Someone said they hoped the room was big enough to hold the two giants of Kentucky’s entrepreneurial world — Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder of Alltech, the animal health and nutrition company based in central Kentucky, and the legendary Jim Host, founder of sports marketing giant Host Communications and now CEO of iHigh.com.
The pair spoke to attendees of Alltech’s Symposium 2012, which drew 2,900 delegates from 42 states and 72 countries.
Lyons and Host were asked to present their views of the entrepreneurial world, regarding jobs, opportunities and ideas for starting new businesses, along with absolute dos and don’ts necessary for success.
Born in Ireland and a yeast biochemist by trade, Lyons worked on better ways to use yeast in distilling, but he wanted to start his own company. He moved to Lexington in 1979 to found Alltech, a worldwide animal health company and much more. It employs 2,650 people and does business in 128 countries, with revenues exceeding half a billion dollars annually.
Lyons began by telling the audience how much he admired another entrepreneur, Steven Jobs, the late founder of Apple. Lyons read Jobs’ biography five times, took careful notes and sent them to his colleagues.
“Everything we do today, this man impacted. He changed the world,” said the Alltech founder.
Who are the entrepreneurs who create jobs? Lyons noted that age is no barrier to being successful, with the average age being 55-64.
A handout at the seminar listed 10 of Lyons’ rules for entrepreneurship, but the Alltech chief actually presented 20. Among them: If you want to launch a new career as an entrepreneur, quit or be fired.
“There’s no stigma to being fired,” he said. “It’s quite an experience — a good opportunity.”
Lyons urged attendees to “take a chance, any chance. I don’t care what it is. Just go and do it. What have you got to lose?”
He cautioned entrepreneurs not to offer shares of the company to others. He said partners rarely align their individual dreams, but he also advised entrepreneurs to make sure they are adequately financed.
“Sell, sell, sell” was the next tip.
“It’s an honorable profession,” he said. “Do what you have to do.”
Lyons also lauded partnerships, like the one Alltech forged with the University of Kentucky, among many.
Lyons suggested that entrepreneurs should work to “appear successful.”
“It all starts with you — how you look, your image, attitude, confidence, humor and creativity,” he said. “Who wants to buy from someone who [appears miserable]?”