“We’ve accomplished a lot of great things but this may be one of the most challenging times for Pluralsight in our history as a company. The bigger you get, the harder the challenges become. The more you realize you don’t know. So it’s the foundation you build on, this ability to learn from each other, the ability to surround yourself with the right people and keep surrounding yourself with more of the right people over time. That is so critical to a company’s long-term success.”
Pluralsight has a very distinct culture, one that we have covered extensively on this website. Part of this culture involves embracing three core beliefs — truth seeking, entrepreneurship, and eternal optimism. Through these beliefs, Pluralsight believes that any individual can aspire to greatness, that by practicing these three ideas you can unlock your ultimate potential as a human being.
Being an entrepreneur means valuing failure. You can’t build a business and you can’t grow as an individual if you aren’t willing to try, fail, and then try again. That’s the hardest part of life, but it’s also the beauty. Entrepreneurs realize that success doesn’t happen overnight, it happens through a painstaking process that can take years and years to come to fruition — try, fail, repeat. Entrepreneurs are willing and able to think for themselves, to dream in a way that traditional business says not to, focusing on taking risks with the realization that improvement comes from taking chances and stepping outside the boundaries of ordinary thought.
With that in mind, it seems fitting that Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard was named by MountainWest Capital Network as the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year, recognizing not only his many professional accomplishments with Pluralsight over the last 10 years, but also his contributions to the Utah tech and startup scene as a whole.
“Our core values are what drive us,” Skonnard said. “One of those core values is the word entrepreneur — we are entrepreneurs at Pluralsight, all the way through the organization, with everything that means. That’s why we trust our people, that’s why we give them so much autonomy, because we know entrepreneurs can do amazing things if you let them, if you trust them. I learn from those people throughout the entire organization every day.”
Skonnard was honored at a luncheon on Tuesday, January 19 at the Little America Hotel in SLC. A lineup of speakers (kicked off with a video from Governor Gary Herbert and closed by Aaron’s wife, Monica) remarked on Skonnard’s professional and personal contributions, with Aaron himself delivering the keynote address. Did I miss some of the remarks because I was concerned with pounding some delicious stuffed chicken and vegetables? Possibly, but let’s not blame a man for eating at a luncheon.
However, no amount of stuffed chicken can diminish the banner year Skonnard and Pluralsight enjoyed in 2015: named by Inc., Forbes, and Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the top companies in the world; topped the two million mark in customers looking to enjoy the best technology training available; acquired multiple companies to bolster their already-substantial course offerings; launched a recent re-brand to better represent Pluralsight’s ultimate vision of democratizing professional technology learning; and helped spearhead the Startup Santa book drive that raised over $68,000 worth of books for low-income households in Utah.
“I know Aaron to be a man with tremendous faith, to be a man with tremendous integrity,” said Carine Clark, CEO of MaritzCX. “I know that he has a passion for life and a passion for young people, helping solve some of the biggest challenges we have in the state, not only literacy but how do we make sure young people can dream and have opportunity?”
Entrepreneurship isn’t a path with definitive points marking beginning, middle, and end — it’s a mercurial, constantly evolving, up-and-down journey that rewards as often as it humbles. Even though Skonnard was grateful to be recognized as the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year, he knows that his voyage is nowhere near finished and ultimately, that’s the joy of being an entrepreneur.
“I’m truly honored by this recognition but our journey isn’t over,” said Skonnard. “This is just one moment in time, our story is still being written. The challenges aren’t over. We’ve accomplished a lot of great things but this may be one of the most challenging times for Pluralsight in our history as a company. The bigger you get, the harder the challenges become. The more you realize you don’t know. So it’s the foundation you build on, this ability to learn from each other, the ability to surround yourself with the right people and keep surrounding yourself with more of the right people over time. That is so critical to a company’s long-term success.”