What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is everywhere. As a matter of fact, it’s estimated that about 27 million Americans will leave the traditional workforce in favor of full-time self-employment by 2020. Even throughout the Penn State and State College community, entrepreneurs and their success stories are found in abundance. One man, in particular, manages to stand out with his especially unique encounters in a fascinating field.
Brad Leve, an Assistant Teaching Professor at the Smeal College of Business, is the epitome of a jack of all trades, Renaissance man. Leve’s career trajectory consists of various professions that demonstrate a wide variety of interests and skills. However, the Wharton School alumnus started out like many of us. In his early years, he worked at McDonald’s, in bars and restaurants, as a garbage man, telephone interviewer and a traffic pilot, exemplifying himself to be a man of true work ethic and grit, willing to do whatever it took to reach entrepreneurial success.
In his early post-grad career, Leve worked on Wall Street as a municipal and corporate bond analyst. His career took a shift when, after a few short years, he decided to work with his dad on a startup company, which impressively turned into a multimillion-dollar per year contract manufacturer. At the age of 32, Leve retired as a partner of the company. Through varied experiences and successes in unique career situations, Leve has learned an abundance of business skills and has maintained his entrepreneurial mindset.
Leve states, with modest honesty, “I am not smart. I am not creative.” He credits his success to the art of saying ‘yes.’ He explained how he was able to work his way up quickly on Wall Street by being a ‘yes man’.
“Be that employee that always says ‘yes.’ There’s only one answer for your boss and it’s ‘yes.’ You be the ‘yes’ person. You be the person that always does the jobs, especially the ones that nobody else wants to do. You make yourself invaluable,” says Leve.
What does having an entrepreneurial mindset really mean?
In order to be a successful entrepreneur, one must adopt a certain way of thinking.
According to Leve, “It’s not about you as an entrepreneur. It’s always about end users and your customers…you have to be absolutely 100% understanding of your customers and empathetic of their pain. You have to be a customer. You have to understand that you don’t own your brand, your customer owns your brand.” Thinking like the customer and having a full understanding of their needs is necessary for any start-up’s success. “There’s no such thing as a wrong customer, because if your customer is wrong, you’re wronger.”
Through his ever-changing career, Leve faced many challenges. The decision to leave Wall Street proved to be a massive wake-up call — Leve went from getting his shoes shined at work to doing manual labor for his dad’s startup company. That shift was just one of the many moments that Leve learned from in his wide spectrum of experience within the entrepreneurial field.
From personal to professional challenges, Leve has certainly achieved a great deal, and his career proves him to be a sound source of advice for those with similar dreams. Leve’s current position in the University, teaching Entrepreneurial and Management classes, allows him the perfect opportunity to enlighten the next generation of dreamers right in the heart of Penn State. His love for Penn State’s student body and his unmatched entrepreneurial endeavours combine to create a truly valuable asset for students.
Leve is happy to be “passionate about teaching. I am good at teaching because I am good at whittling things down to simple concepts,” in reference to tailoring his own experiences to the classroom. He focuses on engaging his students, believing that “a class is only as interesting as it is interactive and entertaining,” a promising statement for students who enjoy learning in a hands-on fashion.
Leve passes on the practical reminder that “the hardest part of being the owner of a company and entrepreneur is dealing with insanity, total ambiguity, and managing those things. Because you have no one to go to and if you fail and make a mistake it’s your house, it’s your livelihood and the end of your dream.”
Alongside such a pragmatic statement is Leve’s assertion that “I don’t regret any part of what I have done. It looked like a fun, cool thing to do. I am not afraid to work hard if it’s a comfortable thing to do. So, let’s try it. Let’s do it.”