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- President and CEO of four successful technology companies: Digital Graphiti, Inc., B2Secure, Inc., Sidebar Systems, Inc., and Knox Online, Inc.
- Tim is a syndicated business columnist and contributing business writer for Entrepreneur.com, with over 150 columns published in the last 2 years.
- Tim's online column, "Small Business Q&A with Tim Knox" is one of the most popular business columns on the Web and The Tim Knox Newsletter is read by over 60,000+ subscribers every week.
- Tim's weekly newspaper column, Small Business Q&A, has been carried for two years by the Huntsville Times and has been reprinted by over 500 other media and internet outlets.
- Tim has been interviewed by ABC News, The NY Post, Fox-TV, AOL News, Fast Company Magazine, and numerous other media outlets.
- As a 15-year executive for several multinational corporations, Tim architected and led the charge in bringing
companies such as Advance Publications, The Boeing Company, and Teledyne Technologies into the Internet Age.
- Tim Knox is blessed with two daughters, five dogs, and one wife (who in their right mind would want more than one??).
You've worked as a standup
comedian, radio morning show host, an underground newspaper publisher,
an award-winning humor columnist, and almost-syndicated cartoonist.
How did you end up an entrepreneur?
"Most of those things I did when I was young or between real jobs.
They were a lot of fun, but didn't pay very well. So
one day I grew up and set my sites on getting a good job. At the
time I thought that was what life was all about. You grow up, you
get the proverbial "good job" and you worked hard for 40 years and
if you were lucky, you retired with enough money to live on until
you died. So I got a real job with a large multinational. I literally
started at the ground floor, but through hard work and determination
I worked my way up through the ranks. I was the textbook model employee.
I worked 50, 60 hours a week, won every achievement award, took
every management class the company offered, and finally hit the executive
ranks, where I stayed until one day I literally looked around my
comfy office and asked myself, "Is this really what it's all about?
Is this it?"
Is that when you became an entrepreneur?
"That's when I started thinking seriously about starting my own
business. I've always been an entrepreneur at heart. I had businesses
when I was I was a kid, always mowing yards or sweeping out garages
and such. Nobody ever offered me a job. I always went out and
got the work on my own, so I considered them my business. Even
when I was working at the corporate level I often did freelance
design and consulting on the side. So really becoming an
entrepreneur wasn't really a conscious decision. It's not something
I decided to do one day. Looking back now I think I had been subsconciously
working my way toward entrepreneurship since the day I was born."
How long was it until you actually quit your job to start the business?
"I worked the business part time for about
a year, then when the revenue would support my family I quit the
day job and officially launched the business. I had seen too many
other people quit their jobs and jump into business without customers
or revenue. They went broke and belly up. I knew better than that."
And what was the business you launched then?
"Digital Graphiti, Inc., an internet design firm. We were the first
official website design company in Huntsville, Alabama and the business
was booked solid and profitable from day one."
And is that business still going today?
"We're going into our 20th year."
You're a serial entrepreneur. How many other businesses have you
started and have they all been successful?
"I've dabbled in a number of businesses over the years, but I've
started four businesses that I seriously put effort into they have all been successful and continue to be so."
Do you come from a family of entrepreneurs?
"God no. My parents didn't know the meaning of the word: entrepreneur. I come from a dirt poor farming family. We lived in the middle of nowhere. Actually, to get to our place you went to the middle of nowhere and turned right. My parents weren't educated. Neither made it past the sixth grade. My dad worked menial
jobs most of his life and my mother was a cook. We didn't have much money, but we were farmers, so we always had food on the table. There were just no extras."
Did you go to college?
"I never did. I went to work at the age of fourteen to help out the family and when I graduated high school, I just kept on working. I did drive by a college once. It looked really hard so I just kept going."
So how does an uneducated kid from a poor farming family end up a successful entrepreneur?
"It really just came naturally to me. I never liked being an employee, even when I was a corporate exec. I always dreamed of being my own boss. I liked coming up with ways to make money. Even as a kid I was a hustler, a little country bumpkin entrepreneur, pulling a red wagon up and down the road selling watermelons I'd stolen out of my old man's garden. I think
a lot of the things I learned back then about hard work and perserverence
and determination came in handy when I officially became an entrepreneur."
What do you attribute most to your business success?
"I have succeeded in business simply because there was
no alternative for me. I can't imagine working for anyone else or
doing anything else. I am an entrepreneur. This is what I do. It's
in my blood. There are no other options, as far as I'm concerned.
I eat. live, and breath business. That's why a lot of entrepreneurs
fail: they are not willing to do everything it takes to succeed. If
you are not willing to do whatever it takes to achieve and live your
dream, you might as well just go get a job and hang on to it for dear
life until you retire or die. I hate to sound callous, but that's
the bottom line. Either you're an entprepreneur 100% or you're not.
There is no middle ground, at least not for me."
So if someone decides to be an entrepreneur they should be prepared
to do whatever it takes to succeed?
"Yes: legally, morally, and ethically, they must be prepared to do
whatever it takes to succeed. One thing I learned very early
in life is that nobody is going to give you anything. There are
no silver platters. Ed McMahon is not going to show up at your door
with a million dollar check. If you are going to succeed in business
and in life, it's all about the choices you make and the opportunities
you take. It's about making your mind up and sticking to it. Being
an entrepreneur is a tough road and it's not for everybody. It takes
hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and the ability to get back on
your feet after life knocks you down. And life will knock you down.
Make no mistake about that. It's the ability to get up, dust yourself off, and keep going that differentiates the true entrepreneur from the business wannabe."
You're an accomplished entrepreneur. Why are you now focussing your attention back on Corporate America?
"I've been building businesses for years. I've gone head to head with the big boys and I usually come out on top because I think like an
entrepreneur, and in this day and age thinking like an entrepreneur, seeing the world through an entrepreneur's eyes, with an entrepreneur's instincts, is a competitive advantage.
"You see, Corporate America has forgotten its entrepreneurial roots, and as a result, has become the Goliath that is under attack by raging hordes of entrepreneurial Davids. In order to compete in the hand-to-hand combat that is the modern marketplace Corporate America must return to its entrepreneurial roots. It must become David."
Why is Corporate America losing ground to smaller, more entrepreneurial companies? These "Davids" you refer to?
"Corporate America is spinning its wheels, bogged down in office politics and red tape. Top talent is leaving in droves to become competitors with their former employers.
What's hampering their ability to compete is what I call "The Cut and Paste Mentality," which simply means that most ideas coming out of large organizations lack creativity and originality. The big dogs must get back to their entrepreneurial roots or one day they will wake up to find that they are now the ones who must fight
"I think the biggest problem with Corporate America is that there is no "Blank Page Thinking." And without Blank Page Thinking, you can not have the competitive advantage. Without entreprenuerial thinking, you can not have the competitive advantage. And that's what it boils down to: entrepreneurial thinking - Blank Page Thinking - gives you the competitive advantage over your competition, no matter how big or small they might be."
Define what you mean by "Blank Page Thinking?"
"Blank page thinking means that you start with a clean slate.
There are no boilerplate concepts or preconceived notions. There are
no carried over assumptions or residual thinking. You start at zero.
You begin at step one. True creation, and as a result true innovation,
must start with a blank page. The Mona Lisa was not painted-by-numbers.
Tom Sawyer was not a rewrite of someone else’s notes. Per the
old adages: start with a blank canvas, a clean slate, an open mind.
When you create from the blank page that’s when the magic
happens. That’s when the ‘ah ha’ moments come.
If you can’t create from the blank page you can’t do
the pattern interrupt. Innovation must interrupt the patterns or
it is innovation without effect."
You've said that there is a "Cut and Paste Mentality" in most
large companies. What do you mean by that?
"The Cut and Paste Mentality is the antithesis of Blank Page Thinking. In most large organizations, thought processes do not
begin on a blank page, but are based on templatized concepts mandated
by company procedures. There is a "Cut and Paste Mentality" that
has become the accepted method of innovation in most companies.
Employees are willing to edit, but few are willing to create from
the blank page. It is the fear of failure and not wanting to take
the risk that causes the cut and paste mentality to permeate throughout
most large organizations. One of the primary problems with the
Cut and Paste mentality is that every idea has an assumption behind
it, so if you are cutting and pasting an idea you are also bringing
in the assumption behind it. Sometimes the assumption applies,
sometimes it doesn’t.
Why is creating from the blank page so hard for some organizations?
are a number of reasons. It is the fear of the unknown. It’s
daunting to start from a Point A when you have no Point B in mind.
Without a clear Z how do you start the straight line from A? If
you start with a blank page who knows where you might end up? What
mistakes might you make if you do not use the input of those who
have gone before? It is the fear of being wrong and the fear of
being ridiculed. Every innovator from Franklin to Edison has been
wrong some of the time and has felt the ridicule of the public and
their peers for it. It's hard to be a blank page innovator when
the rest of the world believes they have the right to judge and
condemn your work. It's much easier to blame failure on those who
came before. That way you can say, 'It's not my fault, that's
they way it's
always been done."
You've said that big businesses should examine
the relationships they have with vendors, partners, and contractors. Why?
mean NOTHING when budgets are cut and ROI is in danger. When smaller
companies start taking market share and revenue dollars from the
big boys the traditional relationships will crumble and loyalties
will be re-accessed. There is no partnership loyalty in business.
The days of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” are
coming to an end. In the new age networking without allegiance is
the must. In a hyper competitive market place relationships collapse,
loyalties are withdrawn and focus reassigned. In the new age you
must question the relationships and examine what they bring to the
table. Relationships for the sake of PR or good will without ROI
are no longer guaranteed to last. Relationships can not cover a
lack of innovation. There is no more riding on coat tails of an
innovative partner. You can no longer bask in the glow of partners.
The time for success by association has passed."
When you're not working on a business, speaking, or writing, what
do you do for fun?
"My passions are my family, my dogs, and my cars. I'm
a convertible nut. Over the years I've owned a vintage MG TD, a Jaguar, multiple Mercedes SLs, and a Lexus SC430. There is no greater therapy than driving down a country road with
the top down and the Beach Boys blasting out of the speakers. It will take years off your life and loads off your shoulders.
At least until the cops see you race by."