Inc. readers review the film, and discuss Howard Hughes the entrepreneur, and the similarities they seen between Hughes and themselves in this Q&A with Inc.

From The Desk Of:

Jay Goldberg, CEO, Bergino

Ken Panton, President, www.ecityofstyle.com

Brandon Evans, CEO, THREADCOUNTzzz

Inc: Are there any similarities between you and Howard Hughes?

Evans: When you're trying something new, you have a vision and it's kind of hard to articulate to people. He had these crazy ideas that had a lot of validity to them. It takes a lot of work to get other people to buy into that vision.

Panton: He's very hands on, too. No matter how big his company was, he was always a little bit of a control freak. And I know in my biz I'm very much like that until everyone's on the same page. I get adamant. Not to his point, though.

Inc: Are you self-conscious about being a control freak?

Panton: In the beginning, when we launched four years ago, I was very self-conscious. But to be an entrepreneur, you have to be controlling, especially in the beginning.

Bergino: I don't think you have a choice. That's just the way entrepreneurs are. For me, I am controlling. There's no question. But then my products go into retail stores. It's the most important moment, but I have no control over it. The retailers can do whatever they want. It's very frustrating.

Evans: Every little detail I get into it, every stitch. But sometimes you have to pull yourself back to make sales and other things. It's a balancing act.

Inc: How do you balance the desire to have things perfect with monetary constraints? In the movie, Hughes had millions of dollars at his disposal, but most entrepreneurs don't.

Panton: I wish I could call up my accountant, like Hughes did, and just say, "Figure out a way to finance this."

Evans: There comes a point where money's money. You do what you can do.

Bergino: In some ways, it's a blessing to have financial constraints. You have to be a little more creative if you don't have the money. I couldn't relate to Hughes at all. I wish I had Ava Gardner. The one thing that I could sort of relate to was when he had to go in front of the motion picture board to get approval for the movie The Outlaw. All of a sudden, he had a meteorologist playing a doctor to plead his case. That's kind of what happens on a daily basis. You have to wing it. At that point, his money wasn't going to help him.

Evans: I could also identify with Hughes the couple of times he mortgaged everything to keep the business going. As an entrepreneur, you have to bet everything. That's what I did. You really have to be willing to risk everything.

Panton: And you have to convince other people to invest in your vision.

Inc: Would you like to branch out into many different industries?

Panton: I would love that. To start something, get it to a point, and then move onto something else. I love the excitement. Build a business; build a brand that people respect. That's what I'm trying to do. Then move onto different facets of the industry.

Evans: I have a lot of random ideas that don't have anything to do with each other. I threw everything into TC because I thought I could build it. I thought it was amazing when he's talking about building airplanes and bras during the same scene.

Panton: One minute he's talking about hydraulics and a rudder, then the next he's saying, "By the way, fix that bra." That's an entrepreneur.

Bergino: He was out of his mind, but he could do a lot of things well at the same time.

Panton: Multitasking is the trait of a true entrepreneur. Multitasking and delegating.

Evans: He found the best people in his field and so he was able to delegate easily.

Inc: Do you think that the stress of the biz contributed to his breakdown?

Bergino: Obviously, that started when he was much younger. I don't think the stress pushed him over the edge. As a matter of act, that was the only time when he seemed happy. Especially when he was flying. He was in heaven when he was in a plane.

Panton: I used to fly out of Nantucket Island. Sometimes I used to fly by myself. It's a really nice feeling. Then Hughes gets on the ground, and he's back to multitasking.

Evans: I think the highs and lows did affect Hughes. In business, the highs are so high and the lows are so low. It's so extreme.

Inc: What do you do to get out of a low period?

Evans: It's definitely tough. That's why I respect the fact that Hughes was able to make it through the hearing at the end of the movie. When you're up against the wall, you do what you have to do to survive and make things happen?

Inc: How often does that cycle repeat? Every day?

Panton: Every hour. Nine o'clock is wonderful. Then, at 9:15, you get a phone call. At 9: 30, you want to fire somebody. And at 10:00, you get a big order.

Evans: You could be having the worst week, then something happens and you have a great day. It changes day-by-day, hour-by-hour.

Inc: Does that take a toll on you and your employees?

Panton: It takes a toll on me more than on them.

Evans: Same here. You can't share everything. You have to keep your employees motivated. You don't want to burden them with every bad thing that happens, or even tell them how great everything is.

Panton: We had a point as a dot-com when a major car company backed out. I walked around like everything was fine. They don't need to see me being depressed. I need them to maintain a good job. When things are down, I look harder and try to find other solutions. I work harder when the lows come because I'm thinking more.

Bergino: When you get to a low, you have to suspend belief of reality for a while. You have to believe what you're doing, and by you believing, other people will believe too. Otherwise, if you really let you get it down, it will affect your biz. Sometimes it's beyond reason, but you have to believe it will work out.

Bergino: If something's not going well, you have to remember that it's not going well for a lot of people. If they can get through it, you can.

Inc: Is there another company you see as a rival, similar to Hughes and the head of Pan Am?

Evans: One thing that's great about my business is that it's a unique idea. As a little guy, you have to have a unique idea to compete, especially in niche markets. Having a unique concept puts you in your own category so you're not competing. I certainly look at price points and what people are buying, but that's not something I identify with.

Inc: Do you think entrepreneurs are competitive by nature?

Panton: Very competitive.

Bergino: When I worked as a sports agent, when you're a top athlete like Derek Jeter, they think the reason they worked so hard getting to that point is that they assume there's someone out there whom they don't see who's working just as hard. If they don't do it, that unknown person is going to move in. It's not as dramatic as Hughes.

Evans: When he made crazy claims as a kid, I did the same thing. I said I was going to run my own business. So you might not fulfill that potential. You're competing against that.

Panton: My company competes against different magazine, mainly Conde Nast publications. Conde Nast spends 60 million, we spend a little less than 5 million. I look at myself as my biggest competition.

Evans: I'm not even sure if he cared about Pan Am as much as they cared about him. He just wanted to do the things he wanted to do.

Inc: Is Hughes a true entrepreneur, even though he came from money?

Panton: If he stayed with his family's drill bit company, that would be a different story. But he tried different things.

Evans: He also risked everything, regardless of how much he had to start with.

Inc: For someone so wealthy and in the public eye, I wouldn't have thought of him as the great American entrepreneur. Did you?

Bergino: I always knew him as a nut. I didn't know he was in movies, or anything.

Evans: He definitely moves up on my list. He was able to be successful in so many different areas. He's similar to Richard Branson.

Panton: He's the one who really changed the aviation industry. He thought outside the box and figured out how to do things better.

Inc: Did the movie shed any new light on you as entrepreneurs?

Bergino: I think I liked the movie least of anyone, but I liked the entrepreneurial aspect of the story. I was a little disappointed because it didn't really delve more into that. For me, the movie Bugsy did a better job of portraying what it really means to be an entrepreneur. But maybe it's just because I don't like Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor. He just couldn't win me over. That said, watching the movie did make me want to learn more about Howard Hughes the entrepreneur.

Evans: I definitely think it will stay with me. It puts things into perspective. You see how much Hughes went through and you realize that if you have a vision, you have to stick with it and stay strong. You can make a lot of things happen, assuming you were right to begin with. For entrepreneurs, you have to believe you have a great idea and you have to see it through.

Published on: Dec 1, 2004