Riding the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster

September 23, 2009

Diamondback Roller Coaster, Kings Island, Mason OhioHave you ever wondered about our fascination with roller coasters ? People from all over the world have been flocking to ride these engineering  marvels since as far back as the 17th century, although the earliest ‘thrill’ ride did not have rollers or wheels at all but rather flew on tracks of ice. 

Roller coasters, as we know them today, have come a long way from the ‘ice mountains’ in the time of the Russian Czars, but some things still hold true.  They fascinate us, they can make us nauseous, and often have us screaming as we fly up to the peak and rush headlong down into the valley.  Step right up to the roller coaster.  It is guaranteed to provide a rush of adrenaline and a wild ride. (History of the Roller Coaster – Wikipedia)

As I sat working on business plans and reviewing financing packages today, I suddenly struck me how much in common the roller coaster and the entrepreneurial journey really do have in common.

Think about it, entrepreneurs fascinate us, we watch successful ones like they are rock stars, and look away with a gulp at the poor guy who is losing his lunch – or his business – as he staggers away.  Any entrepreneur will tell you,  THAT can happen to anybody.

Like roller coasters, most entrepreneurial ventures labor rung by rung up that first great grade to reach that first big win, opportunity, or investor.   And  then reality hits, and there is so much WORK to do, and you are sliding down, before you begin the next great climb.  It’s a wonder more of us are not throwing up our arms and screaming!  If you stay the entrepreneurial circuit long enough, you are sure to hit its highs and lows. Even the legendary entrepreneurial success stories like Microsoft and Cisco have had their fair share of peaks and valleys along the way.

Like roller coasters, that struggled financially and almost disappeared completely during the Great Depression, entrepreneurs have faced times when economic conditions where almost too much to take.  But then a spark of innovation, or a new idea gets them fired up all over again.

That’s the thing about veteran entrepreneurs, just like veteran roller coaster riders, as soon as the ride is over, they often get right back in line to take the journey again. 

I wonder if a study has ever been done on what percent of entrepreneurs LIKE to ride roller coasters.   Or, if serial entrepreneurs are especially addicted?  It might make for interesting reading.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

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Missing the Innovation Train

September 3, 2009

Innovation – doing something in a new way to make life better for the people who matter – is a wonderful thing – unless you happen to be the one who missed the train when it pulled out from the station.

KOERBERThat’s what happened to a once great family business, Koerber’s Beer.

Hey – you may be thinking – that name sounds familiar.  Yes, Koerber’s was once our family business run by my grandfather William G. (Bill) Koerber and his brothers.

Koerber’s Beer and the other brands, including Friar’s Ale and later a new innovation, Malt Liquor led the brand portfolio.

Grandpa’s brother, Clarence “Click” Koerber, invented malt liquor and began production at the Grand Valley Brewing Company in Ionia, Michigan some time around 1937. Great  Uncle Click named his magic brew Clix Malt Liquor.

The family business managed to survive through two World Wars, Prohibition, and the Great Depression.  Instead, it was an innovation in the brew master’s art that led to it’s demise.

That change was the imagepractice of increasing the preservative content in beer and ale.  By adding additional preservatives, competing breweries were able to ship their beers for greater distances, store the product for longer periods of time, and increase shelf life for distributors and retailers taking advantage of major economies of scale.

There was only one problem, it affected the taste of the beer.  Koerber’s brand was associated with Age, Strength, and Purity.  Grandpa, as brew master was sure that no one would buy let alone want to drink the lesser product.   And Grandpa was wrong!

By 1949, the last bottle of Koerber’s beer was crated and shipped from the plant in  Toledo, Ohio.  The factory was closed.  What today we would call a series of micro breweries, Koerber’s, and it’s sister company Grand Valley Brewing could not compete with the mega brewers who had emerged.

By the time I came along, in 1960, the only Koerber’s beer that was still in production came from the mini brewery that was hidden behind the secret wall in the Dutch Room off the boat well in Grandpa’s home at Grayhaven on the Detroit River. But that’s a story for another day.

So when you hear the whistle blow and see the innovation train pull into the  station, be sure to have your ticket ready so you can board.  You don’t want to be left behind!

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


Being in the right place…

February 24, 2009

250px-Bob_Hope_in_The_Ghost_Breakers_trailerOne of my favorite quotes is from entertainment icon Bob Hope.

The quote is simple: 

“I’ve always been in the right place at the right time..of course I steered myself there.”

Whether you are looking for a new job, building a business, or looking for financing for the business you own, being in the right place can make all the difference.  The right place can be a frame of mind, a networking event, or a new business opportunity.  Steering yourself there starts when you open yourself up to new things, take sage advice when it is offered, leverage your personal relationships, and always extend a helping hand to others.

It has been so rewarding to be out in our community and see so many examples of Arizonans ‘steering themselves there‘.  Friends, old and new, making introductions – offering advice – making time for others – and most of all creating new opportunities. 

The photo in this blog (courtesy of www.wikipedia.org) shows a young Bob Hope in 1940.  That’s right Hope in the Great Depression.  Recently I have heard so many (from the President on down) compare our current economic times to that period in history.  Yes, there are some similarities, but there are also many differences.  In many ways we have contributed to steering ourselves into this mess. And we can steer our way out of it again.   American ingenuity, innovation, our determination to overcome adversity, and our willingness to lend a hand have served us well in pulling through each historical downturn.  There have been a number of booms and busts. Remember the S&L debacle and the Internet bubble bursting.  I sure do!  We recovered then, and we’ll recover now.  So start steering yourself there.  All it takes is a little Hope.