January 22, 2014

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CEO of the Year

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Business Leaders Talk Success through Failure during Sundance

By Rachel Madison

January 22, 2014

My first employee thought he’d been fired almost five times now,” she said. “The fact that he’s failed has made him a better employee because he’s learned so much. We try to share our failures with our employees and show that we are in this together and we’re going to fail in order to have a successful startup.”

One failure that has become a monumental success for Abode is Acrobat and PDF. Warnock said Acrobat and PDF files were first invented by Adobe in 1991. The product was taken to several groups and no one thought the product was good for anything.

I couldn’t believe that people had this response,” he said. “We started shipping it in 1993. It was miserable—no traction whatsoever. The board of directors wanted us to kill the project because it wasn’t an immediate success, but we said there was no way in hell we were giving up on it. Today, the Acrobat business is Adobe’s single largest product. You have to have faith. If your product or business hasn’t been understood, you have to have a certain amount of faith and patience and stick to your guns.”

Gov. Gary Herbert also spoke to the audience, stating that he’s had his fair share of failures as well. His first foray into politics was running for the Orem City Council. He lost the election by 36 votes, but ultimately was able to turn that experience into a success by becoming Utah’s governor.

I certainly learned a lot on the failure side,” he said. “I believe we learn from failure. I learned something when I ran for my city council office. We learn from our successes, but we learn just as much, if not more, from our failures. The free market, capitalistic society we live in is very powerful and provides us with opportunities to try, fail, try, fail again, and pick ourselves up and find a successful route to create products and services. I’m a believer in the American experience.”

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