January 22, 2014

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Business Leaders Talk Success through Failure during Sundance

By Rachel Madison

January 22, 2014

Park City — A group of company founders and CEOs joined together Monday afternoon at the Sundance Film Festival to discuss the failures their companies have had—and how it led them to success later on—which lined up with this year’s theme of failure at the festival.

Zions Bank, the Sundance Institute, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and USTAR have joined forces over the last six years to host this event, which aims to foster business networking while highlighting Utah’s business and tech-friendly environment for out-of-state business leaders visiting Park City during the Sundance Film Festival.

The panel of speakers included Amy Rees Anderson, managing partner and founder of Rees Capital; Priyanka Bakaya, founder and CEO of PK Clean; and Dr. John Warnock, co-founder of Adobe. Moderating the discussion was actor Kevin Rahm, who currently stars as Ted Chaough on Mad Men. He’s also had successful roles on other popular television shows, such as Desperate Housewives, I Hate My Teenage Daughter and Judging Amy.

Rahm spoke of the failures he’s had as an actor over the years, from the time he attended Brigham Young University as a budding actor to the time in Hollywood when he had 12 different screen tests for various television shows and didn’t land one. That’s when he realized the importance of failure.

My perception shifted of what failure meant,” he said. “My goal at the time was to get the job. It wasn’t to do the work. But then my perception shifted. No longer did I go into the room to get the job. I started to accept failure as a way to become better. My goal was to do something that was interesting to me. It was to see if I wanted to work with them, not just get the job.”

Each of the company founders discussed failures early on in their careers, how they handle failure when their employees make mistakes, and how much risk they believe entrepreneurs should take when it comes to starting their own business.

Anderson said she sat down with her executive team and set a rule that any employee in the company can make any mistake once, but can’t make the same mistake more than once.

We decided that the first time you make a mistake, everybody will get your back and help you fix it, but if you make the same mistake twice, you’re on your own,” she said. “That led to an environment of safe risk. It gives people courage to try new things and make mistakes.”

Bakaya said she was raised in a way where she was taught to embrace failure, which has helped her to succeed in starting her Salt Lake company.

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