I have been very entrepreneurial as far back as I can remember, always thinking about what type of business could be profitable, how to make businesses profitable and so on. Growing up I liked to play Monopoly, having hours of enjoyment with my cousins and friends, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. So, after graduating it was very natural to start a business with friends from University. We opened a small shop to design and make composite parts (fiberglass, in this case). However, we did not have money and could not invest in product development, so we would sell an engineered solution that, by the way, was made out of composites.
After we grew a bit and could get out of my house (my neighbors were complaining a lot about the smell and the excuse that we were fixing something was not working anymore), we rented a small shop and hired a couple of very skilled guys that could do most of the modeling and fabrication. Since we could not pay much, they did not have industry experience and we taught them how to work with composites.
The company grew slowly and at a certain point we realized that we needed an investor to be able to buy equipment and fulfill the demand for larger pieces and volume. About a year after that I decided to leave the partnership because of a disagreement with some of the practices that our investor was demanding.
That was my first business lesson. One that Howard Schultz (from Starbucks) applied very well to his business when, seeking for investors, refused to forfeit control to the “money guys”. But it was soon after I left the partnership and went back to academia to work on my Master’s degree that I got one of the best, if not the best advice an entrepreneur can get. I was having a conversation with my advisor, Prof. E. B. Mano and sharing my misfortune. That’s when she told me to not worry about that and preserve my entrepreneurial flame for the future. She told me to go find a job and use other’s people money to learn about technology and business. I still remember her words – “do not use your money to make mistakes”.
That’s what I did and it has been a great journey. I learned a lot about composites technology, research and technology management and about the intricacies of the businesses world. Few years later I founded and sold a couple of companies, invested in composites manufacturing, real estate and the stock market. I also helped many other entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. I taught operations, planning, finance, technology management and entrepreneurship at Universities and Colleges. I always rejoice when I meet a former student or mentee and learn about their successes and lessons. But the best of all is that I am still learning, growing and sharing.
So, in a nutshell, to properly use other people’s money to learn you need to:
- Get a job at a company where you can find the human capital that can mentor your growth
- Be careful in choosing what money you use – there is good money and bad money, money that pushes you forward and money that holds you back, as I found early in my career
- If the entrepreneur bug makes you eager to start right away, find the right mentor/coach/educator to guide you – someone you can bounce ideas with no fear of criticism or “bad energy”
And, most important, enjoy the ride and share often!
Jose Cid is a Business Intelligence Consultant, an Educator and Coach. Throughout his life he has been helping people inside and outside of the work environment. His motto can be translated into a simple equation: Knowledge + Intelligence + Action = Power ©. Please visit www.josecid.ca for other articles and services.
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