[00:00] Podcast begins
[01:15] Hitchhiking the way to Harvard Business School
[04:31] Mastering business turnaround through tech & team leadership
[13:12] Simple protocols & consistent processes over sweeping business epiphanies
[18:23] Education for entrepreneurs with real-life decision making
[27:45] Problem solving through “management by walking around”
[33:21] Saving the world at Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship
You have a lot of experience mastering business turnaround. Can you tell us about that?
Transforming a business on the brink of bankruptcy is hardly easy, but Read assures that his success has more to do with consistency and process than a magical epiphany. Read feels fortunate to have worked with businesses in a variety of stages in their journeys, from just starting out to recovering from bankruptcy. At the end of the day, a strong organization stems from everyone unified under one goal, no matter the circumstances of a business’ finances.
“I don't think anybody's a master. I think you get better at it as you deal with them, because building an organization is surprisingly generic. It's about: Can you collect a group of people and convince them that it's in their best interest to work toward whatever team goal that you have?”
What was your first business turnaround project? Why did you see potential in it?
Read’s first business turnaround project came in the form of the Chattanooga Glass Company, based in Tennessee. At Chattanooga, making glass bottles wasn’t paying the bills anymore and the business was sinking fast under poor management. Although it felt like a shot in the dark, Read saw potential. If everything was going wrong, wouldn’t doing something be better than doing nothing? It turns out, that mindset would take Read and Chattanooga very far.
“We bought this terrible glass bottle company in a declining market, basically for liquidation value, and the challenge was: Can you do anything to make this a viable economic entity? It was being run so badly that virtually anything you touched would improve.”
You currently teach at the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston. Tell me a little bit about your philosophy of teaching.
Texas is a very entrepreneurial place, and some of that credit is due to the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the number one undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the nation. When Read was offered the opportunity to become a professor at Wolff, his initial hesitancy was overshadowed by his excitement and intrigue about Wolff’s experiential learning program. Giving students the opportunity to make real-life situations transforms the curriculum and creates confident future entrepreneurs ready for anything.
“I'm totally impressed with the Wolff Center program because there is such an emphasis on experiential learning. We try to put our students into situations where they have to either make actual decisions or virtual decisions based on the data given to them in a real-life situation.”
How are you using your entrepreneurial experiences to forge the future?
Mistakes are plenty for any entrepreneur, but Read Boles aims to forge the future by teaching his students to avoid the missteps he had to learn from. Teaching at Wolff Center is Read’s method of giving back to the entrepreneurial business community that helped him thrive. Many of Read’s students are first-generation college students and first-time business owners, and he hopes to show them that they don’t have to go through this journey alone or inexperienced.
“The students that we teach [at Wolff Center] are an incredible collection, across the board, of not the most rich and most privileged. Many of our kids are first-generation college kids and they're engaged and this is my opportunity to pass on some knowledge.”