Bill Goede | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Bill Goede

Background:  

Bill Goede is Bank of America’s Tampa Bay president and the bank’s business banking market executive for the area. His department provides a full array of client-managed services to businesses with annual revenue in the $5 million to $50 million range. He serves locally on the board of trustees of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Homeless Emergency Project, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, University of Tampa, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Starting Right Now.

The Mistake:

We never planned appropriately for the scenario of success.

Let me give you some history: It’s 1994 and there was a group of us all connected by college and work, and we all had a passion around homebrewing beers. And the craft beer era was beginning. It was becoming fairly popular and we were all doing this as a hobby. We were homebrewing for friends and family. And over time we said, “Hey wouldn’t it be great if we had our own beer?”

So we contracted with a brewery to brew our beer. And they worked with us and took our recipe and tweaked it. We named it Lake Highland Amber, and you could find it in Tampa Bay and Orlando. We made it to TGI Friday’s in Orlando, so you could go into a restaurant and order our beer. And we made it into Kash n’ Karry and Albertsons grocery stores.

None of this was our full-time job. We all had jobs. Some of us were in sales. Some of us were in banking, law firms, restaurants. We had a good mix that we brought to the table. But we were all doing it part-time. So therein lies the beginning of the mistake.

We had a great time, but it was ultimately not sustainable. For example, there was a radio station in Orlando and we held a giveaway promotion. It was a heck of a party, but it was a lot of beer. We didn’t take into consideration the time or the number of people that would show up. And it cost us a tremendous amount of money. So we didn’t plan for the scenario of success – that people wanted to come out for this and they loved the beer. Financially, we were not ready for that. We were never planning on that.

We had the passion, but we didn’t have a plan.

The Lesson:

We never at the time thought seriously about doing it full-time. For one, we weren’t making any money. We were all early on in our respective careers. I mean it was fun, but you've got to connect that passion with a plan. We had the passion, but we didn’t have a plan. We never really planned for success.

That’s the lesson. That applied to us 23 years ago and it applies to every small business today. Every company starts out of a passion. They have an idea. And the best scenario is when you can take that idea and be successful. The business plan is a road map. You have detours along the way. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. I tell businesses that all the time. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. It’s fine. It happens.

But I also ask them if they have a peer, a mentor, a trusted adviser or someone they can go to and say, “Hey, my business plan was this and then this happened. So what do I do?” You’ve got to have that piece of it.

These days, I understand what it takes to take an idea and turn it into something tangible. I can relate to the things that businesses are going through. What I believe we at the bank do very well is to connect them. Can I provide that marketing information for them so they know what’s happening in the market? Do they understand what’s happening in their industry? Do they understand the potential for opportunity in that industry?

And then, if they don’t have that peer to go to, I can connect them with that mentor or other business owners who’ve grown and who can say, “I understand exactly what you’re going through.”

Follow Bill Goede on Twitter at @sumcents.

Photo courtesy of Bill Goede

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