University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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Sept. 25, 2003


Successful Entrepreneur Offers Advice at UW-River Falls

By Sarah Matara

UW-RF News Bureau

Mark Lacek, a global leader in the development of airlines travel perks packages and business customer loyalty programs, offered advice on how to be a successful entrepreneur during a presentation at UW-River Falls on Sept. 25.

Lacek, who is a 1979 graduate of UW-RF, is the chief executive officer, president and chairman of Milepoint Worldwide, an Internet loyalty application and technology company.

He was selected as this year's executive-in-residence and spoke as part of the UW-River Falls College of Business and Economics Celebration Week.

Lacek's presentation was titled "Never Give Up, and Other Lessons Learned from a Serial Entrepreneur." He spoke of his own experiences in business and life and gave insights on how to be successful in any business endeavor.

"There's no one way to be successful in life, no silver bullet, no magic arrow," he said. "If you really want something in life, you can have it."

He offered such advice as seeking the support of mentors, never letting people say an idea won't work, having fun with a career, surrounding yourself with trusted people and most importantly, never giving up.

He says that he has learned through his experience that the key to a successful business is making customers believe that there is no better company for them.

"If people sense that you don't believe in what you're doing, that permeates and people will stop believing in you. Fake it 'til you make it."

Lacek said that he has always been an ideas person. He was responsible for WorldPerks, Northwest's frequent flyer program and strategic and business partnerships. In 1993, Lacek co-founded Lacek Group Worldwide, a global marketing company, which soon became a full-service marketing agency and managed loyalty programs for Delta Airlines, National Car Rental, Starwood Hotels, Chase Manhattan, MCI and Singapore Airlines.

"We started out with five people. We even named our company Worldwide to make everyone think we were." Lacek said.

The company soon grew to 200 employees with revenues of $45 million. In 1997, Lacek formed Lacek Development Company and developed a real estate complex in Siren, comprised of a hotel, restaurant, real estate office, movie theater, retail shops and a hockey arena.

In 1999, Lacek and his partners began Milepoint. Lacek concluded his presentation by declaring that no one should be afraid to take risks, because what is the worst that can happen?

"If you think you're going to fail, I can almost guarantee you that you will. People always regret risks not taken.

"Don't focus on money and don't let anyone steal your dreams and tell you you can't do it. Happiness is what matters."

Lacek's appearance was sponsored by Pierce-Pepin Cooperatives.

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