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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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MGT 358-01


Steve Simmons is the owner of a multi-skilled training consulting business. We go to different plants to train people who need it or want it; if we can't do it, we find someone who can. I was born in Baton Rouge LA. My father worked construction so I moved around with him. We lived in Detroit for a while then Orlando, and a few other places. I graduated from Calloway County High School and my father owned a business here locally and I inherited it from him. When Briggs and Stratton came to town, he opened a training business and it has been open for 11 years.

Chinny: Do you have role models?

Steve Simmons: My biggest role model is Jesus Christ, but for education, it is Dr. Paul McNeary worked for the department of education and when I taught he was my advisor.

C: Did you have a business or self-employment during your youth?

SS: Yes, my father was always an entrepreneur but my heart was always set on being an entrepreneur as well. To me, working for someone else is a false sense of security. That is why I chose to be an entrepreneur so that I could choose my own destiny and not let someone else choose it for me.

C: When, under what circumstances, and from whom did you become interested in entrepreneurship and learn some of the critical lessons?

SS: My dad always gave me small jobs to make extra money after school and right then I knew that this was a good path. It allowed me to make good money and do what I wanted to do.

C: How did you spot the opportunity? How did it surface?

SS: It really did not happen fast. You know I am 49 years old and after working all my life, I just kind of figured out what I wanted to do through experience and doing what I am good at. I realized after using my hands for so long, I wanted someone to teach me a better way to do it, so that is why I opened my own business. I was 11 when I figured out that I was good using my hands and making money. It was in my twenties when I learned most of my lessons as far as what people wanted and how to treat them.

C: How much time did it take from conception to the first day of business? How many hours a day did you spend working on it?

SS: It just evolved over time. I have to fly quite a bit so I put in a lot of time. My hours vary but I am on call 24/7 when the work is heavy.

C: How much capital did it take? How long did it take to reach a positive cash flow? Tell me about the pressure and crises during that early survival period.

SS: I learned a lot about capital as far as overhead and equipment. As a private consultant, I need about $50,000 for computers and supplies. I also have people bid for jobs so the supplies that they need are a cost to me but I make it up in charging them a percentage. It really doesn't take long to reach a positive cash flow. Saving money is not the key. It is the time off and the money you take home. Work smarter not harder. During work periods, the crisis is not working or having no work, but I have not really ever had a work crisis or lost a client.

C: What outside help did you get? Did you have experienced advisor? Lawyers? Accountants? Tax experts? Patent experts? How did you develop these networks and how long did it take?

SS: We have accountants that do our quarterly books and two lawyers. I rely on my accountants for important tax information but I keep my self-informed because it is my money.

C: What did you perceive to be the strengths of your venture? Weaknesses?

SS: My strength to me is that I am a legend in my own mind. I feel that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I am very positive! My weakness is that I get too comfortable.

C: What was your family situation at that time?

SS: My wife is very a supportive part of my life and at the age of thirty I decided to go back to school. I did this because I knew I needed a degree. I had two children at the time but now I have three. My bachelor's degree is in vocational education and my master is in industrial education.

C: Once you got going, what were the most difficult gaps to fill and problems to solve as you began to grow rapidly?

SS: The most difficult thing for me was the resource, as far as getting the right people to do the right things.

C: When you looked for key people as partners, advisors, or managers, were there any personal attributes or attitudes you were practically seeking because you knew they would fit in with you and were important to success?

SS: For me it is three things; trust being number one. Number two is, doing what you say you are going to do, and number three is, you must be a good person. I usually find these kinds



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