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Local millionaire fires up entrepreneurs

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The phrase, “God helps those who help themselves,” often incorrectly attributed to the Bible, is more accurately tied to the writing of Benjamin Franklin, as well as the 16th century British scribe and nobleman Algernon Sidney.  We can now also affix that motto to the works of Flower Mound’s Charles Horton, and his “Co-Hortons,” if you will, who make up The Boardroom Lessons.

Horton will be the first to tell you that despite extraordinary, youthful business success, it was all a facade around an inner core of fear that shackled him like an extra layer of gravity.  It prevented him from breaking free to achieve the immense success that he desperately wanted, both for himself, and now, for each one of us whom he can assist to conquer his or her own fears.

In case you don’t know Horton’s background, while still in high school, in Austin, he ran an extremely successful lawn mowing business.  He didn’t push his mower from house to house, soliciting his own labor, but dispatched dozens of others to do the “dirt-work,” while he oversaw the empire.

Not satisfied with being the kingpin of a teenager’s type of business, he ventured into higher stakes vulnerability, running a check cashing business, in the hard scrabble world of flea markets.  At this point, we’re imagining him as that cool 18-year-old — donning a fedora, cigar clenched in his teeth, tipping a classmate a 20 dollar bill to run and fetch his convertible, while the rest of us shook our heads with a mixture of envy and admiration.  If only some of that cockiness and charisma could rub off onto us.  And that’s where we’re heading.

Horton, like some of his relatives before him, was as adept at losing fortunes as at making them, and the grip of fear of this happening to him, weighed heavily.  Much as with the stock market, the fear of calamity can materialize into as real an entity as if there had been an actual loss, breathing life into mere negative thoughts.  A potential collapse becomes as tangible as if ravaged by a fire.  And, with Horton, fire is definitely on the front burner of discussion, as he has used firewalking to master his trepidations, alighting over its destructive power to become a Master Firewalker Trainer, sought out by the famous and flameless through his Firewalking Institute of Research and Education (www.firewalking.com).

The very nature of firewalking begs the question, “Is the fire that we see and from which we feel the heat, actually real, or some other worldly test to see if we can conquer our own fears?  Can we vanquish the might of the fire, rendering it powerless if we don’t give it control over our own mental strength?”  But, that’s for another story on another day with Horton.

This discussion centers on the Boardroom meetings, over which Horton and several other somewhat retired millionaires hold court, on a relatively monthly basis.  The boardroom is on Horton’s property, hidden a few blocks southwest of Parker Square in a quiet Flower Mound neighborhood. 

The members of the panel dole out advice and, potentially, investment capital to those who’ve helped themselves already, if they deem the projects and prospects to be worthy.  But, as Horton is quick to point out, they’re not meeting to give the “idea” person, the entrepreneurial wannabe, a how-to book, much less a handout.  They’re on hand to listen, question, advise, and perhaps to invest with people who already have had enough courage and gumption to inflate their, “What if” ideas into real, somewhat profitable businesses. 

On a recent evening, Lisa Devereaux was pitching the panel for business help. Amongst the panel members were Horton, Greg Carr, an intellectual property lawyer;  Stewart Mercer, who has founded five companies;  David Griffin, a seasoned business broker – who couldn’t stay retired and serves as Executive Vice President of FastBucks  (another of  Horton’ s businesses);  John Brown, a self-described “serial entrepreneur”; and Aimee Iarussi of DFW Business Network.

As for Devereaux, she is not just starting out.  She has already been selling her multi-purpose scarves, which also can be worn as midriff-wraps, head-wraps, as a bra, and once, as she explained in her very entertaining style, pinch-hitting for a broken suitcase handle in New York City.  This enabled her to pull her heavy bag down the city sidewalk.  In a pinch, it probably does do windows!

When queried by the panel, Devereaux explains that she has had her greatest sales success with the “liscaro” on QVC, but adds that this TV network makes its own rules, and she’s been unable to get back on since last fall, despite being on many times over the years.  Additionally, she has been on WFAA-TV with Ron Corning, as well been booked for several huge network shows…but suffered the delays and postponements that many do while hoping for publicity.

Horton explains that his sessions, which can be viewed live, for free (limited seating), or online at www.boardroomlessons.com, are a lot like the TV show Sharktank, but adds with aplomb, that whereas, “The network show is entertaining, it lacks the Boardroom’s educational aspects…and we don’t charge the 8-percent they do.” He adds, “I have money sitting here for investing if the product and person behind it are right.”

Once Devereux goes into her history, the panel doesn’t throw softball questions, going back and forth, exposing any business weaknesses she has.  Some of her math, regarding such things as net vs. gross, her actual take home pay, and the like, take their toll on her business acumen and ware away, somewhat, at her credibility.  Nonetheless, while some panelists seem more impressed than others, there is no denying that she has come a very long way, all by herself, and is still standing tall as a one-woman business in the very challenging world of clothing sales. 

She has an upcoming test market program going into Dillards.  She is profitable, even if not wildly so.  But she’s done it without any real help at all.  Whereas she asks for angel investors, she would be happy just to be able to afford an office manager to help with details so that she can go out and slay the dragons without having to answer the phone while doing it.  All the panelists agree that she has a very viable product.   By the end of her part of the evening’s event, it appears that she just may be getting the funding which will help her turn the corner and have a shot at the type of success that Sara  Blakely, of Spanx fame achieved as a one woman, hustling clothing entrepreneur.

Horton added, if they help Devereaux, the Boardroom already has such expertise as legal, human resources, and accounting, so that these need not be additional overhead for her.  But he did advise that when asked a financial question about any sort of money, one is far better off to have a firm, confident sounding answer, if one wants to inspire confidence in the hearts and wallets of lenders and investors.

There were far too many strong points made by the panel to put in this article, but the sessions are streamed and available on the Internet site.  And Horton really sells his own “show” slightly short, by giving credit to Sharktank for being entertaining.  It has nothing on his program, which anyone can come to and watch and see people of great ambition put it all on the line in a potentially life changing 90 minutes.

You owe it to yourself to at least go to Horton’s website, www.boardroomlessons.com, not to mention Lisa Devereaux’s at www.liscaro.com.  Then, maybe we’ll all meet to do some fire-walking together before too long, to see if
fire is real…or just really in our heads.

John LaVine can be reached at johnlavine99@yahoo.com.

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