Isaac Lidsky | Crain's Orlando

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

Isaac Lidsky

Background:  

ODC Construction is Florida's leading shell construction contractor that constructs foundations, masonry and framing for thousands of homes each year.

The Mistake:

Long story short, a friend of mine from business school and I decided to buy a company called Orlando Decorative Concrete Inc., the predecessor company to ODC Construction here in Orlando because we loved the timing play in the home construction market. Housing was at a once-in-a-lifetime low.

So, we do what a couple of Harvard guys do – we start planning. We meticulously pore over all the data we can get from the owner. We start building models of different scenarios, this and that ... for the next five or seven years, we had spreadsheets to plan every little detail. Armed with those plans, we dove in and, three months in, discover that the business is sinking like a stone.

All of the material we had meticulously organized was garbage in, garbage out, and we were going to go broke. Confessing as much to my mother, she says to me "I have $350,000 in cash. Take it; it's yours. I know you can fix this." The cash – by the way – was literally cash.

That $350,000 in cash – that saved the business. We would not be in business if it weren't for that cash. At that time, we were doing about $20 million a year in revenue, obviously at a loss, and in 2015, we broke $80 million out of profit. And this year, we will break $100 [million] ... and that's because of the $350,000 that my mom coughed up at the rest stop.

When you're at the bottom, you have to take a leap of faith on an idea or vision and stick with it.

The Lesson:

You can complain all you want. You can model all you want. You can have every question answered. But in business, especially as an entrepreneur, it's going to be a roller coaster, and you're going to have to adapt and react. This doesn't mean you don't try to plan ahead, but at the end of the day, it's more about having to look forward to it.

You have to roll with the punches and, at the end of the day, have faith and confidence in yourself and in the team. This took a long time for me to get back, frankly. Now, it's a great success story. I feel blessed, and the company has grown enormously. We have 300 employees who I love.

If you ask the question of how good of a job I did identifying and valuing a target company for acquisition, I think the answer has to be that I did an objectively poor job. When you're at the bottom, you have to take a leap of faith on an idea or vision and stick with it. And if you have convinced yourself that it's going to be easy and straightforward, or follow a logical sequence, you've fooled yourself.

Pictured: Isaac Lidsky. / Photo courtesy of Isaac Lidsky.

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