Editor’s Note: Not long ago I received a phone call from business humorist Hesh Reinfeld. He had been referred to me by author Barry Moltz. In addition to being an author and angel investor, Barry is a business networker extraordinaire. He knows the most interesting people — people like Hesh Reinfeld.
Hesh and I spoke, and I found his humor to be intelligent, brilliantly incisive, and of course, funny. The following piece captures the essence of what it is like to be a serial entrepreneur.
Confessions of an Entrepreneur
By Hesh Reinfeld
I told my family that I finally accepted that my passion had become an obsession and you could even call it an addiction. They all laughed. What had taken me 25 years to recognize, they had known for years.
My wife detected my addiction as early as our honeymoon in Paris. All I wanted to do was spend time at the Bourse trading francs on the spot market. She kept on nudging me to see some old picture in the Louvre.
For my daughter it became clear when I demanded that her prom date be an officer in Junior Achievement. I thought it was a good way to ensure that she dated a young man with career aspirations. She saw it differently.
Her younger brother, the violin virtuoso, threw the matter of the addiction in my face when I told him I would not pay for his schooling at Julliard. The curriculum did not have a course in business development or even Accounting 101. How would my son know if his future agent wasn’t cookin’ the books?
It had been six months since I had read a business plan. And I missed it. I missed it real bad. I salivated when the Wall St. Journal driver came down my block… only to skip my house. My wife had a block on our cable TV- no more MSNBC and it was no better on the Internet, I couldn’t access Bloomberg.
Last Tuesday a power stronger then me won out. I don’t know how, but I ended up at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton Club. My eyes focused on the booths along the back wall. I immediately saw the signs. A shot of single-malt Scotch, half finished, was being used as a paperweight on a four-color business plan. The reader, a silver-haired executive with monogrammed reading glasses was analyzing spreadsheets as he simultaneously served volleys of staccato like questions at the young man across the table.
This young man was obviously new to the game. His dark blue suit looked like he had not worn it since his bar mitzvah, and the tie must have been knotted eight years ago and never unraveled. He had ordered the latest micro-brew, but had not taken even one sip.
I sat at the next booth and listened in. I promised myself not to say a word. All I wanted was to eavesdrop and savior the rhythms of the conversation. I smiled as I heard the two argue over, burn rates, traction projections, alpha / beta sites, and most stridently, about valuations.
A cell phone rang, and the single-malt Scotch stood and walked a few steps to take the call in private. I jumped up and got into micro-brew’s face. I told him he was under-capitalized. He was giving away his intellectual property. His burn rate was twice as fast as this so-called ‘angel’ investor was revealing. Big Pharma would pay a much higher multiple for the company if he would listen to my suggestions.
He looked bewildered. I said it again, “Don’t make the deal — you’ll lose your company to this chamber of commerce man of the year wanna-be in seven months.”
The conversation on the cell phone ended and Mister single malt Scotch asked, “Do we have a deal? ” Micro brew-looked at him, then me, and said… “No way!” He reached for his beer and slid into my booth.
I don’t have to tell you what happened next. You all know it too well. We sat for three and a half hours, re-doing spreadsheets on his laptop, and playing out various pro-formas.
I finally stumbled home, embarrassed and yet delirious with joy over the deal I had structured. My wife could see me hiding the business plan under my coat. She demanded to see my cell phone. Quickly she went through the calls I had made in the last four hours. She knew the area codes, New York, Brussels, London, and my newest haunt, New Delhi. I had been lining up angel investors.
What could I say? I had already used up my inventory of ‘I promise it will never happen again’s.’ She had been going to her own meetings and knew that she needed to go on with her life and not let my addiction manipulate her.
Had I called my sponsor? She had not seen his number in my cell phone’s call list. “No,” I whispered.
She made me return to Entrepreneurs Anonymous (EA). I had stopped going to my meetings. I had beaten it or so I thought. But the truth is, we never do. I was just like everyone else in EA. I matched the profile perfectly. 80% of members have a relapse within their first six months. I was now another data point confirming that statistic.
My next stop is the 28-day regimen at the Warren Buffett Center for Recovering Entrepreneurs at White Sulfur Springs. I wonder if they will give me my old room back. Wish me luck.