Andrew Limpert | Crain's Utah

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

Andrew Limpert


FireFly Automatix designs and manufacturers robotic and automated Ag-tech equipment, specifically in commercial turf harvesting and mowing. The firm believes its equipment and processes can help family-owned farms combat high labor costs.

The Mistake:

I was a young man with a tremendous amount of ambition and energy, and underestimated the challenge of business.

It's so complex, so challenging as far as relationships, so challenging as far as capitalization.

To make a more distinct statement, I failed miserably, many times.

I get what I want by building under people, which is sort of counterintuitive to the dog-eat-dog world of business.

The Lesson:

It's those early stages that then came to bear fruit with FireFly, were that generally, things take two to three times as long as you ever think. There's a great deal of personal sacrifice to build a company. Whether it's going to kids ball games, or vacation time, or whatever happens to be, and I wasn't willing to give those things up, early on. I thought you could have your cake and eat it too, but you just can't in business.

The same with the money. When you look at budgets for growth plans and factories, and what it takes to attract talent, it's generally three times what you budgeted. With FireFly, those things all came to bare, and still 20 years and 25 years into a career, you've learned some lessons. I went into this one with my eyes wide open. Even with that preparation, it was still extremely challenging, and many nights I would lay in bed wondering what in the world have I gotten myself into.

So, the saving grace of our company is an extremely compelling technology in a very strong macroeconomic trend of robotics and automation. Our problem was we had a great idea. We had a great product, but how can we build it? So, wherein it used to take us two months to build a harvester, we can now build one in four days. That's an overnight success that took 20 years

This experience has also made me more realistic on timelines. So, not necessarily a desire to be right, but to be accurate. It's forced me to refer to experts, and what I call, "believability opinionators." People that know better than I do. It's a realization [that] you have an MBA, but that doesn't mean anything about inventory management or control. So let's go and get people that are experts in this field and mind their expertise. Where perhaps as a young man, we're a bit cavalier and energetic, and overzealous, and instead of getting that kind of advice or direction, we just jump into the fray.

As we develop people in our business and they become actualized, and to become the best manager or best salesperson, best CFO they could become, that in turn drives economic success for the company and for all of us as stakeholders. So, I get what I want by building under people, which is sort of counterintuitive to the dog-eat-dog world of business.


Follow FireFly Equipment on Twitter at @FireFlyEquip.

Pictured is Andrew Limpert. | Photo courtesy of FireFly Equipment.

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