Entrepreneurial Success Stories from the American Midwest

by Fredrik Savin on 27/02/2011 · 0 comments

After spending the last few years mainly reading academic prose, I’m now trying to get my hands on as much business, marketing and management literature as possible based on ‘in-the-trenches’ experience. My latest find is a book written by entrepreneur Robert Jordan entitled ‘How They Did It – $41 Billion Worth of Inspiration‘.

The book, which can be bought here in the UK through Amazon, aggregates the success stories of 45 company founders from the heart of the motherland of entrepreneurship. The founders interviewed to make this book happen are not exactly the people behind your average corner shop. Each founder featured has either launched, grew and sold a company for at least $100 million USD, or alternatively, IPO’d a company with a market value of at least $300 million USD.

The stories are mainly presented in Q&A format and it’s easy to extract and understand the underlying insights and lessons without much effort. In order words, the perfect bed time read for the soon-to-be burned-out investment banker looking to start breaking free. ‘How They Did It’ is a great book which tells the stories of very creative and successful entrepreneurs in their own words (Dick Costolo (FeedBurner), Joel Ronning (Digital River) and Viresh Bhatia (InstallShield) to name a few). The founders’ advice, experiences, lessons, insights and perspectives on everything business provides excellent food for thought for professionals in all walks of business life, not just for investment bankers looking to go solo and leave the rat race behind.

One of the reasons for why I subscribe to entrepreneurial periodicals such as Inc. magazine is because of their ‘How I Did It / The Way I Work’ columns. ‘How They Did It’ is essentially a book that is entirely dedicated to this type of educational and inspiring content. All in all, highly recommended reading for aspiring entrepreneurs and corporate managers alike.

I have included one of my favourite insights from the book below:

Mahendra Vora (serial entreprenuer) on hiring:

” …A-players hire A-players, B-players hire C-players, and C-players hire F-players.”

To put the above quote into context: Vora reckons Pioneer Systems, Intelliseek and Ascendum (some of his start-up ventures) were successful because of the companies’ top 5/6 employees. They helped ensure that there were X employees of the same caliber reporting into them. Vora states that these X individuals then ensured that there were Y subordinates underneath them like that, etc.

I think this is not only relevant to entrepreneurs but also to anyone looking for a different perspective in evaluating and understanding a company’s human capital, whether it’s a start-up/SME or a larger organisation.

NB: Vora doesn’t define an ‘A-player’ as an Ivy League / Oxbridge graduate with a top 10 MBA. He believes one should look at “attitude, effort and values” in people before addressing their expertise, experiences and skills.

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