Buying the Ceramic Supply business
A Little History
In 1987, I took a step in another direction. V.R. Hood Clays, the ceramic supply business in San Antonio, was on the market. Its name, sake V.R. Hood, started the company. He was notoriously grumpy. Years later, I found out that he and another man his age had a competition between them to see who could be the grumpiest old man. Much to the dismay of his friend, V. R. Hood died before a winner was declared. From my interaction with V.R., there was no doubt that the competition was stiff.
Changing hands before it ended up in mine.
When V.R. died, a nephew inherited the company who ran it for a few years. He never ingratiated himself to the ceramicist in the community and soon tired of the business. He tried to sell it but couldn’t find a buyer. I looked at it during that time, but a friend looked over the books for me and discouraged me from making an offer. The owner ended up auctioning off the business piecemeal. Another local potter bought up much of the equipment and supplies at the auction and restarted the business. After a couple of years, her husband, who supplied the financial support, fell ill and died. She decided to close the company and, I approached her and made an offer which she accepted.
I planned to set up the business to provide for the needs of the ceramic community here in San Antonio and the surrounding area. I knew I would need help and thought that two of my brothers and I would make a good team. The youngest brother was interested in changing jobs, so we decided he would manage the business. Since I knew ceramics, I would provide direction and assist with my expertise. There were a couple of things that I didn’t understand about this business. Well, probably more than a couple but two that were important to the success of it. People in the ceramics community that V.R. Hood served had a negative attitude about the business. The resentment had built up over the years from dealing with the previous owners ran deep, and it didn’t automatically dissolve when I took over. I also didn’t understand how hard it could be to run a family-owned business without dealing with underlying family issues. Issues that I didn’t realize were even there.
Tensions Rising and What I have Learned
Unfortunately, It didn’t take long for tension to build between my younger brother and myself. After a couple of years, both he and my other brother decided to get out of the business. Now I had two companies to run. Over the years, I have learned that I am a much better entrepreneur than a manager.
From what I have learned about owning more than one business at a time, I developed this saying about myself.
I have always lived under the delusion that I can run more than one business at a time.
Usually, I have owned more than one company while going to school to learn how to run a business.
Selling the business
I sold the ceramic supply business in 1999 to a company that was one of my primary suppliers. The steps that they took to undercut my business before they made me an offer is something I still find hard to believe.