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The Entrepreneur Inside Every CSO

Aug 24, 20083 mins
IT Leadership

What does it take to be a successful CSO or CISO? While there are entire books on this topic, one important attribute is to think like an entrepreneur. No, I’m not talking about starting a side business. I am talking about a focus on the customer, confidence, energy, perseverance, integrity and care for others.  

Like many of you, I wear many hats. Besides being Michigan’s CISO, I am also the Director of the Office of Enterprise Security. I also chair boards, serve on committees, lead brainstorming sessions, and much much more. Given the tough economic times in Michigan, I even get involved in aspects of economic development at times.  It was wearing this hat that I ended up on a mailing list from Wayne State University for Michigan entrepreneurs and small companies.  

Check out this excellent interview with Mary Ellen Sheets, Founder and former Chief Executive Officer of the very successful TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® 

Here’s a small excerpt (but read the whole interview):  

Q: What are some of the challenges that you have, personally, overcome to become the successful person that you are?A: “I was divorced with 3 teenagers. I didn’t know anything about moving, franchising, accounting and yet I built this huge company. Moving especially is a good old boy business. I persevered and ignored them. So I will say it again — Focus on the customer.”Q: Do you feel education or experience plays a more vital role in being an entrepreneur? Or is there another key quality that is even more important?A: “I was not educated. I didn’t finish college, although I wish I had. Perseverance is more important. So is integrity. And above all, customer focus!!!”Q: What are the barriers to becoming a successful entrepreneur?A: “Fear, laziness, dishonesty, being cheap, not giving back to others, mistreating employees…”Q: What do you see as the two biggest challenges facing new start-ups or small businesses today?A: “Lack of confidence; not believing that you can do it. Being afraid to change. Hanging on to your day job.”

While some readers may be thinking: “what does this have to do with being a CISO?” Successful CSOs will have a very different reaction to this interview. Her answers made me think, “That sounds like my job!”   Integrity is absolutely job one.

Our security world is always changing. We constantly need to adjust our thinking, solve the next problem, drink from the firehose and most of all persevere through the good and the bad.  Using a famous hockey analogy, we must know where the puck is at and respond by skating to where the puck is going … 

Bottom line, successful CSOs come alive in difficult circumstances and rise above the situation. When the going gets tough, we get going. We look a lot like entrepreneurs – because we are.  


Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist and author. During his distinguished career, Dan has served global organizations in the public and private sectors in a variety of executive leadership capacities, including enterprise-wide Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles in Michigan State Government. Dan was named: "CSO of the Year," "Public Official of the Year," and a Computerworld "Premier 100 IT Leader." Dan is the co-author of the Wiley book, “Cyber Mayday and the Day After: A Leader’s Guide to Preparing, Managing and Recovering From Inevitable Business Disruptions.” Dan Lohrmann joined Presidio in November 2021 as an advisory CISO supporting mainly public sector clients. He formerly served as the Chief Strategist and Chief Security Officer for Security Mentor, Inc. Dan started his career at the National Security Agency (NSA). He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a US / UK military facility. Lohrmann is on the advisory board for four university information assurance (IA) programs, including Norwich University, University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), Valparaiso University and Walsh College. Earlier in his career he authored two books - Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web and BYOD For You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work. Mr. Lohrmann holds a Master's Degree in Computer Science (CS) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and a Bachelor's Degree in CS from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

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