This year, KCIC marks our 20th anniversary. The company was formed in March of 2002, and we officially opened for business in May.
However, for me personally, April 18, 2002, is the day that matters most. In my heart, it is our true anniversary, because that is when I took the train down from New York to Washington, D.C., to start the business. Coincidentally, it is also the anniversary of my father's death in 1999. Had he lived, he would have turned 110 this year.
My father was an entrepreneur, though he would NEVER have described himself that way. He would have said "I just worked". But he taught me a number of important lessons about entrepreneurship and life in general that occur to me as I reflect on this joint anniversary. As someone who reads many books about business strategy, I also find it striking how modern, or perhaps timeless, his lessons were.
This is what my father taught me:
My father was as honest as the day is long, in small ways and in great ones. He would, without fail, do what he said he was going to do. In matters of money he was impeccable, correcting other people's mistakes even to his financial disadvantage — always.
Warren Buffett explains why he maintains strong capital in the business: He wants to sleep well at night and not be dependent on the "kindness of strangers". My father was the same way. He hated owing anyone money. He was a child during the First World War and a young man during the Great Depression. Although we were comfortably off growing up, he was extremely frugal as a result of those experiences. It rubbed off on me — often to the irritation of my family. As a result, KCIC has a strong balance sheet, which enables us to take risks and to ride out surprises, such as the COVID lockdown, without particular financial anxiety.
Like me, my father was a strong introvert, but unlike me, he was also extremely shy, especially as a young man. He was an engineering salesman during the Great Depression in the 1930s — about the worst possible job for his personality type. He needed to cold call (usually in person), entertain prospective clients, and deal with constant rejection. But he just kept at it because he had no other choice. He told me that in due time the orders started to come in. People remembered this honest, shy young man. They wanted to do business with him because they liked and trusted him.
My father was a kind man — kind to people and to animals, too. If he could be of service to just about anyone, he would go out of his way be so. I have come to believe that kindness should be called out as a required business skill. All the successful entrepreneurs and business leaders I know are all really kind people, too. I don't think it is an accident. Teams, employees, clients, and vendors all want to be around kind people.
So, thinking about my father, and about the great ride that these past 20 years have been for me, my heart is full of gratitude — both for the honor of serving our clients and also for leading this successful enterprise we call KCIC.
To our team: Happy Birthday! Ad multos annos! To the clients we enjoy collaborating with: Thank you!
To read more about Jonathan’s reflections on entrepreneurship, see these past posts by him:
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Jonathan Terrell is the Founder and President of KCIC. He has more than 30 years of international financial services experience with a multi-disciplinary background in accounting, finance and insurance. Prior to founding KCIC in 2002, he worked at Zurich Financial Services, JP Morgan, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.Learn More About Jonathan