Some 19 years ago, when I was 31 years old and my landscaping company was doing about $1.5 million in annual sales, I naively thought I had this whole running-a-business thing figured out. I had ten gleaming trucks on the road, a hard-working team, and an expanding client list. We were growing year over year and racking up awards, with seemingly nowhere to go but up.
In short, I was pretty proud of myself. So when the news broke that Clay Mathile, a Dayton-area resident who had bought the pet food company Iams for $1.2 million in 1982, had now sold his business for $2.3 billion(!), I knew I had to see him. I had met Clay before but I wanted to get to know him better. I had no real agenda in mind save that I knew I could learn from him, and I was confident enough (or foolish enough) to ask for an appointment.
Fortunately Clay was kind enough to agree to see me. In that meeting, I talked excitedly about all my business ideas while Clay sat patiently listening. I thought I was really impressing him, so I went on and on. Finally, after about an hour of this, Clay said, “Marty, that’s really interesting. Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to take this book and read it and then call my office and we’ll set up a time to meet again.”