Why This CEO Gets Excited About Failure

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Maxwell Leadership Thought Leader Don Yaeger sits down with EVOTEK CEO Cesar Enciso to discuss how failure motivated Enciso to go back to the drawing board and create a company based on lessons learned as a wrestler.

In 2005 a young entrepreneur named Cesar Enciso wanted to build a business that provided systems integration that would help technology companies and their clients solve business problems. Like many small business owners at some point in their careers, he failed. Most people who fail tuck tail and hide. Instead, Enciso took notes about his failure because, as he recently shared in a commencement speech, “I actually get excited about failure. I knew the more I failed, the faster I would learn and the more successful I would one day be.”

Fast forward nine years after his initial failure, and Enciso launched a similar company called EVOTEK. Three years into his new venture, the company topped $100 million in revenue, and, in year eight, it reached $500 million. Enciso was inducted into Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame, all while his company was earning the San Diego Business Journal’s Best Place to Work for seven consecutive years.

How did he do it?

It began on the wrestling mat. As a grappler at the California State University, Fullerton, Enciso appreciated the one-to-one relationship between individual effort and success. He also learned another lesson that would serve him well as an entrepreneur in the years to come: that failure is not an end point but a starting point. The key to turning failure into success involves owning the decisions he’s made and, when they lead to a setback or even failure, learning from that failure.

For Enciso, the results of learning proved transformational, but at EVOTEK, Enciso doesn’t apply learning exclusively to himself and his leadership team; he wants everyone in the organization to develop the discipline and confidence to think for themselves, become decision makers and own the results of their decisions. In other words, he wants them to think like owners. They do, and business is booming.

In the podcast, Enciso paints a vivid and inspiring portrait of a company whose employees return the deep investments Enciso makes in their growth and development with loyalty, accountability and independent decision making. Listeners will learn how Enciso has built this culture, including insights into the following:

• Freeing your team from three concerns Enciso says keep most of us in constant “survival mode” rather than a state of creativity.

• Saving enough cash to take care of your employees through even the worst crisis or disasters.

• Discovering a new performance gear you never knew you had, courtesy of U.S. Olympic Champion wrestler Dan Gable’s formula.

• Creating a purpose-driven company culture that values people, planet and profits.

Part of thinking like an owner involves taking informed risks and learning from failure, says Enciso, evoking another one of his sports heroes, Kobe Bryant. “When people think about Kobe, they think about the accolades he earned over his career,” said Enciso. “The thing that people don’t think about is that he shot the basketball more than anybody in the history of the NBA. So he failed more than anybody else.”

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


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