Former president shares what a honky-tonk can teach all of us.
Concho Minick is the former long-time President of Billy Bob’s Texas, the world-famous entertainment complex in the Fort Worth Stockyards. He is credited with transformation of the institution into its viable modern form. He is a Fort Worth native, alumnus of TCU and Yale, and a member and former Chapter Chair of YPO Fort Worth. Concho is now the CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate | ULTERRE which is a commercial and residential real estate brokerage with operations across the Dallas Fort Worth area.
Lessons from the Honky-Tonk
By: Concho Minick
In the forthcoming book on my adventures at Billy Bob’s Texas I am sharing in lurid detail the bizarre life experienced as President of the “World’s Largest Honky-Tonk”. From Willie’s Picnic to the Texas Supreme Court and back – it is a once in a lifetime tale – and one, during recent times past, I could not be certain I would live to tell.
Until the full story is published, I wanted to offer in advance a series of short articles to share business learnings from this very unusual perspective. Believe it or not, there are some things to take back to the boardroom from the bowels of this place Fort Worth holds up as its cultural example – the Fort Worth Stockyards and Billy Bob’s.
Leading the operations of a sprawling entertainment venue which is running live music or a private event (or several) nearly every day and closes just one day a year is something I never thought I would have to wrap my head around. I certainly didn’t envision this part of my career sitting in Venture Capital class at Yale.
The story of how I came to take on this role as President of Billy Bob’s is worthy its own documentary. But we are going to have to skip that for now and just put it like this – I wanted to export Fort Worth to the world. The authenticity, the western lifestyle, the music, the incredible hospitality and adventurous entrepreneurial zeal that radiates from this city was neatly captured in the Billy Bob’s Texas business. It seemed like the world needed more of that.
Now things are very different at Billy Bob’s. Looking back on it, there are lessons unexpected emerging from a fascinating business. In what would seem so simple as serving a cold Coors Light, rich lessons abound. From my seven years hard time served (10 and counting including lawsuits) I hope you will benefit. Perhaps some perspective on what it means to live and work in Fort Worth will be a bonus.
Part 1 of 5: Partners
“You are looking for the best answer, not simply the best answer that you can come up with yourself.” – Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work
Countless times we have heard the idea that having no partners is always preferable. As many times as I have heard it, something still bothers me today when I run across the idea of always going solo in business. There is somehow in this the idea that people are inherently bad, and at the same time it is quite limiting to the many pathways of success.
I have a different view on human potential. The thought expanding creativity of having wonderful partners and the added energy of many people doing great work united in a common goal is marvelous. I prefer to dwell in the possibilities of this type of scenario which puts a premium on finding great partners.
Billy Bob’s seemed to be populated by good business partners. On the surface it looked to have the “word is your bond” John Wayne kind of appeal. There were partners who were at all the charity events, partners who were plain spoken cowboys, and others who were successful businessmen, even some family members. How could I go wrong? Right?
Even when your father is your predecessor (and maybe especially in that case) take your sweet rolling country music time to assess potential partners, socialize with their spouses and friends, and ask any question you can dream up. Stay intensely focused and peer into the heart of the authenticity. If someone looks uncomfortable about a topic – stay on it for a while. Look for it diligently then pull up quickly when you realize you are looking too hard. Wanting something to work too bad will blind you to the real opportunities and you will undoubtedly wander into confirmation bias by mere exhaustion or an excess of long necks (if you run a honky-tonk).
“Wanting something to work too bad will blind you to the real opportunities and you will undoubtedly wander into confirmation bias by mere exhaustion or an excess of long-necks.”
Believe me, I have learned this the hard way. If there was a Wikipedia on bad family business situations, I would at least get a footnote. And when you go through a partnership where a contractual agreement is trampled by the deployment of an armed security force and you have a partner deploy extortion to get you to walk away from a deal empty-handed, it does something to you. It burns into your mind that the “who” part of businesses could not be more important to the richness of the opportunity.
To deliver a take-away from the honky-tonk that may help you find good partners it would go something like this …
- Don’t be afraid of business with friends and family but look for early conflictive behavior and stay acutely focused on how people respond to questions and situations. There is much to be learned about a potential partner from seeing excitement early on.
- Test any friendships and relationships you can in advance by probing on partner’s stated accomplishments, strategies, and communication styles. Invite their significant other, spouse, mother, dog, etc. to any meeting you can – and ask them the same things.
- The real stripes of your potential partner will show on the dance floor not in the conference room. Take them for a spin way before you commit.
Today at Christie’s International Real Estate | ULTERRE I am energized by a group of incredible partners. The collection of business and life experiences opens a bountiful creative pathway for growth. When you have that combined with the package of people who are at their core – genuine – it literally changes what it means to go to work every day. When you get into this kind of positive energy it is unmistakable. The challenges and humanity still arise as they do in all business situations but knowing that you are on a driven team that is so connected by good culture is the ultimate business high.
At Christie’s we even open our business to agents that want to become partners. As such, good culture is at our core. Partners, agents, everyone benefits from something that is uniquely genuine, constantly learning, inventive, and driven. All are benefiting from the collective experience of the group – even the lessons from the Honky-Tonk.