Throughout this book, I will provide proof from my own experience that the principles I’m putting forth work. So, to summarize our need to identify our resources—which should include a combination of mental capital and relationship capital—here’s an introduction to the company I will be using to prove the points of this book. This company’s name is Froghair. I’ll return to it in each of the following chapters.
In 2001, I was running a technology company and had a very bright employee named Abbie Hunter. She was an aggressive young woman who had dreams of her own and who told me one day that she wanted me to help her set up a company. And she meant it! After thinking through what I’d be willing to get involved with I said, “Okay, Abbie, I’ll help you with whatever idea you come up with, but it has to involve the outdoors and golf.” Why? Because I had plans to go climbing in the Himalayas, and I am also an avid golfer. I figured if I was going to add anything to an already very full plate, it had better be something I was passionate about.
Abbie went to work on ideas and a few weeks later came back with a business plan involving selling outdoor and golf equipment. I agreed to combine my mental and relationship capital with hers, and we started a company with almost zero financial capital.
Well, the business did okay and we had some fun working on it, but it was not a high priority for me or for Abbie, and eventually she left to take a well-deserved job on the East coast. I was now on my own with it, and it turned into something my boys and I ran out of our garage. Orders would come in; the boys would label, clean, and pack the products; and then semi-trucks would pull into our small neighborhood to pick up the orders. One time I actually slept in the garage to keep my eye on a particularly large order. I had fun and scored some nice equipment, my boys learned some good lessons and discipline, but the business was never something my wife and I fed our family off of.
A couple of years into this, I developed a relationship with Curtis Blair, who shared my passion for golf. He had experience and knowledge of the golf market. He also had knowledge of Latin America and spoke Spanish. He decided he wanted in on this deal (maybe for the free golf balls?), so we agreed that he’d come onboard to develop markets in Central and South America and expand the corporate side of the business, which he did with considerable success. We were able to combine our mental capital and relationship capital to establish a small stable of commercial accounts with whom we made a point of maintaining very strong relationships. We also built relationships with several high-end, name brand suppliers, all of which loved doing business with us because we always paid our bills on time, often well in advance of what their terms called for. (The know-how around both the need and how to do that is part of my mental capital.)
The company grew to the point where, when we wanted to get out from under it, we were able to sell it for a tidy profit. However, we cared about the relationships we had formed during our years together, so we were very careful about screening the buyer, who turned out to be a man in Arizona who had an abundance of financial capital and a similar passion for golf. His idea for running the company, though, was that he would turn the operations over to a college student our buyer would leave town for a month at a time to play golf. The outcome of his brilliant business plan was a disaster, which might surprise some people because the man we sold the business to had all the financial capital needed to take our germ of an idea and make it a huge success!
Not that we wanted it, but when the new owner fell behind in the payments he owed us, Curtis and I ended up taking back our ownership in 2009. Gratefully, we still had our relationships with suppliers and clients, we understood the markets and business processes, and we hadn’t lost any of our passion for being outdoors and playing too much golf. The one change we did make was that we renamed the company “Froghair” and then set out to achieve our long-term goals (which I’ll share in the next chapter).
There was a lot of zigzagging involved when I first started that company with Abbie. There was a lot more when Curtis joined up with me and took us into markets I didn’t know anything about. And there was even more when we regained ownership. But that zigzagging was possible because we identified our mental and relationship capital.
Whether you’re looking to start your own company, to excel in the company you work for, or to achieve goals in your personal life that have always eluded you, the first step in building your foundation is assessing your resources. Just as Donald Trump’s jet can fly him around the world, my Audi can easily get me across the country, and my son’s kick scooter can get him down the block, we can each start with what we have right now and then decide where we want to go with our own unique vehicle. Then we can trade up as we acquire more resources.
Now that you’ve begun identifying your resources, it’s time to learn about setting your beacon in the fog.