According to Flip Howard, you don’t need a revolutionary idea to become a successful entrepreneur. Taking an existing idea and executing it better than anybody else works, too. “Ninety percent of business owners are terrible at what they’re doing,” he said. “You can do it better with hard work.” Howard, founder and president of Meridian Business Centers, recently hosted students from the University of Dallas’ Entrepreneurship Society at one of his Dallas-area centers on March 23.
Meridian operates 15 locations in DFW and Houston in which small businesses can lease individual offices that share common areas like conference rooms, work rooms, and kitchens. “This set up is perfect for firms with one to four employees, like lawyers, stock brokers, or small tech companies,” he said. “Although they may pay more per square foot than leasing an office directly from a landlord, our tenants pay only for the office space they actually need. And because the spaces are turnkey, there is no need to spend time or money setting up utilities like phone or Internet.”
Howard explained that because Meridian leases–rather than owns–the spaces they operate, they keep zero debt. “This means that we can weather economic downturns better than some of the larger real estate companies,” Howard said. “Our ups and downs are smoothed out.” One of the most lucrative areas for Meridian is virtual offices, in which individuals or companies can pay for using Meridian’s physical address on their business cards, phone-answering service, and even the use of the conference room. “Most of our virtual tenants travel or just work from home,” he said. “But they might need to meet with clients occasionally, or have a FedEx package delivered. So we’ve adapted our services to the needs of the market.”
Howard’s career as an entrepreneur began in his teens when he and his current business partner painted addresses on curbs to make money. “I could make $250 in the same amount of time that my friends working in fast food were making $20,” he said. “After that, I knew I’d never have a ‘real job.’”
Soon after college graduation, Howard and his business partner started University Laundry, a laundry pickup and delivery service for college students. Working about a hundred hours per week while building the business taught him a lot about management and finance. “You can’t learn how to manage people from reading a book,” he said. “You have to get out there and do it to learn what works and what doesn’t.”
Howard told the group that one of the most valuable lessons he has learned as an entrepreneur is that success is all about staffing. “I’m always looking for people that have a positive, unselfish attitude,” he said. “Everyone occasionally makes bad hires. But you need to be able to let go of the ones who just don’t fit.”
Howard also counseled the group not to be overly cautious when analyzing opportunities. “I work a lot with Young Catholic Professionals,” he said. “And one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of people in the 24-30 age range tend to over-analyze problems. They can be too timid. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who get things done. So just get out there and do something.”
Howard also told the group to hold themselves to a high standard. “Whether it’s morally or in the business world, so many people set a low bar and have low expectations for themselves,” he said. “You need to be different. Set the bar higher for yourself and you will stand out.”
For more information on the University of Dallas Entrepreneurship Society, click here.