People who work with me know that one of my mottos is: be a hound dog, not a kennel dog.
I adopted this saying when I was in my early 20s from a legendary chairman of General Motors, Charles Wilson, who ran that company in its postwar heyday. He was in charge of GM during the winter of my freshman year of college, when I was a drill press operator and United Auto Workers member at a rival company, Packard. (This was the latest in my string of random jobs, along with selling women’s shoes and garbage disposals.)
Wilson made his comment about hound dogs and kennel dogs after President Dwight Eisenhower had appointed him secretary of defense. It was not Wilson’s finest moment. He used the line to explain why he opposed assistance to the unemployed—because he said they would, like kennel dogs, always wait for scraps rather than going on the hunt.
A lot of people shook their heads at that heartless application of a good metaphor, including me. But I’ve thought his words clearly applied to entrepreneurs or anyone with some ambition. You can’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Instead, go hunting.
I’m unreasonably persistent, so the hard work it takes to be a hound dog comes naturally to me. I never let up until I get what I want—or until the logic of the situation makes it clear my goal really is out of reach. This means I win big and I lose big. There’s no middle ground; a hound never settles for scraps.
In the 1980s ...