Borsch’s Cheap * Cash * Store

As we all move forward in 2006, I’ve been thinking alot about what seems to be on everyone’s mind: innovation; top-line revenue growth; doing things differently.  Couple that with my Dad turning 80 years old on January 5th — and my working again on an important project of mine scanning and retouching old family photos all while thinking-through next steps on my life journey — and thoughts about my great, great Grandfather John Borsch and his Borsch’s Cheap * Cash * Store came roaring in to my brain.

Let me tie these together.

John Borsch was the teetotaling son of a German immigrant. An industrious and nice man, he had a store in a rural town just northwest of Minneapolis, about a half day carriage ride from the city. His store was near the railroad and he would hear about distressed merchants in other cities, would contact them, often travel to those cities to buy them out, and would liquidate that merchandise in Minneapolis before packing up the rest for sale in the store you see above.

He made enough to retire at 45.

When you think about the financial risks entailed in what he did, it makes it all the more remarkable. He ended up with quite an asset base going in to the Depression and did well during it. He became a landlord of single family homes in the city and — as my Dad recounts the story — he had renters perform sweat equity in lieu of paying the rent they couldn’t afford some times. His houses were perfect before, during and after the Depression (unlike many other landlords whose housing stock dropped in value when renters were evicted and no one else could afford to move in).

Today, it seems that every time I turn around someone is comparing innovation to “…what Apple has done with the iPod.”  Two companies with whom I’ve met with their C-level executives, liken their innovation initiatives to “Steve Jobs and the iPod.” What they don’t see is the several years of slow-but-steady progress forward. Remember the Bondi Blue first iMac? The “Yum” multi-colored ones?  The lime, tangerine and blue clamshell iBooks? The progress they made with the unix-based Mac OS X?

Here’s the lesson: John Borsch, like Apple is today, was on his journey (being a small retailer in Delano near Minneapolis) and had his base of business. He innovated by taking advantage of opportunities as he inquired or heard about them. He created his own success by taking the risk to obtain capital, travel to far off cities, perform a transaction to buy up goods, pack ’em up, sell most in the big city and bring the rest back to his little store in Delano. As my Dad tells the story, he was a good man with a heart of gold that nonetheless became wealthy seeing, and then capitalizing upon, opportunity.

Keep strengthening your base of business and take the innovative steps you need to incrementally drive revenue. Then find the iPod in your industry by asking, probing and looking for the opportunity. There is more energy, more seeking and more innovation going on right now than at any other time I can remember in my life. It’s gonna be fun to watch 2006 unfold and to live it!

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.