Patrick Moraites | Crain's Tampa Bay

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Patrick Moraites

Background:  

Founded by Ryan DeJong and Patrick Moraites in March 2007 as a commercial finance and expense reduction company, FIRM Consulting Group today is a Tampa-based holding company whose subsidiaries deliver on FIRM’s original promise by providing client-centered business solutions and increasing clients’ cash flow through innovative expense-reduction plans and vendor management services.

The Mistake:

We started our company with really no direction.

One of my mentors said to me, “Look, you should really look at acquiring something and then add on from there.” But Ryan and I, we started our company with really no direction. All of the things that come with starting a company were just kind of unknowns. So we just incorporated and said, “We’ll figure it out,” which is not the best path to go. I was naive in thinking that, you know, “Well, we’ll just start the company. We’ll put up a website, and then the phone will ring.”

Our circumstances, at the time, were that we were coming out of a background of lending. Initially, our company was a commercial lending company where we were brokering commercial loans. And then the bottom fell out of the market. The recession hit. Banks weren’t budging on anything; they were going out of business.

So we had to completely reinvent ourselves and change direction. We became more of a cost-containment and expense reduction company. We knew that we wouldn’t forever be in a recession. We had the mentality of, “If we can survive this, we'll be able to thrive later.”

We took the mentality of being too stubborn to fail.

The Lesson:

Buy something. If I could do it all over again, I would buy an existing company right from the beginning. Find a marketplace and an interest and then buy.

If you buy a company, you’re buying cash flow and you’re buying yourself a paycheck in a sense, too. And then you can bring in your creative ideas and your vision and your innovation to something that already exists. Because the things that you don’t think about when you’re starting out, like the cost of paper and pens and a printer, … all of those little items add up. If you’re relying 100 percent on your savings, you can deplete that in a hurry just on website marketing materials.

Luckily, we took the mentality of being too stubborn to fail. And we were not at all averse to changing the plan. So if we were going in a direction and it wasn’t working, we would just change course.

We were just doing whatever we could to survive. In a lot of ways, we probably lucked out … because had we bought a business just before the recession or during the recession and not knowing enough about that particular industry, we could have quite easily failed.

Follow Patrick Moraites on Twitter at @XpenseReduction.

Photo by Ryan G Photo | Courtesy of Patrick Moraites

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