ChromoCare CEO Hugh Cathey has been an active investor in eight early stage technology companies and the president of two publicly traded companies. Talking with Smart Business President and CEO Fred Koury, Cathey says his first real experience in business was in his early 20s when he and his father started a company that sold forklift trucks and industrial equipment.
"We sold it about five or six years later, so that was my first exit," Cathey says.
That experience, he says, informed the rest of his career by heightening his knowledge of the very basics of basic business, such as inventory management, customer service, sales forecasting, etc. But there was an even more important lesson.
"One of the things my dad taught me was it's always about the people — that all skills that have been essential in every business I've run or been involved with since that time, the feeling about it's always about the people has been the bedrock," Cathey says.
There have, however, been missteps in his career. Cathey says he was president of a publicly traded company in the telecommunications sector at a time when there was a lot of pressure in the market on around the tech bubble burst. His company started chasing growth at the expense of profit.
"We would deploy capital to build fiberoptic facilities and only after we had built that at huge costs, millions and millions and millions of dollars, then go after the revenue," he says. "And doing that — kind of the cliche, build-it-and-they-will-come attitude — really came back to bite us in a big way. We had deployed literally hundreds of millions of dollars in these broadband facilities across the country and then we started chasing the revenue. We really struggled mightily because of that and we had to accept lower profit margins to be competitive. And as I look back, if there's anything that I ever wished I could have to do over again, that's probably it."
In a more personal SmartTalk interview, Cathey spoke about his successes and missteps, who and what helped shape his career, what motivates him and more.