by Sam Huang
You’re logging in your tenth hour of work for the day as a startup founder. Or perhaps you’re still in school or employed at a job that excites you as much as watching paint dry. The idea of doing your own thing—running your own startup—is something you’ve dreamed of for ages. But you keep asking yourself: do you have what it takes to succeed? Can you make it as an entrepreneur?
For Lars Uffhausen, being an entrepreneur is about adapting and moving forward even when things don’t look so certain. When he left his native Germany to work as an intern for $7.50 an hour in Silicon Valley, he never imagined that he would run Wolfe Engineering as Chief Operating Officer by the next decade. While at Wolfe, he turned what had begun as a thirty-person job shop into a $110 million company. “I was given an opportunity and the team made it happen,” Lars said. In his spare time, he kept busy by founding other businesses.
When asked about what lessons he learned along the way, Lars had the following words for those entrepreneurs dreaming big:
Lesson #1: You have to focus on something bigger than just money—a vision which drives you personally.
You need to discover what are your personal drivers–your vision–that motivate you across life. When Lars received the offer to run Wolfe Engineering as COO, he took the offer “not because of the money but because of the challenge.” He wanted to prove that he could do it. As for Lars, he cited his personal drivers as a love of learning and a belief in making a difference for those around him. He jokingly calls it his tendency for “getting bored.” “It was never about becoming COO or CEO,” Lars said. “The lesson I learned is that when you create a company that is about money, you can easily get distracted and discouraged because it’s often hard to make money [in the beginning.] It needs to go beyond money with a focus on a greater vision and then the money comes automatically.”
Lesson #2: There are always ups and downs. If you’re afraid to be defeated, you will never be innovative.
Lesson #3: If you don’t change, you become irrelevant.
Lars is someone who you’d say has reached that elusive concept called the American dream. When asked about whether he viewed himself as successful, he recalled a story of a friend, who upon seeing his beautiful house, toys, and family, exclaimed in awe that he had “made it.” Lars, however, is shocked by the idea that somehow he has “made it.” His reaction is partly out of humbleness. But for the most part it reflects an insatiable hunger to create, invent, and reinvent. It’s that hunger—the love for creation in the face of uncertainty—that drives all entrepreneurs.
While Lars has since left Wolfe, he continues to run his other companies Simplicity in Sound and Microflare, Inc. as CEO and founder. Both companies have won top honors in their respective industries.