Category: Local Hero

“An army is good when you have training and structure; and command and control. But I’m still a geurilla at heart.” – John Morris

A company of one can be agile and react quickly.  It’s exhilarating.  If you grow, it does’t last.  Employees need to be managed.  Boards need to be managed.  Management requires structure and discipline.

It’s said a startup needs three CEO’s – The million dollar man, the ten million dollar man, and the one that grows the company past ten million.  Sometimes that’s the same person but usually, it’s not.  Each step requires transition that can be painful, especially when the founder/CEO is not the one for the job.

Know yourself and know when it’s time to find the next leader.


“Don’t complain about the things no one taught you. Go learn for yourself!” – Karl Hughes

No one owes you an education.  It’s YOUR responsibility. And you can’t get it all from the university.  They will give you frameworks and ideas but you have to figure it out.  A degree means you did it someone else’s way.  You still have to find your own.  Here is a short list of where to get an education in order of preference.  Of course it’s my opinion but feel free to make it yours.

  • Experience
  • Mentors
  • Collegues
  • School
  • The Cloud

Read Karl’s Blog –


“The second mouse gets the cheese” – Rayford Johnson

This is a witty response to “the early bird get’s the worm.”  There are a lot of ways to interpret its relevance but here are a couple of thoughts:

  1. The first mover carries a heavy burden.  It takes a lot of time and money to change the culture and you will probably be short on both.  If you have an entrenched competitor, you have to convince your market to not only buy something new, but to rip out what they have been using for a long time.  This is called change over cost and it can be prohibitive.  In fact many business models leverage it.  Take  It’s a great app that is  cheap and easy to get started with and by the time you have all your business processes running in it, you will be very reluctant to move to something else.  Then they have you.  A good strategy is to find an underserved nitche that no one else is competing for and dominate it.  Then move to the next and the next.  Geoffrey Moore calls this the “bowling pin strategy.”
  2. The second thought is to be constantly observant of the the market, your customers, your competitors.  A certain amount of paranoia is healthy for a business.  Be agile so can can adjust to a sudden change in technology or the winds of a new market.

Happy Birthday to “mama Gazelle”

“It’s extremely unlikely that we will starve” – John Morris

A friend tells the story of his decision to start a company.  As most people do when they have a major decision to make, he consulted a trusted advisor.  In this case it was his wife.  They listed all the reasons for and against and they discussed all the risks.  At the end they came to the realization that if it all blew up, they could always do something else.  They were not going to starve.

Risk, especially entrepreneurial risk, is relative.

“There’s a difference between failing and being a failure.” – Chris Miller

The man went to the CEO’s office to report that the $100,000 project was not going to work out.  Fearing loss of confidence, demotion and worse, he apologized for failing the important project.  The CEO wisely replied, “It wasn’t a $100,000 failure. If it had worked, we would have made millions but it didn’t.  Turns out I only paid $100,000 to find that out it.  Sounds like a bargain.”

Shots on goal are the only ones that score.


“Entrepreneurs are the spark plugs in the engine of the US economy” – Grady Vanderhoofven

Money is of course the fuel but entrepreneurs are the fire.  Communities need to embrace their entrepreneurs.  They are the ones hiring and creating new jobs.  It’s great to have a new manufacturing plant move in but most likely, they left somewhere else and they can leave you when the economics dictate.

But it’s a long term play.  It may be two or three or four years before startups reach 25 employees.  So, have a lot of them.

And failure?  So what?  If a company forms, raises $2 million, hires 25 people, pays them great salaries for 5 years and does’t make it, why is that not a good thing?  They payed taxes, bought cars and refrigerators, office supplies and paid office rent.

Then again, they may grow to be worth $billions.

Home grown companies tend to be sticky.  After all, they chose your community to get started.  They must like it there.  Make sure they don’t leave.

“Do more and more with less and less until you can do almost anything with almost nothing.” – Lee Martin

Live frugally so you can invest in your dream.  Treat your investor’s money like it’s yours.

Don’t buy the $2,000 office chair.  Get the cheap  one from the used office furniture store.  Stay at the Hampton Inn, not the Downtown Hilton.  Fly coach.  Focus on the things that add value like R&D and marketing.  Outsource the rest like payroll and accounting.

Cash is king.  If you run out of it, they turn the lights off.  Marketing is as important as R&D.  Save some cash for both.

If you need to raise $2 million what could you do with only $1 million? Or $500,000? Or $25,000?  The most expensive money you will raise is the first money.  Have a plan for every dollar.

“You don’t have to be great to get started. But you have to get started in order to be great” – Michael “Doc” McIntyre

Get started.  Now!

Don’t develop the perfect product. Get it in the hands of your customer as soon as possible and get feedback.

Start with the business model you have and iterate.  Let the market help you figure it out.

Greatness is a decision and a journey.  Not a birthright or destination.

Get Started!