Contributed by Morris Thomas, EO South Florida member, founder and president Thomas Service Company A solution-based logistics and supply chain service company.
Are entrepreneurs born or nurtured? When I look at my path to entrepreneurship, I suspect it’s both, or at least in my case. This is the story of how I run my own company.
Back in the early 1990s, I was the married father of two very young children and worked as an investment banker in a small boutique company. The owner and CEO of our company is a very experienced businessman—a true entrepreneur in every way. I used to work in some of the largest companies in the world and obtained an MBA degree from a prestigious university. I don’t know what I signed up for, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that working there is the best major that determines my life. Our approach is small and very entrepreneurial. I was asked to learn quickly, and I was given more responsibility before I showed my ability to deal with them.
My first entrepreneurial opportunity
One day in early 1993, I had lunch with one of our clients, who was also a true entrepreneur. He began to describe his recent business acquisition-suddenly! ——The conversation turned into a discussion around my opportunity to start a business, aiming to provide services for his new business. A few months later, I became the owner of a small business with only three employees. In this way, my entrepreneurial journey began.
The scale of this new business is not large enough to support my “luxury” lifestyle (i.e. paying mortgages and raising a family). This is just a profitable side business, which has been so for many years, and I continue to work full-time as an investment banker.
I often find myself dreaming about winning new contracts, expanding operations and turning my little chores into a full-time business. However, for many years, this is still just a dream. It is obvious to me that to make my “fantasy” a reality, I will have to quit my job and jump in with my feet. This is something I cannot bear the burden of a young family.
Take a chance
Fifteen years later, as the divorced father of two teenagers, I found a window of opportunity. I analyzed my financial situation and calculated how much time I need to “make some hay” before my personal finances collapse. Soon after completing this exercise, I quit my job and devoted my full-time energy to developing my 15-year-old side job.
Three months after the start of my new life as an entrepreneur, we lost the largest of only three business contracts-and the time I had to “make hay” was reduced by 50%. Suddenly, I was faced with the most difficult decision: I could go back to the world of working for others, or continue to challenge to do important things in a short period of time.
I decided to roll the dice, apply for a second mortgage for my family, and go bankrupt. For many nights, after a day of hard work but never moved the needle, I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. I keep coming back to the same answer: yes!
A few months later, on a business development conference call and literally “tracking” the business prospects, I stumbled upon an opportunity to change the trajectory of my small company.
I pursued this deal relentlessly, and less than a year later, I ran a 55-employee business in a niche area in the gaming technology service area. We have established a first-class service team and impressive operating infrastructure, all of which are based on vision and core concepts, which continue to be my guiding light in all business and personal affairs.
Nine years after that rapid rise, our client lost a big contract-we established the same contract for the entire business operation. Because market forces are far beyond our control, we are forced to carry out large-scale layoffs. Once again, my business life has undergone major changes.
This time, I found that I was very close to the retirement age, which can be said to be retired. However, because I found that I have a real passion and strong confidence in entrepreneurship, I decided that I was not ready to give in. So, now, in addition to designing a strategy to revitalize the 28-year-old company I started from scratch, I’m still thinking about “acquisition and entrepreneurship”, and I’m currently evaluating the prospects of buying and establishing another existing company.
In this way, the journey continues. Along the way, I have learned valuable lessons that may benefit others who want to know if they are ready to start a business.
4 Entrepreneurship experience and lessons
- Expect the unexpected. Before things become easier, things may become more difficult. Be prepared for the unexpected challenges you will inevitably face.
- Confidence is absolutely key. You must believe that no one is more worthy of “gambling” than you.
- See who you are. Be strict and honest with yourself. Conduct a personal SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and keep the results in mind.
- The benefits are worth it. Entrepreneurship is a unique and incredibly satisfying path to personal growth, leadership development, personal financial gain, and many other valuable life achievements.