More About the Author
Deaver graduated with a Magna in History from Harvard College, with his senior thesis being, "Civilizing the Machine: Civil War to 1900." He went on to Harvard Business School (HBS) and concentrated on marketing and operations. "Marketing is how you catch the bear; operations is how you skin him and determine whether you profit or not," says Deaver. One of his favorite quotes is Thorstein Veblen, "The more useless the activity the more it is highly regarded."
Deaver is a serial entrepreneur who has been up, down, and sideways. "This is what makes me a good teacher, writer, and talker. I am a minor league entrepreneur who had some successes, but failures and so/so's too. The great coaches are like that, such as Bill Belichick and Phil Jackson. They can relate to the more average among us because we are too."
His ups included the Umbroller Stroller company sold to Graco and on to Rubbermaid/Newell; refocusing American Power Conversion (APCC) from solar inverters to UPS's for the growing PC business in the 80s and 90s; helping sell Peterson to Cosco, Cosco to an LBO, and Cosco to Doral; and Pride Retail Systems to Compaq and on to HP. He did not succeed with the PumpQuick no pressure fire extinguisher, CD Titles, or Simply Media. He did so/so with Apollo, General Sound, and Westboro, selling them to larger companies.
He wrote his first book, The Entrepreneur's Guide, published by Macmillan and Ballantine in mass market paperback, after selling his interests in the Umbroller Stroller company. Deaver said, "The biggest issue is one's temperament. The more you hire people the more you realize that temperament determines so much. Technical and can do skills are relatively easy to assess. It is the will do skills that are so hard. Temperament is key to 'will do.' He lists 8 core traits to assess in yourself in the book." Deaver, "My favorite letters and emails say, 'I wasted my money; I wasn't fit to be an entrepreneur.' I always write back, 'That is my intention--to save you from it if it doesn't suit. The thank you letters are wonderful.'"
Next he emphasizes the core 4 skills. Deaver, "Most books emphasize markets, financing, and such things. I emphasize the key 4: Sales, Making, Delivering; and getting Paid. Do those 4 right, and everything else is straightforward."
Lessons learned could fill a book--and do! One of his favorite projects was an HBS Case, now widely distributed along with an accompanying video, "Deaver Brown & Cross River." He co wrote this with Professor Amar Bhide at HBS, now at Columbia, on having 10 minutes to sell Kmart, the Walmart of its day, and Macy's. Deaver, "Most students say it is the best case of the year. They learn you either sell something or you don't. As I tell them, most of you won't be selling product or services, but be in the financial area. But think, 'Can this person go into the pit, as in this case, and close the deal. More importantly, can they be tossed out, and come back?'" Only former IBM salespeople closed Deaver when he was in the class acting as a buyer. They were cool, calm, collected, focused, and listened. They also gave the buyer what the buyer needed, not what the salesperson wanted.
Deaver Commented, "Amar asks for volunteers and often has a tough time getting them. When my cofounder at Umbroller, and old friend Alex Levitch came to class to observe, he said it best, 'If you don't want to volunteer, leave the class. If you don't want to pitch, you'll never make it. If you worry what others think, you'll never make it.' Perfect advice."
Deaver said he recommended students in their careers as investors recalling who could pitch or couldn't, and thinking about how a prospective candidate would do in that situation--based on his experience with his Harvard tutor, Neil Harris, later Chairman of the History Department at University of Chicago. "Neil would read my work out loud and lift an eyebrow at the appropriate moments. I always think about that eyebrow when reading my own work."
"Also, Neil was the poster boy for learning. He invited me to one of his lectures when he used my material to bolster his analysis. He winked at me when doing so. Neil was always learning, as we all should."
"Commencement is the beginning not the end of learning. I read 80 books per year which the Kindle makes so much easier and less expensive, not to speak of Amazon's audible.com that does so for audiobooks at iTunes and Amazon. We also have them at www.discountaudiobooks.com."
"Each work has other suggestions. No one has the final answer, except the not very smart. There is always more," says Deaver.
Picture: "I am the shorter guy standing up. An impromptu gathering of friends at the 40th Reunion at HBS, for lunch at Anthony's Pier 4. Read; have fun; share with friends. The picture says it all for me and I hope for you too."