5th Birthday Remarks
The best entrepreneurs are always looking ahead - not backwards. It's always about new challenges and not about old news. People ask me all the time which was my favorite business over the last 50 years and I always say that it's the one I'm doing now. No one succeeds by resting on their laurels or reflecting longingly on their past.
I've also written recently that it's for this very reason and their intense focus that entrepreneurs are lousy at saying "thank you". I certainly don't want to make that mistake tonight or waste the chance to thank each and every one of you who helped make this time and this amazing place (as well as the exciting journey to get here) possible. No one today does anything important all by themselves - although sometimes it gets plenty lonely being an entrepreneur as many of you here tonight know very well.
I wanted 1871 to be a model for how all of our member companies should operate their own businesses and - thanks to our amazing 24/7 team (especially Tom, Lakshmi and Claudia) and some very talented professionals (like Barbara Pollack and Jack Keenan) and key partners in the process (like Steelcase, Skender, and Silicon Valley Bank) as well as committed members of our amazing and dedicated Board of Directors - we've become a shining example - not simply for the city and state, but for the whole world - of what a small group of committed and passionate people can do - to enlist and earn the help and support of thousands of others - if they put their hearts and minds fully to the task. Our job was to show people a vision and a path to get there and then get out of their way.
I said in the very first visioning deck for 1871 that you can't build a dynamic and ever-changing place like this with a big book of rules and regulations. You have to bet on the best in people and build a culture of hard work based on expectations of performance and excellence. And that's what I'm proudest of today - the electricity, the energy, and the enthusiasm that abounds here - we model the behaviors we believe in - the ones it takes to be the best you can be. And that's never easy. There's no finish line. There's no end in sight. We just keep moving forward and try to get a little bit better every day.
1871 began as a dream – then an idea – then an experiment – then a business – and now it’s an institution. Institutions have distinct and different obligations than everything that came before them as they grew and matured. They need to persist – and survive – they need to perform and transform at the same time – and they need to stand over time for a single compelling and important idea. In our case, it’s community or Chicagoness. And it's uniquely ours as you’ll hear in greater detail shortly.
But it’s also about the criticality of constant change and unstoppable growth. If you don’t continually raise your sights and reach for something better in this world, you die and an institution’s job is to long outlive its founders and its builders and to exceed even the grandest of the initial visions for it. Dream. Dream again. Dream bigger. And don’t stop dreaming ever.
I think we’re on the right road and I think that the best is still ahead of us if we all help to make it happen. It won’t be easy. Every stage of 1871’s growth has been a challenge. Skeptics, naysayers, critics and competitors. But I've always had the unstinting support of Jim O'Connor, the Chairman of the CEC, to ward off the evil spirits and help drive us always forward.
Of course, that’s what the entrepreneur’s job is all about. Standing up for what you believe is the best direction for the company. Making the hard calls. Stepping on plenty of toes along the way. If it was easy or the path was smooth or the outcome was certain, anyone could do it (and believe me, we’re surrounded by people trying to do it (and do it to us) every day.
Our job – what we come to work to do every day – is simple. We take the uncertain leaps. We lead the way. We build the future. We don’t know any other way to do this except full speed ahead – trying to do the best we can - each day, all day and every day.
And now it’s my great honor and pleasure to introduce my good friend and the man without whom there really wouldn't be an 1871.. JB Pritzker.