Parsons brings message of perseverance to SABEW journalists

GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons closed the SABEW 2019 spring conference with a keynote imparting words of advice based on personal highs and lows in his business and personal life.














By Kara Carlson
The Cronkite School

GoDaddy founder, serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Bob Parsons spoke Saturday on the importance of perseverance and being brave in both life and career, recounting lessons he learned from childhood through his current business ventures.

“You need to learn how to look the dragon right in the teeth,” Parsons said.

Parsons closed the SABEW 2019 spring conference with a keynote imparting words of advice based on personal highs and lows in his business and personal life.  The billionaire and former Marine is no longer with GoDaddy but currently runs 16 businesses in a variety of fields including, sports, advertising, production and furniture.

Parsons said the measure of a successful business lies with how you deal with negative news and bad times. He said he makes a point of searching out bad news within his own businesses.

“Everybody deals with the good times,” Parsons said. “But how do you deal with it when it’s tough? That’ll determine how successful you are.”

Parsons is not one to shy away from bad news, or problems in his own companies. With GoDaddy, he recounted debating closing the company after early tough years of little success, before ultimately deciding to “strap (himself) to the mast of the ship and go down with it,” if it came to going under. The dot-com bust came a few short months later, and Parsons credits it with launching GoDaddy’s ultimate beginning of success.

He emphasized sticking with it, even when it gets tough, saying success is often around the corner when you’re ready to quit.

“Every time there was one of these end of the world scenarios that was that preceded our biggest growth,” Parsons said.

The entrepreneur reflected on his childhood and time in the Marine Corps as teaching him some of his earliest lessons on perseverance and bravery.

Parsons explained he technically failed the fifth grade, but out of fear of telling his father, snuck out of the classroom where he was supposed to wait behind and lied about why he never received a report card.

His teacher the next year ended up pulling him aside on the first day of school after a nerve-wracking summed and informed him he had been passed after his fifth grade teacher had no idea what to do about the situation.

“I learned that if you just hang in there long enough things work out,” Parsons joked.

Parsons ultimately credited joining the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war with his lifetime of success.

“They raised me and it was there that I was born in the Marine Corps,” he said.  He said his station in Vietnam was full of casualties, and was an “ambush most every night.”

Parsons recounted his very first night on patrol where he thought to himself amid a panic attack, “I’m going to die here. I’m going to die here. And that’s just the way it is.”

While morbid, he said the thought lifted a weight off his shoulders and taught him an important business lesson: “Accept the worst. And then work on making it better.”

He said he ultimately learned to just take it one day at a time, a lesson he has carried with him through his businesses. His time, he said, taught him the importance of being brave over time and having some backbone.

“They taught me discipline in the sense that if you have a job to do and it’s not comfortable doing it for whatever reason it doesn’t matter, you still got to do it and you’ve got to do it to the best of your ability,” Parson said. “With that when you do it comes a certain sense of pride and satisfaction and believing in yourself.” 

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