That Sweet Success You Just Can’t Hack

I never understood it: scribbled in black Sharpie on a piece of corrugated plastic and placed just off the interstate for passing drivers to read, “Want to earn a minimum $120K? Be my apprentice.” There are many “Make It Big” messages promising the fast track to business success and most of them, just like those plastic signs, aren’t worth any more thought than the short chuckle they provide.

That’s why I found myself applauding a little harder this past week at the EY Gala recognizing recipient entrepreneurs for their business success here in Utah. I did not know Sam Malouf before hearing his acceptance speech, but I found his remarks wonderfully simple and very consistent with the business success stories I’m privy to. From Sam, CEO of bedding accessories maker Malouf:

“Thank you for this. As many of you know, I’ve never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur. All I ever wanted to do was own some really nice sheets and maybe drive a fully-loaded Honda Pilot. Now that I’ve checked those two things off the list, this is a pleasant surprise.

I want to give credit to my wife, Kacie, who deserves this as much as I do. Sitting with the Malouf team tonight, I’m reminded that, at some point, Kacie did every one of those jobs — sales, accounting, marketing, warehouse, orders. She supported me while I finished school, she built the business with me, and she continues to be my greatest source of leadership, wisdom, and inspiration.

When we started selling sheets out of our apartment 14 years ago, we didn’t have grand visions about what this would become. Honestly, we just wanted to make a living without going to jobs that sucked. Even though things at Malouf have gotten bigger and busier with greater responsibilities, it is an incredible place to be each day.

I owe an enormous thank you to the Malouf team for ensuring that work is always exciting and enjoyable. Every day, they bring their best attitudes and ideas. They take ownership of their work and lead us to bigger and better things. And they know how to have fun. Even though our accountant may disagree, Malouf is and always will be about the people that make it special.

Thank you to Ernst and Young and the entire Entrepreneur of the Year organization, who introduced us to amazing people doing exceptional work. I have appreciated being part of such a positive and memorable experience. This is truly an honor.”

For some reason the headlines of hard work, a little luck, staying grounded in who you are, and a deep respect for those who’ve accompanied you in the ride hold a little less marketing appeal than the lure of an easy 120K working as someone’s “apprentice.” Sam made me realize how much I’d love to see that message plastered on a billboard on I-15 one day.

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