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TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts reflects on entrepreneurship

Earlier this year, Midlands Venture Forum (MVF), an Omaha-based non-profit dedicated to creating regional support for entrepreneurs, had the pleasure of hosting one of Omaha’s most well-known businessmen J. Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade. Ricketts directed his talk to entrepreneurs as he explored what constitutes an entrepreneur and how to successfully run a business on your own dollar.

Here is a Ricketts’ biography, which was previously posted on mvforum.com:

J. Joe Ricketts founded and built Ameritrade, the revolutionary online brokerage firm headquartered in Omaha, which provides online brokerage services. Over the course of his career, Mr. Ricketts has been recognized as an international leader in developing new services for the self-directed investor and he continues to serve as a Board member for TD Ameritrade.

Mr. Ricketts currently operates several for-profit and not-for-profit ventures including High Plains BisonThe American Film CompanyJackson Fork Ranch & LodgeDNAinfoOpportunity Education and Citizens Against Earmarks. The Ricketts family also recently acquired the Chicago Cubs baseball team. A native of Nebraska, but now a citizen of Wyoming, Mr. Ricketts received his B.A. degree in economics from Creighton University in Omaha. He is a former Trustee of the American Enterprise Institute, is a former Director of Creighton University, and is a former member of the Board of Trustees for Father Flanagan’s Girls and Boys Town (“Boys Town”).

Ricketts highlighted his personal experiences throughout the lecture. He spoke about buying the Chicago Cubs, which was lead by his son, Tom – an avid Cubs fan. He also spoke about producing the film “The Conspirator,” which highlights the events that took place after President Lincoln’s assassination. The film was directed by Robert Redford and stars Robin Wright Penn, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson and Kevin Kline.

Here is Ricketts’ talk on entrepreneurialism and his personal experiences:*

Here’s an outline of Ricketts’ talk:

  • An entrepreneur takes risks with his or her own money. If you don’t have your money on the line, then you’re not an entrepreneur.
  • An entrepreneur is going to make different decisions because their money is on the line. You have to make these decisions without perfect knowledge because you will never have enough information to make the very best decision.
  • Above all else, an entrepreneur must work hard and learn to sacrifice.
  • Understand that you’re never going to have enough money. An entrepreneur must formulate several financial plans because some of them are not going to work.
  • It’s important to make mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the more you will learn and the better businessman you will be. Making mistakes is inevitable, so it’s best to plan on making them. 
  • Structure your business so it has a story in the end, not just a purpose.
  • Have control over your business. It’s going to take twice as much time, energy and money for it to function.

*Update 1: 10:30 a.m. – Video of Rickett’s talk is temporarily offline, it will be re-posted at a later date. // Update 2: Thursday, September 16, 9 p.m. – Edited video of Rickett’s talk re-posted.


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