(ELP’s editorial staff recently introduced a feature called, “Business Spotlights” in which ELP members can submit stories about why they are in business or why they are entrepreneurs. We especially encourage those who have compelling, inspiring stories that are of interest to a wide audience to bring those stories forward. Bobby James is a contributing ELP member who has such a story. We hope you enjoy reading it. – Chuck Chamberlain, ELP Editor-in-Chief)
Bobby James is a self-described serial entrepreneur. He has owned businesses as varied as a log furniture manufacturing company and a video game shop. He has worked as an IT consultant, a slaughterhouse worker, a corporate trainer and even a digger of foundations for houses. Bobby now owns Chartertech, an IT support and consulting company for charter schools. He is also the author of a book that will soon be released called The 8 Wisdoms (8Wisdoms.com).
Bobby discovered he was an entrepreneur the day he realized he was the richest 8-year-old that he knew. This was no accident; Bobby attended swap meets and sold items for his father. His father would set the price he wanted and if Bobby sold an item for more than that price he got to keep the difference. Bobby soon discovered he had an easy way with people that made him a natural salesman. He had his father’s likeability.
Mr. James, Bobby’s father, was a war veteran with a mental disability that prevented him from holding down a job, but he taught Bobby how to relate to everyday people and how to hustle. On cross country trips when the family needed gas money, Mr. James would stop at a service station along the way and ask the owner if he could haul off the used tires. After the owner gave him the tires he would drive to a service station across town and sell the used tires for cash or trade them for gas. At an early age Bobby learned how to see opportunities that others didn’t, how to pursue those opportunities creatively and how to use good people skills to help close the deal.
Bobby learned about the other side of business from his mother. She was a government employee who took Bobby to business parties and social events. His mother taught him how to present himself in a more professional and formal setting.
Throughout school Bobby seemed to lag behind the rest of the class and lived in constant fear of the stigma of being sent to the special education classroom. The homework assignments that his friends could complete by themselves in less than an hour would take Bobby several hours and require his mother’s help.
Later Bobby found out he had a learning disability and suffered anxiety attacks causing his struggles in school and leading to difficulty working in the corporate world.
Early in his career Bobby had an insight that changed his attitude about work. After spending the day digging out a crawl space beneath a house, Bobby mentioned to a friend how much the job “sucked.” His friend responded, “That’s why they call it a job.” Bobby realized that an important part of work is doing something you enjoy that gives your life meaning. He quit the next day.
Bobby also learned the advantages of starting a side business. He started a second business in IT consulting to do something he liked and turned it into a full time business when he was laid off from his corporate job. Side businesses can be a source of meaning and financial security for entrepreneurs.
Lessons from Bobby: A learning disability, anxiety attacks, a parent unable to work because of a mental illness, none of these challenges sound like the ingredients in a recipe for entrepreneurial success. Bobby says experiencing adversity does not disqualify us from being successful. In fact, the challenges and obstacles that life throws in our way can help us develop the skills we need to succeed.
By contributing writer, Jared Munk