Go Start Something: Live Life on the Edge

Go Start Something: Live Life on the Edge

by Jan Collmer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469763682
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/01/2012
Pages: 164
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.35(d)

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iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Jan Collmer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4697-6368-2

Chapter One


A beginning entrepreneur can learn a lot by observing other successful entrepreneurs. Take every chance to visit entrepreneurial enterprises and try to get to know some of the successful people who have started and operated them. Their habits are worth emulating. Just a bit of Internet research will provide you with a huge amount of data on successful companies.

South west Airlines has been one of the most successful entrepreneurial ventures of modern times. Southwest was started by two bright young men, a pilot and a lawyer. Southwest was started with a very minimum of capital, three airplanes and barely enough money to operate, but they had a really big vision. Early in their corporate life, they even had to sell one of their planes to raise cash during crunch time. While they may have been short on capital, they were long on concept, commitment and courage, plus an abundance of chutzpah! Southwest's founders and management also had the most necessary ingredient for the entrepreneur, a positive mental attitude! I mention more about mental attitude later.

Herb Kelleher, a lawyer and one of the two key founders, even hawked company stock shares at a booth at the State Fair of Texas to raise operating funds. Nevertheless, in spite of many difficulties, Southwest grew and Herb and the management team he assembled built one of the most successful enterprises in America. Southwest was almost undone in the early stages due to a shortage of capital but they managed to overcome. Adequate capital is very critical to all companies but especially to startups.

Southwest crept into the airline business amid vicious political resistance and years of litigation. There were massive efforts attempting to block Southwest's access to its home base, Dallas Love Field. Southwest's management continued a process of slowly leveraging their very limited capital and borrowing capacity as they developed the business. Southwest is now one of the top airlines in the United States, or the world for that matter.

Southwest came into existence in the late 60s and successfully developed the intra-state market for air transportation in Texas. By serving only Texas, Southwest avoided the federal regulatory System that was operated by the Civil Aeronautics Board. At that time, government allotted routes and federally set pricing prevailed in the National Air Transportation System.

Love Field proved to be unique in that it was supplanted by a much larger airport in 1974, the DFW International Airport midway between Dallas and Fort Worth. All the airlines in existence in 1968 had signed contracts to relocate their services to the new airport when it opened. Since Southwest did not exist at the time of the contract signing, they were not a signatory and refused to leave Love Field in 1974. Southwest's refusal to relocate to the new airport became the focus of the intense political and legal battles with the other airlines, the two cities of Dallas and Fort Worth who had financed the new airport and DFW airport itself attempting to force their relocation and/or block him their use of Love Field.

When airline deregulation was passed by the Congress in 1978, there was huge concern that Southwest might now provide service for all of the United States from Love Field. If so, the major airlines might need to retreat from DFW international to Love Field to remain competitive. Sensing a major disaster for the western half of the metropolitan area, specifically Fort Worth, Congressman Jim Wright wrote an amendment, known as the Wright Amendment, which restricted Southwest's nonstop operations from Love Field to destinations in Texas and the four states bordering Texas. A new ticket and rechecking of luggage was required to fly into the rest of the United States from any of those border state destinations.

In the period from 2006 to 2008, intense negotiations brought about the successful end of the Wright amendment. While the final chapter ending the Wright Amendment will not be complete until eight years after the final agreement, significant improvements in the status of commercial aviation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were achieved. I had the pleasure of being Chairman of the Board for DFW International Airport during this period.

One of the most important keys to Southwest's continuing success has been their strict attention to a clear mission plan and an incredibly positive mental attitude. The "Southwest Spirit" is required for every member of the Southwest team from the top to the bottom. If people seem incapable of this company-wide positive mental attitude, they're usually not hired by Southwest. Southwest's operating focus has from the beginning been short haul routes using just one aircraft type, the legendary Boeing 737. Southwest has never wavered from this operating philosophy. All pilots, flight crews, gate crews, baggage crews and maintenance technicians are capable of working on any of their aircraft. Some airlines have seven or eight different types of operating equipment vastly complicating the management and scheduling challenges for the airline.

Aircraft diversity is usually required for a combination of domestic and international service. Examples of diversified airlines are American Airlines and Delta. Southwest functions only in the US (This may change in the near future as Southwest continues to develop new routes, perhaps to Mexico and beyond). So far, Southwest's focus on domestic short haul passenger traffic with just one type aircraft has been their key to more than 40 years of amazing highly profitable growth and marketing success while many other airlines, both start-ups and mature legacy carriers went bankrupt.

In my opinion, the incredible success of Southwest Airlines from their very beginning is closely related to their intensely positive mental attitude. There are few attributes more vital to an entrepreneur. Herb Kelleher is the best examples of great positive mental attitude that I know of. I think Southwest Airlines presents an excellent model to any entrepreneurial business, large or small.

Another good friend of mine, Bob Alpert, a towering example of positive mental attitude and a successful real estate entrepreneur, shared an interesting quote with me a few years ago: "a dollar borrowed is a dollar earned and a dollar paid back is a dollar lost forever"! I am not sure Bob coined that quote, but it is a good one! The use of leveraged debt can be an essential element in any new and growing business and is absolutely essential in the real estate business. However, leverage can viciously cut both ways: you can win big but you can lose even bigger, as happened to many busted real estate entrepreneurs in Texas in the early eighties. But, it is clear to me that the clever use of leverage and a positive mental attitude are the ham and eggs for the entrepreneur.

The Dallas region, my home, is filled with incredible examples of highly successful entrepreneurs over the last half of the twentieth century.

Many of the businesses that we enjoy today in our everyday life started as entrepreneurial ventures with no assurance of success. Norman Brinker started a restaurant in Dallas, Texas: Steak and Ale. He used that first restaurant in Dallas to develop a formula that he later spread far and wide. Brinker eventually sold Steak and Ale to Pillsbury but he then used those funds to build an even more massive food service enterprise, Brinker International, with Chili's Restaurants headlining the company. He later introduced many other great food names that we see in the malls of America today.

A number of years ago, my wife and I visited a new startup restaurant concept of Brinker's, Macaroni's Grill, just after it had opened. We were stunned to see Norm Brinker (by then a big-time CEO) sitting at a customer table located near the kitchen where he could observe every server's activity. He had a note pad and a number of other documents at hand. We walked back to say hello and find out what he was doing. The answer: Norm was looking for improvements in the service quality and the efficiency in his new restaurant concept. He did not send a staff person to do that job; he was doing it himself because he took personal responsibility for service excellence in his hundreds of restaurants. He demanded the job be done right on his newly acquired restaurant chain! Needless to say, as a result of Norm's careful attention to detail, the Macaroni's Restaurant chain has been highly successful.

One of the defining characteristics of a successful entrepreneur is his or her total commitment to detail and perfection in quality and service to customers. Anything less will lead to mediocrity or worse, total failure. There is no business without happy customers!

Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus, showed us all how to do top-end consumer retailing. He insisted on complete customer satisfaction. He was extreme in this pursuit and his customers willingly paid more to get first-class products and service. Wealthy people from the world over traveled to Dallas just to shop in his stores. Stanley wrote several books and many articles based on his merchandising wisdom. He insisted on complete customer satisfaction. All of his employees were imbued with this same ethic. Stanley Marcus would stand high on any list of great entrepreneurs. If you are in the retail business his books are must reads!

Mary Kay Ash, another Dallas entrepreneur, formed one of the most dynamic cosmetic companies in the world, Mary Kay Cosmetics. She pioneered the mass personal marketing concept for cosmetics. Her thousands of sales associates worshiped the very ground she walked on. Her use of pink Cadillacs as a sales incentive is legendary. Proud was the saleswoman driving one of these pink icons! These ladies would work tirelessly to get one of those cars at the big annual convention and that hard work propelled Mary Kay Cosmetics into the stratosphere. No one that I ever met had a greater positive mental attitude than Mary Kay Ash.

Ross Perot, Sr., built not one, but two incredibly successful computer service companies in Dallas and his son, Ross Perot, Jr., has gone on to create a giant real estate enterprise with new ventures all around the world. Ross Sr. climbed onto the surfboard of computer services in the nineteen-sixties just as one of the biggest waves ever crested under him. He quickly became one of the richest men in the world at the time. He had the right idea at the right time and the faith, ultra positive mental attitude and boundless fortitude to make it happen.

Roger Staubach, the finest quarterback in the history of the Naval Academy and the leader of the legendary "America's Team", the Dallas Cowboys, has gone on since Super Bowl fame to create a massive international real estate enterprise in his post-football phase of life. Roger pioneered the concept of actually representing the interests of the tenant in real estate dealings. Up to that time, most deals were done in the interest of the property owner since that was the one who was paying the commission! Roger changed the game and has had huge successes as a direct result. I do not need to say much about Roger's positive mental attitude; his stunning fourth-quarter comebacks offer adequate proof. He has been a first-class entrepreneur. The same personal qualities and determination that made Roger such an incredible athlete propelled him forward in his entrepreneurial efforts. No one turns down a phone call from Roger! How would you like to have a door-opener like that?

Other Dallas real estate entrepreneurial icons are Raymond Nasher, Trammell Crow, Henry Beck and Henry Miller, all with major properties across America and even Internationally. Ebby Halliday, one of the early female entrepreneurs in our region, stands out as another Dallas legend. She built one of the nation's top residential real estate brokerages, a major achievement for a female starting a business in Dallas in the forties. She began her meteoric real estate career more than sixty years ago, testimony to the long life of a good idea executed perfectly. She stressed the personal touch with her customers and recognized that it was the wife who made the home-buying decisions! Her company was one of the first female owned and operated entrepreneurial companies in America at that time. But, she saw a strong customer need and filled it. At age 99, she still comes to the office every day and is involved in many civic affairs. I visited with her several months ago and she told me she still had a drivers license ... I asked her if she still drove. She said yes ... but, NO ONE would ride with her! What a lady! She is an inspiration to all of us.

During the early years of the huge East Texas oil boom, H.L. Hunt started with little more than grit and guts and built a massive fortune in the oil industry. It wasn't always an upward trip for him. He weathered boom and bust but kept on going in spite of the hardships in the oil patch where a run of dry holes can put you out of business really quickly. Today, one of his sons, Ray Hunt controls the huge Hunt Consolidated Company headquartered in Dallas and along with the oil business, has developed many other real estate and hotel businesses plus a burgeoning venture capital group. Hunt Oil, one of his operating companies, operates throughout the Americas and the rest of the world finding and producing black gold. It may have been a humble start for H.L. Hunt, but he was near the very beginning of a new industry and he survived and eventually thrived, as have his several sons.

Another great Dallas area entrepreneurial story not widely publicized is the amazing success of Dan Flaherty and his wife, Dannie. While graduate students at the University of Dallas in the eighties, they conceived the idea of novelty products based on the then brand-new talking-chip technology being developed in the semiconductor industry. While their company, Gemmie Industries, has now marketed many products, undoubtedly their most well-known hit product was "Billy Bass", the singing and "swimming" largemouth black bass! There were a number of other fish species that they made sing too. They saw the opportunity to take advantage of new technology in computer-generated voice chips. They have continued to innovate in technology-driven novelties with a large engineering force in the Dallas area and more than 20,000 manufacturing employees in China.

All of these brilliant Texas entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs, broadly, deserve your study. All of them started small with a good idea, a dream and an incredible "can-do" positive mental attitude. I cannot imagine a successful entrepreneur who did not have an extremely positive mental attitude. It is an essential ingredient. Seek entrepreneurs whom you can use as a guide. They are around you and you only need to look.

Corollary: In my opinion, pessimists rarely, if ever, accomplish anything.

So, when you get up in the mornings, put on your white hat, set your course for the day and move out with great enthusiasm, confidence and a positive mental attitude. You cannot win if you do not play! And, you have to play hard!

So, go start something!

Chapter Two


I started my adult life in the mid-1950's after two years in a local community college, Arlington State College. I received an associate degree in industrial mechanical engineering. I wanted to be a Navy pilot and at that time 60 hours of college was required to enter the cadet program. My two years generated those 60+ hours. Immediately after graduation, I joined the U.S. Navy, went to Pensacola, Florida. 18 months later I graduated from flight training winning my coveted Wings of Gold.

At that point, I also married my high-school sweetheart, Suzanne McKevitt. She made the mistake of marrying a "hot" pilot flying Navy jet fighters who had just turned 21. We have stayed together for over 55 years!

Before I joined, I did not have a great deal of knowledge about the Navy but found it to be one of the oldest, largest and best organized entities (and bureaucracies) in the world. As a civilian pilot, I still deeply enjoy the privilege of my participation in many Naval Air Station airshows around the country. I entertain the crowds as a "stunt pilot", flying a high-tech single-engine hotrod, the Extra-300L, an aerobatic plane built in Germany.


Excerpted from GO START SOMETHING by JAN COLLMER Copyright © 2012 by Jan Collmer. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Jan's 50 rules for the entrepreneur....................xiii
The 12 most important rules....................xiii
12 good habits necessary for starting a business....................xvi
7 Cautionary rules....................xviii
19 Leadership rules....................xx
1. Great Entrepreneurs....................1
2. My Early Years....................9
3. Starting Something....................18
4. No Partnerships!....................32
5. Goal setting....................37
6. Save 10%....................49
7. Luck....................61
8. Mentors....................67
9. The law of unintended consequences....................72
10. Delegation....................76
11. Inclusion and recognition....................81
12. Decision-making....................89
13. Cash flow....................94
14. Control!....................100
15. Calendar freedom and time for play....................104
16. Contracts....................111
17. Pricing....................116
18. Conclusion....................121

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