Coffee with...Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker
DARIEN — It all began with a note written on Oct. 5, 1983.
“Own my own business by 10-5-88!” wrote Ed McLaughlin on a scrap of paper. The date is underlined twice and the note is signed by a friend as a witness.
McLaughlin carried that paper in his wallet for years and eventually followed through on his declaration. Through trials and failures, McLaughlin managed to succeed in business, founding four businesses and winning Entrepreneur of the Year from Ernst & Young in 2001.
Now, the Darien resident shares his advice to business hopefuls in his new book, “The Purpose is Profit,” co-written with Wyn Lydecker, a fellow business owner and writer and McLaughlin’s son, Paul, who also works in business.
“Most entrepreneurs put their time, money and reputation at risk,” McLaughlin said. “They need to succeed and quickly, because they’re borrowing money and need a profit. They need to build a business with the highest probability of success.”
When 75 percent of businesses fail within the first five years, this can prove difficult, but McLaughlin shares his own mistakes and successes to help other business owners succeed with their startup.
How to Succeed in Business
Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker offer advice for those dedicated to creating a successful startup. Here are some of their top tips from the book.
Get experience before starting your own business. You need to be able to prove to your investors you know what you’re doing. “If you understand the industry, you understand everything,” Lydecker said.
Don’t start a business on a shoestring budget. McLaughlin attributes this to being one of the top three reasons why a business fails. A goal should be to break even in 13 months, which owners should keep in mind when budgeting.
Don’t follow your passion. This may go against everything everyone is told, but McLaughlin said it’s more important to have a distinctive competence in your business, so it’ll yield a profit. Once you get a profit, then you can pursue passion projects.
“We wanted stories for interest with technical
competence along the way,” McLaughlin said. “We wanted success and failure to keep the human element in the story.”
McLaughlin includes stories about his own career, which began when he was a lifeguard on the Jersey Shore, trying to sell a product to protect people from the sun. The book follows McLaughlin’s career, through its ups and downs, including his attempt at publishing a magazine and how he bootstrapped his company, USI, and sold it to a Fortune 100 corporation.
To start off the writing process, Lydecker interviewed McLaughlin on his business experiences. The pair spent three months trying to get the story together and came up with a heavy outline of the book beforehand. Each would write alternating chapters and then would edit them together, working in the basement of McLaughlin’s Darien home.
Lydecker and McLaughlin admitted the process could be “tense,” but it was that tension that ultimately yielded a satisfying final product after three years of intense collaboration.
“We come from different backgrounds, which created tension,” Lydecker said. “But it created a great product.”
In the early stages of writing, McLaughlin’s son, Paul, who works in financial advisory for real estate consulting for Deloitte in New York City, lent his millennial voice to the writing, an important insight considering how many millennials attempt to begin their own businesses.
McLaughlin said many millennials may be an audience for his book. This generation, having seen their parents lose their jobs in previous economic downturns, crave control in their own professions and prefer to fail at their own hands, driving them to begin their own companies, he explained. However, McLaughlin and Lydecker said this is a problem when your failure comes at a cost to your investors.
“You don’t want to fail,” said Lydecker. “You need to be able to make a profit.”
So, the two break down business success into eleven chapters, including an epilogue. The book also features a startup roadmap and funding guide, with additional instruction for entrepreneurs eager to get their businesses started. A comprehensive table of contents also helps readers find exactly the chapter they’re looking for in the book.
“Entrepreneurs want to get on with it,” McLaughlin joked.
Aside from its thoroughness and readability, McLaughlin and Lydecker said “The Purpose is Profit” stands out among other business books for its honesty. The subtitle even advertises this as so: “The Truth about Starting and Building Your Own Business.” The two said they got some pushback on this, but felt it was important because it encapsulated the book.
“It’s going to give the good, the bad and the ugly,” McLaughlin said. He also said that despite this being the duo’s first book, he thinks it could be a valuable resource for aspiring business owners.
“The key is giving an inside story of a single source and what people need to know in one place,” McLaughlin said.
“A lot of books out there are written telling you to go out and change the world,” Lydecker added. “This is for the 99 percent that want to change their own world.”
For Lydecker, this may not be her last writing endeavor. She intends to continue working with entrepreneurs, writing and editing their business plans. As for McLaughlin, he hopes to further educate others on business practices and hopes to start educating large corporations on how to promote entrepreneurial enterprises. He also plans to continue working at his own company, Blue Sunsets, a real estate and investment firm.
Interested entrepreneurs-to-be can pick up a copy of “The Purpose Is Profit” from a number of book retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.