I have had the good fortune of working with two great entrepreneurs-both Mike’s. The first was prone to speeches. He taught me about negative cash flow financing before it became fashionable. He was the consummate relationship builder and strategist. He also was a voracious reader that was always trying to improve his vocabulary and knowledge of history and business. This Mike was a character-he did three start ups-the third one survived and prospered. I think of this Mike and a broad smile comes to my face.
The second one was the farmer in a tuxedo. He started a business so he could pay for his kids to go to college. I always said that I felt better after talking to him than before we started the conversation-still do. When thinking of this Mike it brings a big over the top smile too.
This Mike had folksy quips similar to the great business leaders that get lots of air time today:
1.On leadership, “My job was to make sure everyone wanted to come work in the morning.”
2.Any time someone left the work place he felt bad. “We needed that person or else we would not have had a spot for them.”
3.On a salesperson’s job, “Nobody in the factory has anything to do until we have an order. Go make it so.”
4.On acquisitions, “if you want to buy a business be prepared to overpay for it.”
5.On diversity of all types in the workplace, “I like a mixed jar of nuts.”
6.On marketing materials, “use the finest grade paper and inks on your marketing materials and you can extract a 16% price premium.” Mike read that somewhere and implemented it.
7.On encouraging new business development, “high profit margins hide a lot of mistakes.”
8.On vision-“Always make the company look bigger than you are today.”
9.On innovation “if I knew how hard it was going to be to launch that product I never would have done it…but I’m glad we did.”
10.On thinking out loud as a business owner, “if I make a suggestion, the next thing I know someone is in implementation mode.” Most CEO’s embrace this type of follow through.
The key to learning from both was to hold firmly onto their belt loops because you knew it was going to be one heckuva ride-fun and harrowing. Thanks Mikes!