Contributed by Maurice Thomas, an EO South Florida member who is one of the champions of the new EO OneWorld initiative, a membership platform affiliated with EO’s New York Chapter that believes a diversified EO is a stronger EO . EO OneWorld will add value to EO by attracting more EO members from the Black, Hispanic / Latino (a) (x), Asian and LGBTQIA + business communities. Maurice is also the founder and president of Thomas Services, Inc., a solution-based logistics and supply chain services company.
Are entrepreneurs born or made? When examining my path to entrepreneurship, I suspect it’s a bit of both, or at least in my case. Here is the story of how I came to run my own business.
In the early 1990s, I was a married father of two very young children and worked as an investment banker in a small boutique firm. The owner and CEO of our company was a very experienced businessman – a true entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word. Having previously worked in some of the largest companies in the world and earned an MBA from a prestigious university, I didn’t know what I was enrolling for, but it wasn’t long before I realized that working there was my best career choice Life. We were small and very entrepreneurial in our approach. I had to learn very quickly, and once I showed the ability to handle it, I got more responsibility.
One day in early 1993 I was having lunch with one of our customers who was also a real entrepreneur. He started describing his most recent acquisition, and – suddenly! – the conversation turned into a discussion about the possibility for me to found a company to serve HIS new business. A few months later I was the owner of a modest business with three employees. And so began my entrepreneurial journey.
This new business was not enough to support my “lavish” lifestyle (ie, paying my mortgage and supporting my family). It was just a lucrative sideline, and it stayed that way for years while I was a full-time investment banker.
I have often dreamed of winning new jobs, scaling the operation, and turning my small sideline into a full-time business. However, this was only a dream for years. It was clear to me that in order to realize my “fantasy” I would have to quit my job and have both feet on it, which I couldn’t afford with a young family.
Fifteen years later, as a divorced father of two teenagers, I found an opportunity. I analyzed my financial situation and calculated how much time I would have to “make some hay” before my personal finances would collapse around me. Shortly after completing this exercise, I quit my job and devoted my full-time job to expanding my now 15-year part-time job.
Three months in my new life as an entrepreneur, we lost our largest of only three business contracts – and the time I had to “make hay” shrank by 50 percent. Suddenly I was faced with the most difficult decision: I could go back to work for someone else or continue the challenge of achieving something meaningful in a very short time.
I decided to roll the dice, take a second mortgage on my house, and go broke. Many nights, after a day of hard work without moving the needle, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I kept coming back to the same answer: YES!
A few months later, while on a business development call and literally “stalking” a business prospect, I stumbled upon an opportunity that changed the way my small business grew.
I pursued the deal relentlessly, and less than a year later, I was running a 55-person operation in a niche sector of the gaming technology services industry. We have built a world-class service team and impressive operational infrastructure, all based on a vision and core philosophy that continue to be my guiding principle in all business and personal matters.
Nine years after this meteoric rise, our customer lost a major order – the same contract on which we had built our entire business. We have been forced to undertake a massive layoff due to market forces far beyond our control. Once again I was facing a major change in my business life.
This time I was very close to retirement age and was able to finish it. However, since I discovered that I have a real passion for entrepreneurship coupled with strong confidence, I decided I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. In addition to devising a strategy to revitalize my 28 year old company that I started from scratch, I am now also thinking about “acquisition entrepreneurship” and am currently evaluating the prospects of buying and building another existing company.
And so the journey continues. Along the way, I’ve learned valuable lessons that can benefit others who wonder if they’re ready to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.