By Kristin Proulx
Students in a Plymouth State University MBA entrepreneurship class got some expert advice on how to start a successful business by one of New Hampshire’s top executives, Governor Craig Benson. On June 14 Benson spoke to 15 students in Professor Duncan McDougall’s New Ventures and Entrepreneurship class in Lebanon. The governor used his own experiences as the head of Cabletron to talk about risk, teamwork, decision-making and workplace culture.
Benson called entrepreneurship a “science of change.”
“No opportunities can happen when things are the same. That’s why I like to force change,” he said. “I did it in my business career and I’m trying to do it as governor.”
He went on to talk about the importance of effective teamwork and risk-taking within a business. When they founded Cabletron in 1983, Benson and his business partner mortgaged their houses and built relationships with bankers and other lenders in order to secure their first small loans. There were years when Benson worried so much about his new venture that he could not sleep, and the company came close to bankruptcy several times before going public in 1989. But just a few years later, Cabletron made $1.6 billion in sales and was rated a top performance stock.
All that time, Benson and his partner kept faith in their ideas. The successful entrepreneur has to be passionate about what he or she is selling, he said.
“If you’re in business to make money, it’s not a passion, so you’ll quit,” he said. “You have to convince the world what you’re doing is right. If you don’t believe in you, no one else is going to believe in you.”
After the lecture, Benson answered questions about a range of subjects, from technology and marketing to his work at Cabletron, then posed for a group photograph with the class.