Frederick William Penney

From law to media and business, Frederick William Penney shares wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs

Studies show that a growing amount of millennials are fearful of starting a business, but California lawyer and media mogul Frederick William Penney says aspiring entrepreneurs can discover their talent by conquering that fear.

Recent surveys show that over one-third of Americans are deterred from entrepreneurship, and the number grows among millennials. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, as of 2018, 41% of Americans aged 25-34 do not engage in start-ups due to “fear of failure.

Before entering the legal world, Penney said he was confronted by the reality of potential failure too. But the key to success, according to him, was consistently visualizing what success looked like to him.

“Many people have seen the success I have had in business and wonder why they cannot reach that level… However they forget or do not know that I grew up with little to no money,” Penney prefaced. Penney said, at the time, many of his colleagues were given advantages which weren’t afforded to him, prompting him to “grind” in law school.

“I will never forget, after many years of grinding school, looking out the third story of the law school I attended,” said Penney, a graduate from J. Reuben Law School of Brigham Young University. “Up on the hill were big beautiful homes that successful people had built. When I would get down, or was tired of studying… I would just stand there for 10 minutes or so and stare, saying quietly to myself ‘patience Fred, patience’.”

In 1992, Penney began to construct his vision of success into reality by starting the Penney and Associates law firm in Sacramento, California. The firm took on, and won, a series of challenging personal injury cases, granting him an increased profile in the California legal world. His success also allowed him to grow his firm, opening new offices in the southern California area.

Penney says, though it was sometimes intimidating, millennials may find an undiscovered talent when they commit themselves to a task. He likened his experiences to that of an athlete; allowing yourself to engage in business can enable you to find and refine your talents, just as athletes do by training.

“I truly believe that some business savvy comes more naturally to some rather than others. This is no different than an athlete that has natural ability over others,” said Penney. “That does not mean that, by hard work, an athlete that does not have the ability of others will not become successful. They will just need to work harder at it.”

To Penney, fear of failure should not deter aspiring entrepreneurs from engaging in business. Rather, it should encourage them to learn from their mistakes, sharpen their skills, seek counsel from those experienced, and continue to work.

“ I have found that building a successful business, one has to use everything at their disposal to learn and educate themselves…it is important to surround yourself with successful people that can help you grow and that you can watch and learn from,” said Penney. An example Penney says he looked to as a student was his father, who taught him not to “relish” in small victories, but think of them as steps toward a larger goal.

“He would always tell me, ‘Fred when you are in neutral you are going backwards.’  Thus I have learned, when you think you have reached a worthy goal there is no time to relish in the victory,” said Penney.

“It is ok if it takes you ten years to build your business,” advised Penney to aspiring entrepreneurs. True success, according to Penney,  may not be immediate. But failure is a necessary step in the pursuit of success.