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Lesson #5: “Hard times are an opportunity for growth”
But that is where Wilson made his crucial mistake. "I didn't negotiate a price up front," he says. "I just went right ahead and cut her lawn twice a week, which added up to about 30 cuts over the summer. When I went to collect, she invited me in for a cold pop, proudly handed me $10, and asked what I would spend it on."
Wilson says he was nothing but "speechless" at the sight of the ten dollar bill. He had, after all, been counting on receiving at least $90 for his hard work.
"I learned a lot about communicating and being up-front and establishing mutual expectations," Wilson says looking back. "In hindsight, a great learning experience and all for a great cause - the widowed neighbour!"
Now that he is all grown up, Wilson says that lesson is no less valuable now than it would have been at the time. In fact, with his constant focus on innovation, he says failure is natural par for the course. What is important is learning from those failures.
"Innovative thinkers are constantly asking the question: How can we make things better?" says Wilson. "No matter what stage you're at in your career or what industry you work in, everyone around you can benefit from new ideas. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box - just because something works doesn't mean it can't be better."
But innovation is a scary thing for an entrepreneur, says Wilson, who warns, "Don't expect not to be afraid. Real courage is being scared to death and going ahead anyway." And, when things do not go as planned, Wilson reassures that, "Hard times are an opportunity for growth. Struggle doesn't so much build character as reveal it."
That is why Wilson has made innovation key at FirstEnergy. "We are always improving. To build a culture of innovation, you have to celebrate it and encourage it. You should always be looking for better, improved, more efficient, more intelligent ways of doing things," advises Wilson.
So what is he doing to encourage innovation? "For example," he says, "we are moving into new offices and we don't want to have a receptionist - it's not about economics, it's about the best use of people. I don't want to have someone stranded at reception to greet the odd person. So we are designing technology that doesn't yet exist for a virtual receptionist. My IT guys are ecstatic. We can't find it so we are creating it."
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