Two GW alumni gave aspiring business leaders pointers Thursday night on how to become a CEO before age 40.
Richard Crespin, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of The Delve Group, Inc., and Jon Klonsky, principal and partner with Something Digital, shared their experiences in the business world to an audience of about 25 in Funger Hall that included undergraduate and graduate students and GW alumni.
Crespin received a bachelor’s degree from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 1993, and Klonsky received his master’s degree in Public Administration in 1999. The pair used their own business successes to give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
“We have no recipe for what it takes to be successful,” Klonsky said. He and Crespin each stressed that flexibility is important for starting a business. Audience members were able to direct the lecture through questioning. Questions focused on the extra hardships young people in business may need to overcome.
“There are lots of resources you can use … never let anything become a legitimate obstacle unless you take the time to think it through,” Klonsky said. Crespin emphasized the importance of failure, citing it as the most important step to take in becoming an entrepreneur.
“Failures are just stepping stones to success,” he said. “The way you learn is overcoming failure.”
Lecture attendees were also interested in their business options as recent graduates. Crespin noted that there are many opportunities available after college that have little to do with a major or minor. He originally wanted to be in the diplomatic corps, but he soon ended up in business. The way he succeeded, he said, was by constantly pushing himself to go further and never becoming satisfied.
Klonsky, an English literature major, agreed that area of study during college has little to do with career success. He said the most important thing to take from a college education is written communication skills.
“You can’t underestimate the power of written communication,” he said. His liberal arts degree led him to several different career paths before choosing business. He attacked the idea that young graduates should follow their passion in choosing a career.
“You’re not passionate at 22,” he said, “Pick something you enjoy and you have no choice but to grow from that.”
Elliott School alumnus Nikhil Agarwal thought the presentation was beneficial.
“It was pretty helpful; it’ll give me some ideas,” he said. He is not planning to start a business in the near future, but he sees it as a possibility.
“This helped me keep in mind that I need to look down the road,” Agarwal said. He said he thought there was too much information to fit in the hour and a half time slot.
This lecture was the last of three “How to Become a … ” presentations this semester. There will be three more next semester. The series is co-sponsored by GW Alumni Association, the Career Center and Class Council.
Crespin is the president-elect of the GW Alumni Association.