Jerry Ross | Crain's Orlando

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

Jerry Ross

Background:  

The National Entrepreneurs Center is a public/private partnership housing 12 independent organizations whose mission is to help small businesses grow. The center was founded through the collaborative efforts of Walt Disney World, the Orange County, Florida, government and the University of Central Florida.

The Mistake: 

I didn't pay attention to cash flow.

The mistake I made occurred when I moved to Orlando to start a business. I wanted to get back to my entrepreneurial roots, and I had a friend of mine who was moving to Orlando to start a business, and he said that he needed a partner and some help.  

So, in about a year, we moved to Orlando to start this business and in about 18 months we ran out of money, penniless. So, we were cash-flowing, which meant we were earning enough money to pay the bills, but not enough money to pay us. 

The mistake was – I didn't pay attention to cash flow, which is so important because things usually take twice as long as you think they're going to take ... and usually cost twice as much.

It takes longer and it costs more than you think. 

The Lesson: 

That changed how I look at cash flow and cash management, and it's also changed how I look at projections ... The main lesson here is that it takes longer and it costs more than you think. 

We shut the company down. We paid all of our employees; we paid off all of our bills and made it out just barely with our shirts on our backs.

And I started over! Within a year, I was back at my old business. That particular lesson made me a much stronger entrepreneur.

Follow the National Entrepreneurs Center on Twitter at @NationalEC

Photo courtesy of Jerry Ross

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