RIP J.R. Simplot – from chips to chips

J.R. Simplot passed away today.   A real Horatio Alger story – started in business at 14.

In 1923, he left home with four $20 gold coins and paid $1 a day for room and board at Declo’s only hotel. As a shrewd young businessman, Simplot bought interest-bearing scrip paid to teachers who also were boarding there for 50 cents on the dollar.

Question: is there anything you can buy today for fifty cents on the dollar?    His story comes wonderfully full circle:

n 1980, at age 71, Simplot took a gamble on the next generation of businessmen, giving Ward and Joe Parkinson $1 million for 40 percent of what would become computer chip maker Micron Technology Inc. Over the years, he pumped in $20 million more to help Micron build its first manufacturing plant and to stay afloat. Micron went on to become a major producer of DRAM memory chips, which are used to store information in personal computers.

Question: if you can’t run your own business, can you take an ownership stake in someone else?  Dreams need funding today.

MMM: The wisdom of James Cash Penney

The Positivity Blog discusses a handful of Mr. Penney’s most positive and energizing quotes.

“We get real results only in proportion to the real values we give.”

“A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition.”

“It is the service we are not obliged to give that people value most.”

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.”

“The well-satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts.”

Want to be rich? Be like Mr. Penney.


Recession-proof your career

I really enjoyed this article, and in particular, the second point.

Create additional income streams, even if you are an employee.

You might have a non-compete clause in your employment agreement, but it doesn’t cover everything, right? There is certainly something you can do to diversify your income stream in this hairtrigger layoff, outsourcing-crazed world we live in. And not only will doing so bring in more money, it will in all likelihood make you a more valuable employee to your firm.

Success comes through hard work and persistence

My little book club was lucky enough to talk with Kristy Kiernan, author of the recent book group favorite, Catching Genius. I’ve always wondered about overnight sensation stories like hers, so we talked about her path to success. Turns out Catching Genius is not a first novel… or a second novel… or a third novel. She had to work hard and stay at it through repeated rejections. We’re glad she did. Here’s Kristy herself, talking about the journey:

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was five, but I didn’t get down to seriously pursuing it until I was thirty. I was thirty-seven before I got my first novel, Catching Genius, published. Over those seven years I had several opportunities to go back to work full-time, but I turned them down, certain that success was just around the corner. After every rejection I would look around our finances to see what else could be cut, and I was slowly running out of possibilities, unless we wanted to stop showering altogether. When, just before I started writing Catching Genius (the fourth manuscript I wrote), we sold my car, I knew I was at the end of my chances and I made plans to re-enter the workplace full-time as soon as I completed it. But fate was with me, and the book sold within two weeks of going on submission. I don’t regret any of the sacrifices. Even if I never wind up taking the New York Times bestseller list by storm, I still know that I did everything I could do to achieve my dreams.

We’re excited to see Kristy’s book do well, and we look forward to the next one!

PS> An aspiring cartoonist was sending work samples to prospective buyers. He was turned down a number of times. One company’s rejection letter even advised him to “find an actual artist to do the drawing.” He shrugged it off and kept going until he got a yes. His name is Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, and he’s now one of the top selling cartoonists of all time. In business, “no” means “keep trying.”

Gift Suggestion for Christmas 2007: Williamson School

Friday, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reported that industrialist Henry Rowan of the Inductotherm Group has provided a five million dollar challenge grant to the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades.

Williamson is a very unusual school. Tuition is free and provided on the basis of need. Students are required to board at the school. Student life is highly structured, including daily chapel and work detail including assistance in food preparation and facility maintenance. Values and civic responsibility are taught in addition to technical skills. In the school’s own words:

The School’s core values are: Faith, Integrity, Diligence, Excellence, and Service.

Rowan himself is plainspoken about the benefits of the school:

“It seemed such a valuable contribution to the economy when you take fellows that might not be able to get a job on Wall Street but can make things and build things and do things.”

I am encouraging readers of this blog, clients of That Software Guy, and people who have benefited from the free software I have written to please consider donating to Williamson in support of this challenge grant. The gift of the dignity of labor to a young person who has nothing is the best gift possible for “the person who has everything.”

You can make your gift online using their web form.

If you prefer to mail a check, Williamson’s mailing address is:

Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades
Attn: John J. Schlesinger, Vice President of Institutional Advancement
106 S. New Middletown Rd., Media, PA 19063