Doug Lebda, CEO, chair, and founder of Charlotte-based Lending Tree, offered the closing day of the CED Tech Venture conference five principles for creating a successful entrepreneurial company.

Looking and sounding a lot like the actor Tom Hanks, Lebda said he still tries to get his people at Lending Tree to “Think and act like entrepreneurs.”

For most successful entrepreneurs, Lebda said, “It’s about increasing your odds.” He offered his five principles for doing that.

First, he described the “Bird in the hand” principle. That’s, “Who you are, what you have, what you know, who you know. Don’t start a website about banking if you don’t know anything about banking.”

He said, “When I was a kid, I did a lot of entrepreneurial things. I knew sales, accounting and a pissed off customer.”

The Crazy Quilt principle

His second principle: affordable loss. “Manage against the risk you can afford. Mine was one year. I thought, what if I give it a year? I can always get a job.”

Third, he suggested “The crazy quilt principle.” Look for barter, look for no cost opportunities. Ask, “What would it take?”

It is amazing, he said, “The number of entrepreneurs who don’t know you can trade things.”

Asking “what would it take” can work wonders, he said. “What would it take for you to join my company? One person he sought to hire was too expensive, so he asked, what would it take for you to join my board? The tech expert jumped at that, which, Lebda said, “Got other top tech people.”

He encourages his sales people to ask, “What would it take for us to get 100 percent of your business?”

Make lemonade out of lemons

Fourth, he added, “The Lemonade Principle.” When you start a company, he said, “You never know where it is going to come out. Turn lemons into lemonade.”

That means, he said, “Leverage contingencies, everything is an opportunity, don’t be tied to a specific outcome, and pivot.” Lending Tree itself has “Been a failure about six times over 20 years.”

Even when something bad happens, it can be an opportunity, he explained. They tried, early on, to acquire a bank customer. “The bank just wanted a website,” Lebda said. “So they paid us a couple million for it and we used the money to build our technology.”

Pilot the plane

He concluded with principle five: “Pilot the plane.”

“Control the future versus predicting the future,” he said. “Create your own markets. Who knew banks needed to compete for your loan? Who knew we needed search engines?”

Additionally, he said, “Do effectual hiring and stay close to your clients. You need to be able to continually pivot around your center.”

Framed propertly, “Entrepreneurship is a great way to run a business. Entrepreneurs are almost always happier than others in business because they control their own destiny.”