"Treasure your problems."

That was the unusual advice Bob Parsons, the billionaire founder of web hosting company GoDaddy, had for attendees at the 2019 Inc. 5000 Conference in Phoenix on Saturday.

GoDaddy went public in 2015, and Parsons stepped away from it last year to focus on his charitable foundation and his other businesses, which include motorcycle dealerships, real estate, advertising, and golf. (His golf-equipment company, Parsons Xtreme Golf, was No. 123 on the 2019 Inc. 5000 list.) With so many companies to run simultaneously, Parsons has become a master of delegating. He said he trusts his managers to handle the day-to-day, but insists on hearing about problems immediately, so that he can respond quickly.

"When you get bad news, that's your opportunity to shine," he said. "Any knucklehead can handle the good times, but how you handle the bad times--that's when your measure's taken, and that will determine how successful you will be."

In a wide-ranging session, Parsons also shared other lessons he's learned over his many years in business. The key to being happier and more productive, he said, is living in the moment rather than dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future. That was his experience at his first company, Parsons Technology, where he would sometimes stay in the office writing code for two and a half days straight. "I knew when to stop when I started to hallucinate," he said. He'd go home, "freshen up, sleep for eight hours, go for a run, shower, come back, and do it again. That was just blissful."

Parsons served in Vietnam in the U.S. Marines, and said he credits his military service with many of the traits that have helped him succeed as an entrepreneur. The most important thing he learned, he said, was "discipline--in the sense that if you have a responsibility, and to carry it through is unpleasant or difficult, you have the discipline to do it." 

In response to an attendee's question about how to hire great employees who will drive your business forward, Parsons said he looks for enthusiastic, self-taught people who want to make a difference. "A number of companies place a lot of emphasis on academic credentials," he said. "While I don't ignore them, the thing that I put far more emphasis on is--I don't know any other way to describe it--but a light in their eyes." 

Published on: Oct 15, 2019