Thursday, February 7, 2013
Standing in front of hundreds of students, Michael Simmons asked the question, “Who wants this ten dollar bill?”
Hands flew into the air, while some even shouted, “Over here!”
Simmons repeated, “Who wants this ten dollar bill? It’s right here! Anyone can get it!”
Deciding not to wait any longer, one eager student raced down to the front, hopped on the stage and grabbed the ten-dollar bill from Simmons as he gave her a high-five.
“It’s all about action,” Simmons explained to the crowd.
It was action that made Simmons the successful young entrepreneur and author he is today. He co-founded his first business, Princeton WebSolutions, at 16. Later, while studying business at New York University, he wrote The Student Success Manifesto, an award-winning bestseller that outlines how to plan, prioritize and pursue your own vision while changing the world.
Simmons detailed his failures and successes in the Townsend Center on the University of West Georgia’s campus. The Thursday night seminar was a part of the Richards College of Business BB&T Lecture in Free Enterprise series.
After years of running a successful business as a teenager, Simmons’ company failed when the dot-com bubble burst.
“All of the clients went out of business and didn’t need the services,” said Simmons. “My business partner and I kept putting money back into the business hoping it would turn around, and it never did.”
“At the time, I remember going through the different stages of being poor,” he recalled. “From not being able to hang out with friends, to credit cards being declined and living in a bug infested apartment.”
Simmons says that it was that moment that transformed his life.
“I first learned that failure doesn’t exist,” he recalled. “I secondly learned that what we call failure is not really failure, but it’s an opportunity that forces you to make the necessary changes that you really want to see in your life. Remember that pain is good. The most important lessons I’ve learned about life came at the most difficult moments.”
Simmons, who today owns his business with his wife, is the CEO and Co-Founder of Empact, which is the largest showcase of the best companies started by young entrepreneurs. Empact brings the young CEOs of these businesses to college campuses to teach students about entrepreneurship. By encouraging other young people to start their own businesses, Empact helps build the global community of entrepreneurs.
He believes that now is a better time than ever to become an entrepreneur, despite what the media says about the recession.
“Although you may not see it, everyone in the world figuratively has their hands raised with a problem they need you to fix,” he said.
Simmons challenged the students to put themselves in situations where they are vulnerable and feel uncomfortable. He believes that these situations foster learning some of the most important lessons life has to offer.
He concluded his lecture by warning the students to be cautious of fear. “The biggest thing from where you are now and your goals is fear, because everyday you will second guess yourself,” he said. “The biggest mistake is that people don’t get started, and they don’t keep going whenever there are challenges. Most entrepreneurs fail at their first and second businesses before they create that successful one.”
The program ended with a question and answer session, where many of the students had the opportunity to ask questions. Several students also received a copy of Simmons’ bestseller, The Student Success Manifesto.