Greg Lambrecht | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Greg Lambrecht


Based in Burlington, Mass., Coravin manufactures products for wine lovers, including a wine preservation opener that pours wine by the glass while preserving the quality of the rest of the bottle.

The Mistake:

I knew that I wanted to be an inventor and an entrepreneur when I was a very young man, and so I built my career around getting into a position that I thought ... would give me the greatest level of control. That was CEO of a business. My start was in 1999, when I founded two medical device companies. I also happened to invent Coravin at the same time. I come out of the medical device field.

I had basically trained myself while at Pfizer how to be successful in the medical device field, and in 1999, I moved up to Boston from New York and worked very hard as CEO of two companies for a while until I was losing hair and never sleeping. I realized I couldn't be CEO of two companies, so I hired a CEO. All the while I was working on the weekends developing Coravin prototypes in my basement, addressing the unmet need that I had as a wine drinker who wanted to drink one glass but keep the rest of the bottle fresh.

I filed a patent on that idea and got some good reaction from friends who tried it, and I wanted to make it into a company, but I didn't want to be a CEO again. I'd spent from 1990 to 2004 building my life around being a CEO of entrepreneurial businesses, when really my best strengths were elsewhere, in inventing technologies. It took me seven more years to start that next company. There was so much I could have done if I'd realized earlier that CEO is not really the best place for me. I'm a founder, inventor and chairman. I should have started the company earlier, I should have backed away from being CEO for both businesses earlier.

CEO is not really the best place for me. I'm a founder, inventor and chairman.

The Lesson:

You need to recognize that whether or not you think you're good at something, there are people you can hire that are better. One of the biggest parts of maturity is recognizing what you're best at, what you're not good at, and how those things line up with what you're passionate about achieving.

I was forced into realizing that when I was having breakfast with a friend who said, “You want to be an inventor, why the hell do you want to be CEO?”

I thought it was the most power, the most authority. But the best way to guarantee success can be to find the best people. Take a moment to find out the intersections between that which you are good at and that which you are passionate about, and decide whether or not that lines up with the role you think you want. You have to be brutally honest with yourself and recognize that, look, I'm just not passionate about this or that. I may be seriously passionate about something else, and if that doesn't mean I need to be the CEO, you will be a happier and more successful person if you realize that early on.

Follow Greg Lambrecht on Twitter at @GregAtCoravin.

Photo courtesy of Greg Lambrecht

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