In Entrepreneurship, Gary Smith shares his journey from a young Marine with biology and chemistry degrees (and “one worn, out-of-date suit”) as he searches for post-military employment. His successful interview with DuPont leads him to sell a revolutionary product (Riston) in the electronic printed circuit board industry, giving him the connections and knowledge necessary to start his own entrepreneurial journey.
This journey includes founding Proto Systems, a company that created quick-turnaround prototypes of printed circuit boards. The company, north of Atlanta, was one of 11 Georgia companies to land on Inc. magazine’s 1985 “Fast 500” companies, an annual list of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. Proto Systems came in #22, the highest in the state. Smith also created and published multiple well-respected trade magazines for his industry.
Smith offers advice for entrepreneurs throughout—recommending, for example, that budding business owners carefully manage cash flow, and that they clearly place a monetary value on contributions made by partners in the business. The book ends with a helpful, four-page bullet-pointed list of steps to take for entrepreneurial success. Much of the author’s overall advice, however, is common to business books, and the majority of the narrative focuses on his rapid rise to success.
The author describes challenges faced and overcome, such as expanding facilities and hiring quality staff, as well as details about the problems that ultimately led to his company’s demise. Ingredients of this huge reversal in fortunes, discussed in the last chapters, included governmental inspections that Smith believes had ill intent, a disgruntled employee, soaring legal fees and more. His anger at government actions and his seeming inability to be objective about what happened to his company ultimately overshadow the value of earlier chapters, feeling more like a rant than reasoned analysis.
Unfortunately, this issue colors a reader’s impression of the book overall. Nonetheless, Smith’s story offers some edifying lessons for those willing to overlook the bitter feeling of the final chapters.
Also available as an ebook.