Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One question: Stephen H. Greer

I don't usually bother with entrepreneur's stories, unless they happen to include the creation of a major company. But Stephen Greer's Starting from Scrap: An Entrepreneurial Success Story coming in March from Burford Books proved to be a compulsive read.

Greer's improbable tale starts with him arriving in Hong Kong in Feburary 1993 at age 24 with a few thousand bucks, no job, not speaking Chinese, and no tangible prospects...other than the idea of getting rich in Asia's economic boom. And he does!

This kid from Pittsburgh ends up building a $250 million international scrap recycling business over the next 14 years. What happens in between is a story that every wannabe entrepreneur should read: first, because it vividly describes the highs, the lows, and the personal costs of starting your own business; and second, because anyone who has ever started a business on a bootstring will tell you it rings true.

My question for Stephen: Looking back, what personal trait turned out to be most important to your success? Here's his answer:

I would say persistence. What I uncovered in my pursuit of success as an entrepreneur is that most things do not come easily and that even if all the logic stacks up behind an idea, it is sweat, persistence, and determination that make it happen.

Along the way, I often wondered if I was going to make it and felt frustrated, if not cheated, that I was not achieving the planned results. Sometimes the problems were beyond my control: employee fraud, interference from corrupt government officials, even Mother Nature. It seemed the harder I swam, the more strongly the current pulled against me. But I truly felt I was doing the right things at the right time in the right place and believed that if I could just overcome the current hurdle, it would be smooth sailing going forward. Of course it was not, but that belief gave me the strength to stay in the battle.

My hunch turned out to be correct and I was generously rewarded when our plans started to achieve success. Ultimately, a large publicly-listed company recognized the value that our hard work had created and bought us out at an attractive valuation. But I think many people would have quit before achieving that successful end result because of the pain that had to be endured to get there.

Of course, my advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs is to strenuously challenge and test the logic behind your idea. But if you still find merit in your plans after that and believe the market will value what you are doing, be tenacious and persistent in the pursuit of your plans and goals.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ITWeb discovers Ayn Rand and Business

It's always exciting to find a book you've written getting attention in the press. In this case, it's Ayn Rand and Business and the press is Mandy de Waal, a columnist on South Africa's ITWeb. Here's what she wrote:

Born 105 years ago, Ayn Rand...is experiencing a major revival. The Washington Post declared Randoids 'in' for 2010; Hollywood is remaking her movies; and Rand book sales are brisk. Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, says sales of Atlas Shrugged are “going through the roof”. Rand's magnum opus made it into Amazon.com's top 50, selling more than 500,000 copies in 2009.

“The explosion in sales of Atlas Shrugged more than a half century after its initial publication is truly remarkable,” says Brook. “People are discovering the prescience of Ayn Rand's writing. They're seeing the policies of Atlas Shrugged villains Wesley Mouch and Cuffy Meigs acted out by our government officials today. They're looking for answers on how to stop government intrusion in our lives. Atlas Shrugged provides those answers, and many more.”

Rand's thoughts have never been more relevant given the global market collapse, followed by government rescue plans and other attempts at controlling markets. Laissez-faire capitalism was always Rand's ideal political-economic system. “It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit,” said Rand. “It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.”

Rand's personal journey was nothing short of astonishing, and saw her transform from a shopkeeper's daughter in communist Russia to one of the world's leading proponents of laissez-faire capitalism. In their book Ayn Rand and Business, Donna Greiner and Theodore Kinni interpret the fiction and philosophy of this staunch and radical champion for capitalism. Not only do Greiner and Kinni clearly explain the fundamentals of Objectivism, they describe how business leaders can integrate these philosophies into their personal lives and industry. Written in the spirit of Rand's own perspective, this business book is anchored in practicality, well organised and goal-oriented...read the rest here