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Pete Petersen, 39

CEO and managing partner, Dealers United

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  • | 5:00 p.m. October 25, 2018
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  • Class of 2018
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Focus is crucial for Pete Petersen.

“I run my life off my calendar,” he says. It’s important, Petersen says, for people to guard their calendars like their homes. “You lock your home every night, you take care of it, you wash your dishes, you have to clean it all the time.” He says people should do the same for their schedules, asking, “Are these the most important meetings I could be having?”

Petersen has to maintain focus. He’s at the helm of Sarasota-based Dealers United, a company that specializes in digital marketing for the automotive industry.  

“I always say the best and worst part of my job is people,” Petersen says. He finds joy in seeing employees succeed and watching them experience life events, like buying their first house. But, he says, “People are also the most unreliable.”

As a leader, he believes in investing in himself through training, education and by building a mentor network. He also believes in failing forward. “Looking back, I’ve failed many times, probably more than I’ve succeeded,” he says. It’s about recognizing when you’re on a sinking ship faster, Petersen says, and that kind of self-awareness comes with experience. “Failure turns into that reward when you can push through it in the right way.”

In his last career, he says, he learned a good lesson when he was he was handed the reins on a big project for the first time. Petersen outsourced the project, later realizing the product wasn’t built the way it was supposed to be built. “I thought for sure I was getting fired,” he says. “But the CEO looked at me and said, ‘I would be dumb to fire you. Make sure you don’t fail twice in the same spot like this.’” It was a great example, Petersen says, of a leader looking at failure as an investment. “It really resonated with me my whole life.”



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