Leadership

Even this 'Dancing With the Stars' champ failed at first

For former "Dancing With the Stars" champion-turned-business owner Maksim "Maks" Chmerkovskiy, the journey to success has been less about pursuing passions than simply refusing to fail.

Chmerkovskiy, who's a co-founder of the Dance With Me Dance Studios chain, told CNBC in a 2015 interview that he was not a natural dancer. In fact, he said he hated it.

But his parents pushed him to learn so he could more easily assimilate after emigrating from Ukraine to Brooklyn in 1994, when he was 14.

Maks, as he was known on the show, says that when he arrived to the U.S., he knew very little English. Because he didn't know the language to communicate, he found he could express himself through dance.

Fast forward some 20 years and Chmerkovskiy is known by millions after appearing on "Dancing With the Stars." He credits his success to a hard work ethic his father ingrained in him at a young age.

"The goal wasn't to be on TV," he told CNBC in a 2015 interview. "The goal was to be successful."

These days, he's finding success in the dance education industry.

"I have goals of just being the next biggest name in dance education — across the U.S. and maybe even the world," he said.

While he's no longer a participant on "Dancing With the Stars," he's found growing his business is just like being in a competition. He's learned by trial and error, and when asked for advice, he recommends a route other than his own. Ever the competitor, Chmerkovskiy cautioned against being comfortable with mediocrity or settling for less in business or in life.

"I don't like 'good job,'" he said. "I don't like, 'You will get them next time.' Why not now? Why not you? Why not do better? Why not create something that has never been created?"

The Ukrainian immigrant and businessman also believes he has a responsibility to the country where he has thrived.

"My responsibility here is to do the best I can," Chmerkovskiy said. "It's not the best I can, according to what I am told. It's the best I can, according to me."

It's a dance champion's standard, and one he intends to continue in business.

This article originally published on July 29, 2015, and has been updated by CNBC.com staff.