Alumni Profile: John Luce, BGS, College of Literature, Science and the Arts

Luce, center, receives award for business achievements

Luce, center, receives award for business achievements.


Successful Michigan entrepreneur and U-M alum John Luce has grown his business by embracing opportunities to modernize and grow. And he credits an entrepreneurial spark for helping him achieve his goals at an early age. As an important supporter of U-M’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through Innovate Blue, Luce is helping to awaken the entrepreneur in Michigan students campus-wide.

Tell us about yourself.

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1989, suffered through one and half years of mind-numbing corporate work before escaping to join a small family-owned business in Flint, Michigan.  I eventually acquired an interest in that business.  Together with my business partner, we grew that business by five times while modernizing it, expanding our service offering across several new brands and stretching our footprint through the U.S. and into Canada.

What entrepreneurial skill set do you wish you would have learned as a student?

I wish I would have learned to ask for help and not wait until I was older to get involved. I have learned that if you have a goal and respectfully ask for help – you usually get it.  I can’t tell you how many times I said “I’ll do that when I’m older” or “somebody should do that” – well, why not now and why not me?  Be informed, be motivated, be succinct, be involved, and do it now.

Why stay connected to the University?  And support this experience for all students?

I’ve been fortunate to achieve many of my life and career goals at a young age, which allows me tremendous flexibility in how I spend my time. I love the University of Michigan. I am awakened when I walk on campus and inspired by the great minds and energy around me. Innovate Blue provides me a platform to hopefully give back to the institution which has provided me so much. I may not know anything about instructing a class, but I know the magic that can happen when you awaken the entrepreneurial spark inside of a young person. With me, that spark saved my soul.

“I know the magic that can happen when you awaken the entrepreneurial spark inside of a young person. With me, that spark saved my soul.”

I would not have survived in a bureaucratic monolith. I needed room to breathe, to stretch my legs and to run.  Hopefully, I can awaken that spirit in others and give them the guidance that helps them stay on track and achieve their goals.

Why is entrepreneurship education important?

Entrepreneurship generally leads to innovation, increased competition, and evolution. If we awaken the entrepreneur in everyone, the result will generally be a better place, and a better outcome.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as an entrepreneur?

People remember how you make them feel.  An entrepreneur’s early work involves a lot of human interaction – you need to sell investors on your idea, you need to convince others to join you as you build a team to launch your idea, you need to convince regulators on the virtues of your invention, etc. Often you are working on an innovation, a new idea, so the work is more difficult. Always remember that people will remember how you make them feel. Life is a series of relationships and relationships that make us feel good tend to last.

What is the hardest lesson to learn as an entrepreneur?

“Have your foot on the gas, but always be ready to pump the brakes.”

You can’t chase every rabbit. Opportunity abounds, but time is limited and resources are finite.  When you taste success, you thirst for more. However, you have to exercise restraint. Grow within your means. Do your homework to make sure that you are using your time and resources to achieve the goal that you have decided upon. Those are hard choices to make when you are building. Have your foot on the gas, but always be ready to pump the brakes.

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