Monday, May 7, 2007


The first announcement I heard upon entering the terminal of Chicago’s O’Hare airport was that it was illegal to solicit transportation at the airport. After getting my bag and walking towards the taxi stand, a man dressed is a suit solicited me for a limousine ride to downtown. After a brief bargain on the price, I accepted his solicitation in order to get a clean, well kept car. I figured that if the car was a nicely dressed as the driver, it should be an improvement over the taxi. I was not wrong.

On the drive into downtown Chicago, which took almost an hour, the driver made various business deals over his cell phone taking notes on scraps of paper. The one that caught my ear was his attempt to find out about a car wash for sale in McAllen, Texas. I am from Austin, Texas and have done some consulting in the area. He was trying to find the owner or real estate agent, and he patiently, but persistently, would not take “I don’t know” as an answer. After several phone calls, writing notes along the way, and flawlessly driving in Chicago traffic, he finally got the name of the real estate company offering the property. He still had to get that number and the follow that lead.

I asked him if he was trying to buy the car wash. He said that he was. I asked if he had ever been to McAllen. He said that he had and that his cousin lived there. It was his cousin who gave him the lead to a car wash for sale. I volunteered that the McAllen area was still fast growing and that real estate values had held. McAllen is on the border with Mexico and has benefited because of trade with Mexico. He said that that was what his cousin told him and that real estate values in Chicago had dropped by 30%.

As we drove on in silence I looked out the window and saw a sign from the Bank of America that had two messages on it that changed:

Opportunity is everywhere
If you know where to look.

I’m not so sure it’s knowing where to look, but knowing how to look that is key. Opportunity can be right in front of you, but if you can’t see it, it’ll do you no good. Yogi Berra was right when he said, “You can see a lot just by looking.”

Did I mention that this guy was from the Mid East? I’m not an expert, but I think he was speaking Arabic on the phone to a friend. His English was good and he was demonstrating many of the characteristics of an entrepreneur. I’m sure he will do well.

Maybe Tom Watson, the founder of IBM was right, when he adopted as his vision in the 1930s, “World peace through world trade.”