of the best manufacturers in the world, like Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (photo credit).

We ran this amazing business and manufactured some of our best products right in the county where I live. We also had employees across multiple states. We exported worldwide.

We sold that company in 2007. I started a software company while I developed and taught courses on starting and growing micro-enterprises. I taught these through the great Small Business Center at Waukesha County (WI) Technical College, and online nationwide.

Recently I've had the wonderful opportunity to work directly in economic development across big regions. In one sense it's an entrepreneur's dream job (at least mine) - a great opportunity to create positive change in turbulent times. The Dow dropped 700 points on my first day on this job, and the great recession was officially declared that day.

I remember starting our first business in the early 1970s, when the idea of entrepreneurship was treated as some kind of learning disability. When we sold that enterprise 25 years later, we'd raised our wonderful daughters in the business and helped them through college and into new lives. And we're still all great friends!

Then Dave and I created our green manufacturing startup in a completely new field.

A post from earlier this year sums up my current thinking about the core work of entrepreneurship: "Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled."

Opportunities for creating solutions to important problems are within reach of everyone. I wrote the masthead for this blog seven years ago today and haven't changed it since. You can do it. Welcome.

Happy 7th Anniversary Sustainable Work!


Our award for United States Small Business New Product of the Year by The National Society of Professional Engineers.

Our Fast Company award as one of the 50 most innovative firms in the world, The Fast 50.

Wisconsin's New Product of the Year Award.  This award was presented twice for two different inventions we designed, commercialized and sold worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne. Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-110). Pratt & Whitney chose our inventions for industrial fluid recycling when they re-tooled their two main space manufacturing plants in California creating a global best practice for green manufacturing. Thank you for your patronage Pratt & Whitney, and all our other great manufacturing friends worldwide.

Thanks to all the thousands of customers, friends, co-workers, mentors, and competitors I've had the great honor to work with through 40 years of entrepreneurship. I'm especially honored by my current affiliation with the amazing Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen and of course, our Iowa County (WI) Economic Development Corp.

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