November 2nd, 2007

How passion replaces being “lonely at the top”. A common problem for many owners and managers is that they believe they have no one to talk with about their business. Small business owners often have this problem more that others in that they have few people that are as educated, trained and broad thinking as they are.

So, what is the solution? I think my brother Tom is a good example of how to solve this problem. He just successfully sold five of his six convenience stores that he had built up mostly on his own with the help of many employees that executed his vision. He didn’t get extremely wealthy by some standards, but did very well. How did he make it happen? Mainly, he has a passion for the oil business and convenience stores.

Our father had a small oil business and several gas stations and that is where he started his love affair with the industry. He worked for Conoco for several years learning what others do and learning the business from a macro level. When he bought a small distributorship 25 years ago he had a passion and vision for where he wanted to take it. And he did it, by buying or opening four more stores, all on borrowed capital.

Secondly he built outside contacts to have support people. He probably went to 5-10 conferences a year to learn and network, such as: NACS National Association of Convenience Stores, an organization of stores that has conferences, training and a lot of networking. Tom was on the national board representing the small store owners, an experience that allowed him to meet the big players and get to know how they did things. Oil industry groups. There are many of these that provide networking for all brands and have people from all sizes of businesses attending. He got to know many of these people and now sells fuel to their operations plus has access to their counsel.

Tom has kept in touch with many contacts from his corporate days that provide more expertise for him as well as keeping up with what is going on in the business. CNT Christian Network Team A group of business owners, CEO’s or others that met monthly for breakfast for Bible study and to learn from each other how to solve various business problems that they had encountered. He was a member of a national group of similar businesses that created composite financial data, compared theirs to the others, and met frequently to discuss them. So with his passion for the business and his desire to learn from others he created a great network of people to talk with and support him. Many of the successful people I have dealt with also have a passion for what they do which I believe vastly contributes to their success. The ones I see that just want to make money on their business have a hard time.

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