Master entrepreneurs share their secrets at BizWest seminar

Customers and adversity are among the factors that inspire creativity and fresh ideas, according to three Northern Colorado entrepreneurs who achieved success through lifetimes of work in their businesses.

The three, Susan Jessup, co-owner of Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch; Scott Ehrlich, owner of car dealerships in the region; and Martin Lind, developer of Water Valley in Windsor, all share the distinction of being past recipients of BizWest’s Bravo! Entrepreneur awards. The three formed this year’s Master Class of business leaders in sharing the secrets of their success during an event Thursday evening.

“Our guests provide us with a lot of good ideas,” Jessup said. “They come forward with important and interesting ideas. Also, adversity brings forth ideas. We learn better ways of doing things,” she said. 

And Jessup knows adversity. With the ranch located on the Big Thompson River west of Loveland, floods damaged it at least twice in its existence, and economic downturns from recessions or the current pandemic also hit it hard.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Lind said. He related how the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the creation of a new restaurant on one of the lakes in Water Valley, where patrons can spread out to achieve social distancing and catch fish.

Lind said entrepreneurship means “not looking at obstacles and saying it’s impossible, but looking for opportunities.”

Noting he was strongly influenced by his father, Swede, Ehrlich said he follows the advice he handed down: Hire the right people, don’t be afraid to hire people smarter than you, and let them do their jobs.”

“A positive attitude is also important,” said Jessup. “Believe in what you are doing. My dad’s big idea was ‘don’t worry about what you don’t have. Just get started.’”

Ehrlich said that his dealerships have weathered the COVID crisis but each has its own story to tell because communities vary in how they have responded to the disease. In the end, “concentrate on customers and make them feel comfortable,” he said.

He said that the current recession is markedly different from the 2008 recession. The former recession was more challenging because customers couldn’t always qualify for financing. In this one, the dealerships struggle to have enough cars on hand to meet demand because manufacturers have slowed production.

Lind said the biggest difference between the last recession and this one has to do with changing rules. “We have no ability to plan because the rules keep changing.”

Jessup agreed that unpredictability is unique to this recession. “Don’t let it control you; do the best you can,” she advised.

Entrepreneurs don’t always have success, the three agreed. Lind said he learned through mistakes to get good legal advice up front. “If it’s a partnership, make it a strong partnership with an exit strategy.”

Ehrlich said his biggest failure was not in the car business but in banking when a bank in which he was a part owner and director failed. “I learned more in that than in any of my successes,” he said.

The three shared satisfaction with how their business lives have unfolded. Ehrlich enjoys his role now as “the resource provider,” now that he’s turned over day-to-day operations to dealership managers. 

Lind said he’s now enjoying “a super fun part of my life, where we have horsepower and velocity behind our projects.”

Jessup, who lives and works on the ranch, summed up her career this way: “I’ve never worked a day in my life. When you do what you love, it’s hard to consider it work.”

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

Customers and adversity are among the factors that inspire creativity and fresh ideas, according to three Northern Colorado entrepreneurs who achieved success through lifetimes of work in their businesses.

The three, Susan Jessup, co-owner of Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch; Scott Ehrlich, owner of car dealerships in the region; and Martin Lind, developer of Water Valley in Windsor, all share the distinction of being past recipients of BizWest’s Bravo! Entrepreneur awards. The three formed this year’s Master Class of business leaders in sharing the secrets of their success during an event Thursday evening.

“Our guests provide us with a lot of good ideas,” Jessup said. “They come forward with important and interesting ideas. Also, adversity brings forth ideas. We learn better ways of doing things,” she said. 

And Jessup knows adversity. With the ranch located on the Big Thompson River west of Loveland, floods damaged it at least twice in its existence, and economic downturns from recessions or the current pandemic also hit it hard.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Lind said. He related how the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the creation of a new restaurant on one of the lakes in Water Valley, where patrons can spread out to achieve social distancing and catch fish.

Lind said entrepreneurship means “not looking at obstacles and saying it’s impossible, but looking for opportunities.”

Noting he was strongly influenced by his father, Swede, Ehrlich said he follows the advice he handed down: Hire the right people, don’t be afraid to hire people smarter than you, and let them…