As is often the case with news stories, we couldn’t get everything we would have liked into our recent story on entrepreneur Lee Anderson who won a prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year award.
Anderson, 70, is owner and chairman of APi Group, Inc., which has more than 30 companies in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, including several in Duluth. He’s also is a partner in A&L Properties, a Duluth-based commercial real estate development business that’s helped develop local projects such as the Wieland Block and Technology Village.
In a rare interview with Anderson from his home in Naples, Fla. , he also shared with us his greatest safisfaction, some thoughts about business partnerships and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
On his legacy
You’d think that building his father’s small plumbing supply business into a $1.6 billion privately held corporate conglomerate would be Anderson’s legacy. APi Group, based in New Brighton, Minn., is successful, profitable and continues to grow.
But Anderson said his greatest satisfaction comes from giving up one-third of his stock 25 years ago to make the corporation partly employee-owned. As a result, many of them are wealthy today.
“I get a lot of satisfaction out of that,” he said. “Employees work harder because they’re shareholders and revel in our success as much as I do.”
“I think that is my legacy,” he continued. “the fact I’ve been able to share the ownership of this company.”
When it comes to business investments, Anderson would prefer to use his own money.
“I’ve been very lucky or successful in doing business deals on my own, rather than rely on others to invest for me,” he said. “I get a lot of calls from people, asking me if I would like to do this or that. I inevitably turn them down. I would rather be in charge. If I’m going to lose my money, I want to do it myself.”
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs
If you’re going to start a business, try to do it on your own, Anderson says.
“It’s almost impossible to do, maybe you don’t have the capital, but if you can, I recommend that you do it without taking partners,” he said.
And do persevere, he says.
“Of course, you never give up,” he said. “You have to keep working at it until you make it happen.”