A Thursday evening discussion with an acquaintance over cigars, as retired Navy Chiefs, we were amicably discussing the Navy “salty” life, adventure, and places familiar to each of us around the world. With a lifetime of experience including travel to the same parts of former Soviet bloc countries, we then opined on 21st Century socialist nations. While rigid politically, some tacitly approve of workers ‘capitalist’ use of an underground economy to support their families. He illustrated discussing the merits of fine Cuban cigars he obtained. Skilled cigar rollers have access to tobacco, paper and other accessories to make – after the day’s production was completed and inventoried – some personal cigars to provide under-the-table income. He learned of accessing such side channels during global business travel. And tonight, the ‘entrepreneurial’ wheels in my mind started turning. In a Progressive future, there will always be those who obtain – and those who will then purchase – a premier cigar.
Continued from Thursday, 9 August
Common sense is a very important attribute to entrepreneurs. Articles written for Entrepreneur.com, Reuters, the New York Times, and studies by universities all investigate the characteristics of those who start a business, develop a market, create an industry, or adapt a technology. While many are not satisfied working for someone else’s vision, it is more difficult for innovators and skilled workers to start out on their own. The latter may be no less motivated to succeed but the risks in starting a business, losing investment, failing, time spent making improvements or tinkering on the next venture often hold the majority back.
Years ago, when I went to work for a small business, I asked the small group who formed that technology business how and why they started. It was a product that they were all experts supporting, and improving, and when the corporation decided there was not enough profit to continue supporting it, these engineers stepped up. The military customers were still actively deploying these systems so, as entrepreneurs, the men formed a company, bought the contract, and networked with the stakeholders. It lead to additional work.
Seeing a market where there was none, and understanding human nature, an entrepreneur is a visionary. As I enter my sixtieth year, I have seen several ideas grabbed by entrepreneurs become world- changing products like the personal computer ( I had interviewed with IBM in 1986 but decided the Navy was more promising than a “personal” computer). Netflix is a huge company today, with an internet distribution network, it’s own productions, and ever-growing valuation. I decided to forego investment in Netflix when it was a buck or two in the early 2000s – because I thought the DVD market would dry up.
Another entrepreneur is Kevin Plank, CEO of UnderArmour. Creating a line of athletic clothing that wicks away moisture, his products have been worn by soldiers, sailors, NFL players, college athletes, and even retired Senior Chiefs. Wearing a UnderArmour shirt with the “I served”, it not only is functional when I am working out but is a statement. After working for an entrepreneur for more than twelve years, I see a lot of value in his vision of the company as an internet services company (satellite) that services seamless connectivity on commercial, business and military aircraft, as well as secure networking systems.
I need to get more serious about my other ventures, particularly marketing. Common sense. Vision. Understanding people. Maybe I should revisit that Tony Robbins interview.
I had a great conversation Wednesday evening at my “rest stop” on the way home from work. With my evening commute often taking an hour and a half or more, sometimes I meet my wife for her dinner break at a Japanese-style poki place nearby. I enjoy the sushi poki bowls at the one place, but the clientele’s average age is about a third of mine. I know more people at the Starbucks across their parking lot than at Poki. Now that I am more earnest about healthy living, my other haunt, a cigar lounge, also near her work, is someplace I only stop in once or twice a month. The cigar place is a comfortable spot, like the fictional Cheers lounge in the 1990s TV show of the same name. But with banter over cigars in place of alcohol. I get recharged with some great conversation, which in turn generates ideas for blog posts.
Entrepreneurs, engineers, teachers, male nurses, mechanics and delivery drivers frequent Liberty Tobacco. Retired military men talk sports and politics. Some talk classic cars and motorcycles. One of my acquaintances is a Ferrari delivery driver. Another is an engineer who travels around the country to install or repair equipment at some large manufacturing companies. Tonight I chatted with a Navy veteran turned software engineer. We talked engineering and designing the apps that he puts on the cycling machines found in high-end gyms and rehabilitation studios – the ones that feature pelotons, scenic rides, or other distractions for indoor training. We talked about Amazon web services and designing web applications. One of the new tools I heard about tonight is called TERAFORM which to most bloggers in my WordPress community is likely an uninteresting topic. But to engineers and web designer geeks – and me tonight, an opportunity to talk about one’s passion.
For couple months now, I have been dealing with a complex engineering issue at work. But this week I have had the opportunity to work with a brilliant peer. He is analyzing by means of a methodical series of software images he redesigned, clues to a particularly irritating unknown failure in a device I have been troubleshooting. Until I started working with him, we knew “when” it stopped working, but did not know the “why”. Even an old Senior Chief is open to learning something.
After working forty years, I realize that there are two types of people and two types of challenges I enjoy. Entrepreneurs, like Virgin company’s Richard Branson; my employer, Viasat CEO, Mark Dankberg; or my former college Russian professor who started an immersion language and travel program 40 years ago. And the second type are technical experts, be they engineers, mechanics or horticulturists. To my shame, my onetime boss, a construction foreman- I was in my early twenties – retorted to my arrogant comment about my apparent lack of skill, that he never met many geniuses but he would always take a “dumba%% with common sense” in his line of work.
To be successful as an entrepreneur, a person requires initiative, unyielding determination and great insight into human nature. An interview I watched online featured Tony Robbins who is an expert in human nature. He has coached people to reach inside themselves and conquer their shortcomings for nearly forty years. Understanding what is important to one’s client, customer or consumer, and how to satisfy their particular problem or need is key to becoming successful. Innovators may develop a revolutionary product or service. But it is the entrepreneurs who change the world by solving a problem for people with that innovation.
(To be continued)
If you should happen to be in the San Diego region or know someone who is, particularly a Active Duty or former service member considering a home purchase, I can highly recommend Doug Diemer as a loan officer. He treated me very well, made the process of a VA refinance loan easy and has followed up with me quarterly. There is a lot of noise in the mortgage refinancing industry. And it helps to have someone to recommend.