The Importance of Being Fearless

If you emailed your company’s CEO asking to go out for lunch, would he or she respond? Although Marie Schneegans was only a summer intern in a sea of employees at one of Switzerland’s largest banks, she was too interested to not find the answer. Marie emailed the CEO about getting lunch, and in little time, they picked a time and a place. Marie had a habit of doing this; before she emailed the CEO, she had emailed dozens of employees at her company asking them to grab lunch. While her effort may seem simple on the surface, anyone who knows the intricacies of office politics understands that Marie’s actions took a lot of courage.

never-eat-alone-event-graphicMarie has always looked for opportunities to overcome the disconnect that characterizes the relationships between employees at many large companies, and she recently founded a company with fellow Frenchman Paul Dupuy to help others do the same. Never Eat Alone is a mobile app that seeks to “reinvent the workplace, one step at a time.” By pairing employees working at the same company based on similar interests, Never Eat Alone improves a company’s work culture and facilitates stronger internal networking.

Marie and Paul recently came to Cornell to speak about the importance of being fearless as a part of the Dyson Undergraduate Speaker Series. Their top pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs are shared below:

1) Whatever you do, do it for the right reasons.

Marie and Paul encourage any entrepreneur to “always remember why you started.” The duo noted that starting a business has become a “cool” thing to do, and it may even be easy to raise some money for it in certain cases; however, that isn’t sustainable. To endure the difficult days of business where all the tough work needs to be done, like updating accounting statements or filing legal paperwork, a good entrepreneur needs to have passion. The problem and the vision for solving it should always be at the center of an entrepreneur’s mission.

2) Know that it will be hard.

According to Marie and Paul, a good entrepreneur cannot be afraid of working hard to realize his or her entrepreneurial vision. It will not be easy, and it often requires going out on a limb to pester others to support the cause. While the idea of pestering others sounds negative, as Paul puts it, “It’s better to be too much than not enough. If we can’t get in the front door, we try to get in the back door.” Marie adds that a good entrepreneur will never find an obstacle. In Marie’s words, “There are no problems. Only opportunities.”

never-eat-alone-logo3) Don’t be afraid of failure.

Some ventures will fail; in fact, Paul’s first company didn’t have nearly as much success as Never Eat Alone has had. By learning from his mistakes, however, Paul feels as though he brings more value to Never Eat Alone. Marie and Paul also extend this line of thinking to human resources. If a new hire has been a failure, or, in other words, has not lived up to expectations, it is important to fire that person as soon as possible. Marie and Paul acknowledge their people as their biggest asset in Never Eat Alone. While a lot of people worry about firings creating a negative culture, a bad employee sets a bad example for the rest of the team, which will undermine company culture even more.

For more on the Never Eat Alone team, check out further press coverage here.