Good morning Mr. Collier,

Here are some questions I have been pondering, when you get a moment could you please answer? Thank you for your time!

How important are forecast reports to you? Do you use them to make buying decisions? If so what are some reliable sources?

I pay little to no attention to forecasts other than at the most macro level i.e. Detroit’s population is shrinking; risky place to be. The future is essentially unknowable. Media has a bad habit of shining the spotlight on whomever forecast was closest but at the same time ignoring all the past incorrect calls the same pundit made. Someone, somewhere will always guess right but it’s random; celebrating them is akin to painting a bullseye around wherever the arrow lands.

From 0 to 100 units who was the most important person on your team?

The entrepreneur working 60, 70, 80 hour weeks i.e. me. Then the handyman taking good care of my Residents! Then my banker: no financing, stunted growth. A good transaction lawyer and a good accountant/bookkeeper if you’ve not gone to law school or passed the CPA exam.

Who was the most important person on your team when you had the largest growth in your company’s history?  Who is the most important person on your team now?

I’d have to thank my CEO’s, David Materna originally and now Andy Hogshead. Both had a vision and a wide view of business possibilities. Dianna Miner, currently my Head of CapEx played a major role as well and now Jenn Clince, my COO is also an impact player. It is very, very difficult to single out individuals; over the years The Collier Companies has had many, many outstanding Team Members.

What lessons are you learning now in business?

My greatest challenge now is not so much learning anything new per se as it is simply learning to do as well as I know! I awake every morn with the goal of going to bed a better person in a world I’ve somehow contributed to being a better place in some way, no matter how small. Mostly these days it’s improving my EQ; learning the patience to live in the moment, work through others, and allowing things to unfold.

How many employees are needed in a company before it can be self-managed without the founder’s physical presence?

Does Apple have the same magic without Steve Jobs? Why did Howard Schultz come back to Starbucks? How well is Microsoft doing without Bill Gates? How well will Berkshire Hathaway do when Warren Buffet goes on to his heavenly reward? [A: 1. Not quite the same 2. Because he was NEEDED 3. Ok but they were never in the gee-whiz business, more the blocking and tackling biz where sheer size wins the day (at least until the next giant killer comes along) 4. Momentum of Warren’s rep/past investments will last for a few years, then reversion to mean will occur.]

It is a rare company that does not do better without the founder’s guidance. How much guidance? That’s a whole other question and the answer is highly variable depending upon the industry, the founder, and the team and culture she created/left behind AND the leadership put in place. I’ve always felt that while it might lose a bit of an entrepreneurial edge over time, my org would do well in my absence. One of my goals in continuing to grow is to be able to afford an ever increasing quality and quantity of senior management talent. I’m a firm believer that the cost of a deep bench is an excellent investment. I’ve a Mack truck philosophy: if a manager gets hit by a Mack truck tomorrow, I want their #2 to be able to keep things running smoothly.

To more specifically answer your question, it is HIGHLY dependent upon the type of business, what the founder was adding by their presence, the quality, training, experience, orientation and background of the management team (including Board of Directors if any), the culture AND the quality of the policies, processes, procedures and systems left in place. Also, there’s a BIG difference between steady state self-management and growth oriented. At a minimum, if the Founder was contributing energy to the growth or profitability of the company that allowed it to perform above the norm (as one would hope!), expect an eventual reversion to the norm whatever that might be.

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier