Pre-Internet Entrepreneurs: Charles T Hinde

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Though not one of the most famous of the 19th century Captains of Industry, Charles T Hinde was one of the most successful. His success didn’t come from his command over a single industry, though—from steamboats to railroads to hotels, real estate, and more, Hinde’s success was built on knowing how to follow the money.

The Lesson: Staying Put Means Staying Stagnant

Growth is procured by making the right moves at the right time, not by standing still, and no one knew that better than Charles T. Hinde. He began as a college dropout and grocery clerk, then moved his low-level service experience to the steamboat industry. There, he quickly climbed the ranks and became one of the youngest captains ever before striking out on his own and starting his own steamboat shipping business.

Change was already in the wind, though, and Hinde’s steamboat business was barely off the ground (or in the water) before he sold his interest at a tidy profit and joined a railroad company as a shipping agent. The rail business was soon taking a lot of business away from the less-efficient steamboats, and though the company Hinde worked for went eventually under due to mismanagement he managed to take his contracts and sell them to another, more successful venture, once again making a nice profit by getting out at the right time.

Then came Southern California and its real estate boom, which along with his partnership in the grand Hotel Coronado is where Hinde met with the biggest financial boons of his life. His gains in these areas allowed him to invest in businesses of all sorts, from shipping to mining to commodities trading, and his personal wealth grew exponentially.

The Action: Look for Better Opportunities

Hinde didn’t abandon his businesses on a whim, or simply because he saw something glimmering on the horizon. He looked for signs of change and adjusted his plans and his resource allocation accordingly. You need to do the same, even when you’re pulling your startup through its growth stages.

You don’t have to shift industries, but do some research: are changes happening in your target market? Are there new ways for your company to create value, or new competition that might pose a threat? Tackle them early and stay ahead of the curve. Adjust, move, and grow!


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