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Entrepreneur Leadership Council

Lynn Abplanalp

Lynn Abplanalp,

Senior Vice President at Temkin International
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Start with Why, by Simon Sinek
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Find a problem and solve a problem, then design a product around that.
  • If you can get the market to pull your idea you’ll find that it makes marketing and business a lot easier.
Three notable achievements:
  • Grew a company from a garage and then sold it for hundreds of millions of dollars
  • Raising his kids - still in the process
  • Married to his wife for over 25 years
  • Being apart of the Helitack crew
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • A lot of entrepreneurs are really committed to the product or committed to their idea, and they too often don’t look for outside advice or listen to others.
  • Sometimes entrepreneurs need to look for outside resources and hire some other people who can help them get to the next level.
Areas that you feel most comfortable offering advice to students:
  • Operations and executions.
  • Negotiation, purchasing, and signing contracts are probably the strengths that I feel most comfortable with.
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Committed to Africa -he builds schools there with his family
  • Spends a lot of time mentoring young men at church
  • Serves on the board for Utah County Economic Development
  • Serves on the board for Southern Utah County Employment Development

Jon Black

Jon Black,

Senior Consultant at CFO International
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • The Zigzag Principle, by Rich Christiansen
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination (and the power of God) alone are omnipotent.” - Calvin Coolidge
Three notable achievements:
  • Most notable achievement in my mind is marrying my wife. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
  • Raising four amazing daughters.
  • To be the founder – to found and build a company or companies, and to ultimately sell those companies.
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Not asking customers and getting their feedback. I think all the way through the process as you’re creating, as you’re innovating, as you’re building products or building a company, the customers will tell you what their need is, they will tell you what their pain is, they will tell you how much they will pay.
  • Not talking to potential customers early enough or often enough.
Areas that you feel most comfortable offering advice to students:
  • Innovation number one. I love innovation, I love creating, I love seeing things that other people don’t necessarily see and finding nuggets.
  • Sales, marketing, branding, strategy.
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Very passionate about a group called Operation Underground Railroad where they are rescuing kids that are involved in the sex trade.
  • Serves on the advisory board of Groviv

Curtis Blair

Curtis Blair,

Principal Stockholder at Hoodoo Capital
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Portable MBA, by Kenneth M. Eades
  • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, by Alexander Ostwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • The Zigzag Principle, by Rich Christiansen
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Working 80 to avoid working 40 is worth the effort, time, and engagement.
Three notable achievements:
  • Started 6 businesses
  • Earned the "Attitude is Altitude" award at top tech firm
  • Managed 2 companies into top 10 status
  • Named the SUU Entrepreneur Newsletter!
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Working harder as though everything depended on him/her. It’s important to delegate everything BUT 1) Culture 2) Fiduciary accountability and 3) Vision
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • UVU Foundation Board
  • SUU Entrepreneur Council
  • SUU College of Performing and Visual Arts

Rich Christiansen

Rich Christiansen,

Principal Stockholder at Hoodoo Capital, SUU Trustee
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • The Zigzag Principle, by Rich Christiansen
  • The Business Model Canvasing, by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • The Art of the Start, by Guy Kawasaki
  • Driven, by Larry Miller and Doug Robinson
  • Give and Take, by Adam Grant
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Get a mentor
  • Put guard rails around what you are doing
  • Embrace your fail efficiency
  • Get in and start learning
Three notable achievements:
  • First, I have an incredibly, highly-functional family and marriage, and I’ve still been able to be successful.
  • Second, crossing the bridge from a corporate career to entrepreneurship.
  • Third, learned so much through living such an amazing and incredible diverse life.
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Managing cash flow incorrectly
  • Prematurely diversifying
Areas that you feel most comfortable offering advice to students:
  • Anything but retail

Ryan Dennett

Ryan Dennett,

Partner at Dennett Winspear
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • How to Start and Build a Law Practice and How to Get and Keep Good Clients, both by Foonberg
  • Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury
  • Crushing It!, by Gary Vaynerchuk
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Don't think any opportunity is worthless
  • Be involved
  • Don’t overlook people you come into contact with
Three notable achievements:
  • Maintained law practice for 16 years
  • Ability to maintain a work-life balance
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Not having a firm enough understanding of how business operates
  • Fail to draw distinctions between themselves and a company
Areas that you feel most comfortable offering advice to students:
  • Legal Issues
  • Transportation field and operations
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Clark County Air Quality Control board
  • President of Las Vegas chapter of Safari Club International. Fundraising and support for conservation projects through Nevada and the world. Partnered with Freedom Alliance which supports wounded veterans.

Steve Gibson

Steve Gibson,

Founder of The Academy (ACE)
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • The E Myth, by Michael Gerber
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Start Small, Think Big.
  • Second, “You will never make more money per hour than when you are negotiating.”
  • Third, “Don’t give away equity for things that can be bought, like accounting services, or the most common, for legal fees.”
Three notable achievements:
  • Starting a nonprofit that now has 321 chapters with more than 5,000 meetings every month in the Philippines, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil.
  • First investor with 1-800 Contacts, Ancestry.com, and Omniture. All three companies went public.
  • Sold oxygen homecare company with eight offices to a public company, Lincare, and increased the price they paid by $637,000 in a 20-minute negotiation.
  • Purchased 110-acre development in Boise, ID, and have sold 463 lots to builders in eight years with 145 more lots and 22 acres left to sell.
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Giving away equity in exchange for services or to early employees with big titles like Vice President.
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Educational institutions and scholarships.

Ken Hall

Ken Hall

Board Member at Whitebridge Pet Brands, Director of MBA program at SUU
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Good to Great, by Jim Collins
  • Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim & Rhenee Mauborgne
  • Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur’s Handbook
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Manage personal expenses
  • Ask yourself: Am I ready for this?
  • Create a REALLY good plan
Three notable achievements:
  • Rebranded “Pets Mart” to “Pet Smart”.
  • Career switch: Went from oil & gas engineer to Chief Marketing Officer at Pet Smart
  • Took Pet Smart from a $3 share price to a $50-60 share price during his tenure
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Entrepreneurs jump into business without a plan
  • Fail to stick to a plan
  • Failure to get really good customer insight
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Corporate board for White Bridge Pet Brands
  • Issues of Education
  • Arts

LaMont Leavitt

LaMont Leavitt, 

CEO & President at Innoventrum & InnoviHealth Systems

Your most recommended books for aspiring entrepreneurs:

  • 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson
  • Zig Zag Principle, by Rich Christensen
  • Traction, by Gino Wickman

Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:

  • Identify a need and fill it.
  • Listen and understand the customer's pain point first. They will be much more willing to listen to what you have to offer.
  • Don't market or blast the customer on features. Sell them on why their life will become better after using your product or service.
  • Focus on creating the MVP (Minimum Viable Product).  You will know you have created a good 1.0 MVP when the customer is willing to pay you for it!  That is the cash you use to enhance your product(s) over time making it better for the next customer.
  • Never give up! 90% of success is just showing up even if everyone else says you shouldn't try.

Three notable achievements:

  • Building products that complement each other in Innoventrum & InnoviHealth Systems
  • Creating product lines beginning in healthcare and offerings that appeal to larger market segments.
  • Getting off the employee treadmill and becoming an entrepreneur and now business owner & innovator.

Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:

  • Is your passion good enough to succeed? - Letting your passions drive you is a good thing; However, you must not forget about the other functions that your business needs to function successfully outside of your passion.  Surround yourself with other experts with passions different than yours to have a complete company (Product Development, Support, Sales, Marketing, Finance etc).
  • Wear more than 1 hat! - You don't have to like it!  You will have to wear several "hats" until you have the funds to delegate your non-favorite things. 
  • Let go of the vine! - When you have delegated something you need to truly let it go.  Your employee will thank you for letting them do it their way.
  • It doesn't have to be perfect before you launch.  It just needs the right amount of good to meet the business need.

Areas that you feel most comfortable offering advice to students:

  • Aiding with guidance in creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and scaling the company from there. 
  • Giving direction with key technology decisions (Websites, Apps, Frameworks, etc).
  • Helping them to understand how crucial it is to get to the most important things first, then figure out the rest when starting their business.
  • Identifying the areas of their business that need to be automated.

Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:

  • Being a part of the Entrepreneurship Leadership Council, and enjoying helping young adults learn how to be excited about entrepreneurship and finding their place in this world and making a difference.

Colt Sampson

Colt Sampson,

Founder at Colt Sampson Insurance
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”
  • There are going to be ups and downs but there is life after disappointments.
  • Something may not work the first or even tenth time, but keep chipping away at it and don't give up.
Three notable achievements:
  • Having a family and raising kids. The real glory resides in the progress.
  • Having a family is more about life than any business he's tried to start.
  • Third, made it onto the ELC committee and have the opportunity to be associated with so many other great men and women, and all the wonderful students.
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • It is going to be harder than you think it will be and it'll usually take longer than expected. That is part of it so don’t let that surprise you.
  • People give up and give in way too easy before their time. It is going to be painful, but everything we want is on the other side of pain. Do the little things to keep yourself motivated and in the right mindset.
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Live For Levi foundation - in honor of his son, Levi, who passed away in 2017. The focus is to help families that suffer from tragedy or misfortune and do good in the face of adversity.
  • Personal motto is, “Do good in the face of adversity”

Rich Christiansen

Roger Seegmiller,

EVP/COO at Integrated Lending Technologies
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Zig Zag Principle, by Rich Christiansen
  • The Goal, by Eli Goldratt
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Find someone who thinks differently than you and work with someone who has a different skill set.
Three notable achievements:
  • First, having a good marriage and family
  • Second, starting and growing his business
  • Third, always looking for a way to give back
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Thinking that marketing is the easy thing to do and the easy part of getting something started.
  • Most are fixated on the development of the product versus how you’re going to get the product out there.
Areas that you feel most comfortable offering advice to students:
  • Anything that is process oriented.
  • Good with numbers and accounting.
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Supports SUU and BYU
  • Passionate about supporting the Shakespeare Festival, culture (especially music), and theater

Kary Smith

Kary Smith,

Managing Partner at TouchMD
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Rich Dad, Poor Son, by Robert T. Kiyosaki
  • The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Positive Intelligence, by Shirzad Chamine
  • The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Samuel Clason
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • The will to win is usually more important than the idea itself.
Three notable achievements:
  • Marrying his wife, having four children and grandchildren are his biggest accomplishments.
  • Ability to successfully build and sell companies
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Not understanding cash flow versus profitability
  • Ruin a business by selling too much
  • Make sure they have a solid product offering and a sellable product
Areas that you feel most comfortable offering advice to students:
  • Background is diverse
  • Good at identifying, building, and selling
  • Negotiating
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Involved with Silicone Slopes

Dennis Sponer

Dennis Sponer,

Principal at SRX Advisors
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Choinard
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • “You don't hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.” – Herb Kelleher, Founder of Southwest Airlines
  • Everyone has great ideas – the key is to move on them and act.
  • Don’t be afraid of others stealing your great ideas – get as much input and advice as possible.
  • Cash flow is king. Do not take outside money.
  • Never give away equity.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your financials. Practice open-book management.
  • Be generous with your employees and customers
  • Never lie (but a good salesman can puff)
  • Your job as the Founder & CEO is to sell. You are a salesperson.
  • Hire great people to do the things that you are not good at.
Three notable achievements:
  • My wife and I founded ScripNet in 1997 when I was 26 years old. We kept the company for 17 years and sold it for a 12x multiple. When I see my ex-employees, they always tell me that ScripNet was the best place they ever worked and that we were the best bosses they ever had.
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Overconfidence
  • It’s hard to start a business, you have to work hard, you’ve got to be smart and you’ve got to be a little lucky too.
  • Not firing people fast enough.
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • UNLV College of Liberal Arts.
  • Leadership Las Vegas
  • Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth in Las Vegas

Jason Whitesides

Jason Whitesides,

President & Founder at TouchMD
Your most recommended book for aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Rich Dad, Poor Son, by Robert T. Kiyosaki
  • The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Samuel Clason.
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/favorite quote:
  • Rollercoaster of the highest heights and the lowest lows. If you are not willing to ride and understand that is going to be your life, there’s absolutely not point in getting on.
  • Once you get on that rollercoaster it is going to be hard getting off.
  • Significant other is in the passenger seat so you need to understand that it will take a toll on your relationship, good and bad.
Three notable achievements:
  • Marriage and his relationship with his wife and his children. His family is his first achievement.
  • Building a business from scratch and being able to turn profit - bootstrapping it start to finish.
  • Created businesses that are able to employ. Seeing his employees have enormous success both financially and spiritually in their lives has been a huge achievement for him.
Most common mistake you observe in entrepreneurs/business:
  • Mistakes he has seen from business, not just his own is all fall around the financial aspect of it.
  • Some are too frugal while others spend way too much and grow too quickly.
  • Understand how cash flow impacts your business and how to capitalize properly.
Areas that you feel most comfortable offering advice to students:
  • Understand what it means to capitalize the business.
  • Prepare ahead of time so when you exit it doesn't hurt you.
Charitable interests; boards you serve on, etc.:
  • Working with the ELC
  • Doing a lot for employees who are starting businesses on their own