A Tale from the Past: What it Takes to Start a Successful Business


I read a blog a few days ago that said you do not need experience to be a successful entrepreneur. So what do you need? Do you need a degree from an Ivy League school or a large pot of money from a notable investor?

Let me tell you a story from my personal experience. I once worked for a man who came from humble beginnings. Sam was the man. Sam’s family had a hard time putting food on the table coming over from the old country. Sam had a brother that did not fit in anywhere so the Sam felt a duty to take care of him. Sam did not make it through high school because he was pressed for his family’s survival.

So what did Sam do? Sam went into the screw business. Now your first thought might be, “who did Sam try to screw?” If so, you have the wrong idea! Sam’s business had to do with making screws in the fastener industry. Sam started in a small garage at home and at first started with selling products, but Sam often told me his success came not from selling, but from buying. Before starting his company Sam worked as a buyer for another company.

As Sam’s business grew, he started manufacturing screws and with a few of his friends formed a partnership and eventually a corporation. Sam had an absolute passion for the business and made it his business to learn every facet of the business. Over the years Sam and his partners grew the business in to an extremely successful business in the industry. The company grew out of the garage to a large manufacturing facility with thousands of high-profile customers.

Sam led the company from obscurity to a thriving business and Sam mastered every person’s position in the entire company. I kid you not! Sam was faster than a marathon runner and would see how every employee performed in their job. Sam followed this routine the entire day, each and every day. Sam showed his passion for the business and did not think of it as work.

I did not mention I came to Sam’s company late after his partners had left or retired. My role at the company was vice president of finance. By this time, the company was already a public company. By the way, Sam could do my job even though he did not have a high school diploma. Sam made it a point to know everyone’s job inside and out. Sam drilled me at lunch each and every day to keep me on track. Sam would let me know when I eventually mastered my job.

Sam started thinking about retirement and sold the company to a Harvard MBA. By the way the Harvard MBA’s name was Ned and he was a marathon runner. Ned bought the company with money inherited from his wealthy father. Every company that Ned bought he started to bring in his own people to manage the company and do everything by the book. One-by-one each company Ned took over started to lose money and eventually failed. Ned was a turnaround expert in the wrong direction.

Sam saw the handwriting on the wall and decided it was time to get out and semi-retire, but Sam loved the business too much and went back out on his own. During our final time together, Sam told me to look for another job because Ned wanted to bring in his own people after he left. I learned more from this job than any job I ever had thanks to Sam.

So why did Sam succeed? Sam did not graduate from high school, but admired others like myself who had a good education. Sam did not have a large pot of money to start. Yet, Sam grew out of his garage to a manufacturing facility and eventually became a public company. What do you think it takes to build a successful company? Did Sam have experience, and, if so, what role did it play in his success? Did Ned have experience in the companies he took over?

Do you have some ideas about why Sam could build a successful company? Do you want to know more about what I think it takes to start a successful business. Learn more.

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  1. #1 by Daniel C. Cudone on March 18, 2012 - 12:46 am

    ATTITUDE, excellent heart and mind to learn what was not know initially, applied love and desire for the business he birthed through a passion that was led by a dream-vision, respect for all aspects of the business, respect for PEOPLE on all levels, and all of the possible positives one could think of. What you might lack in aptitude (be it relative or specific in some way) can be made up with attitude. Also the bible does say in Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

    Thank you for sharing Dr. Harris.

  2. #2 by as3blog on March 18, 2012 - 3:13 am

    Great story!
    Everything is based on love. If you love what you do you will lead your business to prosperity. But if you want just to make cash your chances are very low.

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