The following excerpt is from the keynote speech that Mr. Welcome W. Wilson, Sr. delivered on September 24, 2013 at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s 2013 eSchool Graduation presented by Amerisource Funding.


This is your graduation, so I am going to give some advice to you new entrepreneurs:

Number 1. If the term had been invented in the 1940’s, I would’ve been known as a schmoozer. So my first word of advice to this graduating class is to learn how to schmooze people that can help you. Sometimes this can be hard work, but let me promise you it is worth the time and effort.

Number 2; As an entrepreneur, don’t ever go against your instincts, if an expert gives you advice, don’t act on it unless you agree with it. When I say experts I mean; lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers. These were the experts that I relied on in my early days and for the first few years I would always follow their advice religiously. Even if I felt they were wrong in my gut. That is a mistake. Never go against your gut feeling.

Number 3: After you have a modest amount of success, you will begin to feel that you are invincible. It happened to me. When Lyndon Johnson was president the economy was booming, every business was succeeding. I gave all the credit to myself. I thought I was smart enough, fast enough, to get out of any situation. I was wrong. There are certain things of which you have no control of, particularly the economy. So don’t think you are invincible because you are not.

Number 4: If you have a setback or a failure, large or small, don’t suck your thumb about it. Analyze the failure, develop your next plan, and forget about the failure.

Number 5: Never burn a bridge, and never lose your temper. Lyndon Johnson used to tell me that, “You can tell a man to go to hell, but you can’t make him go.” The person who hates you today is likely to be your good friend and supporter five years from now.

Number 6: Be persistent. Don’t give up, have faith and persevere. After World War II Winston Churchill addressed the military academy at WestPoint. He was given an elaborate introduction that last two minutes and he walked to the podium and after a pause he said, “Never give up, never give up. Never, never give up”. And he walked back to his seat and sat down.

Number 7: Never argue with a stranger. Save your arguments for people you love. The idea of getting emotionally upset with someone you have never met before in your life and will unlikely ever see again makes no sense. Just smile and walk away.

Number 8: Remember people’s names. When you meet someone, tell yourself that, in the next minutes, you’re going to have to stand up in front of 50 people and introduce them. Anybody can remember names If they take the trouble to do so. A trick I use is when I meet Sam, I will start the next 5 sentences with his name. Sam, XYZ, Sam, PDQ. Remember the most beautiful sound in the world is a person’s own name.

Number 9: Don’t under-dress. Dress like you are an important person. When I was a student at the University of Houston I learned that by wearing a neck tie with a dress shirt, everyone on campus assumed that I was an employee of the university. I could go to the head of the line in the cafeteria, I could go behind the counter in the book store. If you wore a tie on campus, they assumed you were somebody important.

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