The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 25, 2014

Reward from risk

OTTUMWA — While the banquet had seven winners of business awards in the audience, the speaker provided tips for those who would also like to succeed.

Some tips: Only bet what you can afford to lose. You don't have to know how to play every instrument to be an effective bandleader. And especially, don't be afraid to fail.

Terry Rich is CEO of the Iowa Lottery. Most members of the audience at the Indian Hills Community College annual Vision Awards event Thursday knew that business leaders go to Rich for great ideas. And he has had some great ones: He helped bring the Blank Park Zoo from being in debt to being profitable, got a tiny town of 50 people a slot on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and developed ideas that made his cable company millions of dollars.

But the ideas were new ideas, innovations which had not been tried. Some were flops or nearly flops.

"If you never fail, you're not taking enough risk," he told the audience at the Vision Awards.

He pursued promoting a new Lottery game by writing in laser on the moon; people would go crazy for it, he was sure. It would be new! It would be innovative! It would lead to a whole new industry of moon advertisements!

It wouldn't work. He said it took a Ph.D from a state university science department to convince him of that.

"Something about atmospheric interference," he said.

He pitched a "million-dollar idea" to the city of Menlo, off a major highway in Iowa. To get people to stop there, they had restaurants and gas stations. Rich proposed the one other thing travelers really want: clean public restrooms. They'd build a new, beautifully decorated bathroom building. Outside there'd even be an area for pets to do their business. He even had their slogan, which could be put on billboards all over the United States: "Urinate at Exit 88!"

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