Book Review – Beyond Tallulah

I was not really interested in reading this book when my dad gave it to me. There were several books on my “to read” list and this one was not even on my radar. I let it sit on my shelf for several weeks until my dad asked me if I had started it yet.  He had given it to me and I felt compelled to work through it. I was hooked after the first chapter and had a great time reading this biography.

Sam Wyly is an interesting man. He is a phenomenal entrepreneur and a brilliant businessman. He was on the cutting edge of computer technology long before personal computers were viable. Wyly dreamed of creating what we know as the Internet before anyone ever thought about giving Al Gore credit. He built multiple businesses from the ground up and sold several for billions of dollars.

Wylie was born into a working class family in Louisiana and graduated from Louisiana Tech University and the University of Michigan’s School of Business. After graduation, he went to work for IBM and then Honeywell. In 1963, he founded University Computing Company, which had sales of $125 million by 1971. He and his brother bought the Bonanza Steakhouse restaurant chain in 1967. In 1981, he co-founded Sterling Software, which was later sold to Computer Associates in 2000 for $4 billion. He bought controlling interest in Michael’s Arts and Crafts in 1982 and took their sales from $10 million at the time of purchase to $1.24 billion by 1996 (he sold it for $6 billion in 2006). In 1990, Wyly co-founded the hedge fund Maverick Capital, which had $8 billion in assets by 2003. He is also the largest stock-holder of clean energy producer Green Mountain Energy and operates a bookstore in Aspen with his wife.

Needless to say, Wyly has an impressive resume and has accomplished a great deal by the world’s standards. There are few, if any, entrepreneurs or businessmen that have had Wyly’s success in multiple industries.

What I learned from Sam Wyly

1. We can learn a lot from unbelievers. Sam Wyly is a devout Christian Scientist and would reject orthodox Christianity. I often find it interesting that many followers of Jesus Christ would dismiss someone like this based simply on their beliefs. I believe all truth is God’s truth and it is clear to me that Wyly is a gifted businessman and entrepreneur. He knew how to surround himself with quality people and never appeared to be intimidated by their expertise. He understood how free markets worked and capitalized on this knowledge. Learn from people outside of your camp.

2. Vision is key. Sam Wyly envisioned a world that was interconnected by computers back when computers took up an entire room and cost millions of dollars. He was a visionary in several industries and this helped him become successful. He read widely and continued to push to make his dreams become a reality. If you want to be successful, you need vision.

3. Treat people well. Wyly did not manage companies; he managed people. Even after acquiring a company he always took care of employees even if he let them go. Often people are used and resources are managed when it should be the other way around. Relationships are vitally important for the success of any organization.