I recently attended a speech by Gary Hoover, founder of BOOKSTOP and Hoovers, Inc. The speech was titled, 'Why Mexico Will Change Your Life'. According to Hoover, most Americans are not aware of the impact that the future of Mexico will have on the future of the United States.
Among other ideas, Hoover laid out eight key steps to creating and building lasting enterprises. These were:
1) Be curious
2) Study history
3) Study geography
4) Be clear
5) Be consistent
6) Serve others
7) Be unique
8) Be passionate.
Smart guy, Mr. Hoover. I highly recommend you listen to him speak if you ever have the opportunity.
Gary's speech got me to thinking about what steps entrepreneurs should take to create and build a lasting enterprise. I don't think it's a 'one size fits all' blueprint that everyone can follow. Rather, to borrow another cliché – there are many roads that lead to Rome. I agree with what Mr. Hoover has to say: his words remind me of how I went about building my own company.
When I decided to launch my company, I was a software engineer fixing bugs for IBM and had very little experience managing people, much less running a company. I understand what it means to be passionate. I had no money, no partners and none of the venture capital firms were interested in giving me any money. But I got creative and we made it work. That was in 1996 and now many of the companies that the VCs did believe are dead and gone. Sweet redemption.
One of the most critical lessons that was hard for us to nail down in the beginning was understanding cash flow and predicting it. We almost went out of business several times in the early years because we couldn't predict how much cash we'd have in the bank more than a couple of weeks into the future. Suddenly we would find we couldn't make payroll which is extremely damaging to morale and continuity. Now, we can predict cash flow several months into the future which is very helpful during volatile economic times. The tools that we use to predict cash flow is a methodology based on QuickBooks and Excel created by our amazing accountant.
What are some of your best tips for building a lasting enterprise?