If I had heard this one a few decades ago, and heeded its warning, I would probably be much more successful at this point in my life. Instead, I have been played like a fiddle by partners and others who appealed to my ego and got me wandering off to where no man has ever gone before. I should have known better.
When I graduated from engineering school in 1972, I joined my father’s small window and door business which I always swore I wouldn’t. Itching to put my fingerprint on the business, I talked my father into making storm windows rather than buying them . . . because I could. The window I invented and patented was good, but we were small and struggled because we didn’t have the financing to take it beyond our small community in Hampton Roads, VA.
A West German company scooped me up from my struggling family business in 1980 and I was off to seek my fame and fortune as their US Sales and Technical manager. My primary assignment was to represent them in a joint venture in New York City. This was a big deal for a simple southern boy. Economics and ego drove me to this decision and I’m glad I took it.
Skip ahead a decade and I owned a sales and installation company representing Hope’s Steel Windows in the NYC area. Success came to this venture until expansion dreams lead me to take on out-of-town installation projects for Hopes because we could. The projects ended up putting my company in financial pinch and fostered too much dependence on Hope’s. The only thing to do was invent a new window and door system called Megawood that used principles learned in the steel window business to make a huge glass doors with uniquely thin frames.
While presenting Hope’s and Megawood to an architect, he asked me how come he couldn’t get bronze doors rather than steel or wood. Over the weekend, I invented Infinity Bronze, thermally broken windows and doors made from custom bronze extrusions. Nothing wrong with this picture so far, but you see the pattern developing. When presented with a challenge by a client or salesman within my own company, I almost always said YES, because I could.
If you follow this pattern too often and don’t let your existing product offerings fully evolve with mature engineering systems, testing, staff training, and production capabilities, the entire organization gets out of control. As a bright and capable entrepreneur, I got caught up in my own myth, always being pushed forward by my capabilities to create and entertain like a dancing bear with brilliance as my obvious talent. The stupid thing is, that completely overlooked prudence. The prudent thing would have been to evaluate my design capability skill as a core asset, but create a strategic plan that would bring along the other business resources necessary for it to succeed. Saying NO when it is not the right time to take on another new challenge is the adult thing to do. I finally figured it out in my 60’s. Just because I could didn’t mean that I should.
2Fold™ is my latest and proudest achievement because it is both innovative and fully evolved BEFORE taking it to the market. The last two years have been spent designing, prototyping, testing, and building engineering software systems to bring a complete, well thought out product to the market. It is feature rich, but is will not be all things to all people. Options will be intentionally restricted to what have already been proven and evolved. When I am subjected to the inevitable, “Why can you just modify it to . . .”, I will demur. Maybe next year if enough people want it, and I have time to fully evolve it before offering this variation. Prudence is my new mantra and my customers will benefit from it.