By the time I started KMCO (my chemical manufacturing business), I had become quite a strong warrior. I had already been in business for myself in total commission sales and consulting for a few years. While I didn’t understand management and entrepreneurism yet, I had obtained a positive mental attitude conversion and believed I was unstoppable. My first three years as a true entrepreneur at KMCO went very well. We doubled our business and profits each year. I had just bought out my partner in December 1977 for the cash in the business, plus a $300k note.
But then, year four put me to the test. Financially, it was the worst of times. On January 8, 1978 a fire broke out at the plant. My first month as a lone entrepreneur. On top of it being the coldest winter in Houston, Texas, all the workers quit except one salesman and a guy that was out on a long term disability. We had to work in those freezing temperatures to get the plant back into operation. I hired a plant manager that our salesman knew to come in and help get the plant rebuilt. I had a lot of problems trying to get him to help rebuild the plant in an effective manner, and even later on with managing an effective operation. I was a novice manager myself, and so was he. Neither of us were very good. He was a more political manager that wanted to be king. I was much more operations minded. Probably because it was MY money! I had to fight through double and triple costs along with a lot of operations problems. It cost me $500k to rebuild the plant and a lot of money was wasted on rework and problems. In addition, many suppliers cut off our credit. I just fought through every day and week to get the right things done. And then I had to lay off many poor workers that were hired during the crisis time.
This is the time that I was most unprepared to handle the business. During my first three years I could grow the business by one person per quarter and get them on the team. To grow by one person a quarter, it took me hiring about three people a quarter to get one good employee. After the fire, I had to hire about 35 people at once, including a manager. I only had myself and one salesman to run the business. I was so unprepared for handling this crisis with such weak workers and leadership, but I survived and am stronger for it. The old saying rings true, “You never know how strong you are until strength is your only option.”