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Guts and Glory

I wrote about a comment I saw on ExecuNet from a gentleman who didn’t have much good to say about the current generation of executives. He specifically commented on lack of guts and courage in the corporate world, and I thought he had a point.

I had to stop and think about guts in the modern world. There are examples that come to mind – Lee Iaccoca taking charge at Chrysler – his leadership was heroic.

But nearer to hand I thought about a company I had the privilege to take part in. PV Powered in Bend, Oregon, was an early stage company losing tons of cash throughout the recession. The company had great technology but was not yet far enough along to have landed enough customers to reach breakeven or even close to it. In desperation the company sought to sell itself.  At the time, Bear Stearns had gone under. Lehman went under and it looked like the US banking system was at risk. Definitely not a time when investors put money into high risk, illiquid assets.

Like so many tech companies, PVP needed cash, and looked to its large investor group.  But everyone said no – except for a father and son investing team that owned a construction company in Washington.

You might think, well, no big deal, someone wrote a check for millions despite the recession. But that wasn’t the full story. The company had already attempted to sell itself, but each time a buyer appeared, they eventually left. And the last potential buyer had not only backed away, but specifically labeled all the deficiencies at the company, all the reasons it just wasn’t worth buying at all.

With that less-than-glowing endorsement, the father and son, Dan and Mason Evans of JH Kelly, decided to keep writing checks throughout the recession and to retain the management team. Luckily, things improved dramatically over the ensuing four quarters and a new offer came in, culminating in a $90 million sale of the company earlier this year.

The decision by Dan and Mason Evans and their EVP Mark Fleischauer is the exact definition of guts, of moving forward despite uncertainty and fear in the marketplace.

Now let’s talk about you. How do you keep moving forward when everyone else is running in the opposite direction?

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