Garnet River turned 20 last week. Here are ten lessons we learned along the way:

1. “More businesses die of ingestion than starvation.” – Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett Packard.

Garnet River got off to a decent start but managed its resources poorly and nearly went out of business after only one year.

2. “Nothing is more vulnerable than entrenched success.” – George Romney, former president of American Motors

After its business was fixed, Garnet River enjoyed a period of prosperity, based mainly on two lines of business: its partnership with Sun Microsystems, and its staffing business with New York State agencies. Complacency set in, and Garnet River once again ran into stormy seas. Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems and eliminated the public sector partner channel and New York State moved to an auction system for most of its IT staffing needs. These two calamities had the cumulative effect of destroying half of Garnet River’s business.

3. Strategies matter, but people matter more. If you have the right people, they will figure out the right strategies and tactics, and the business will have a good chance. If you have the right strategies and the wrong people, you might as well go home. 

4. Use debt carefully, if at all. It can be a noose around your neck.

5. Hire slowly, carefully, and only when absolutely necessary.

6. If you would be relieved to receive a Colleague’s resignation, you need to let them go.

7. A great banking relationship is worth its weight in gold.

8. When you feel comfortable about the business, start worrying.

9. Cash is king. You can have a wonderful profit and loss statement, but wonder: where is the cash?

10. But the people matter most. You must get this right. We did get this right at Garnet River, and that has made all the difference.

 

Steve Richards
Principal & Board Member for Garnet River LLC