Robert Luddy’s new book “Entrepreneurial Life: The Path from Startup to Market Leader” details the values and lessons he’s learned in starting CaptiveAire, the largest commercial kitchen ventilation company in North America. Luddy shares his history as one of eight children in a hard-working, poor family and the leadership and business insights he’s gathered over the last 40 years.
NSJ: What made you decide to write this book?
Luddy: The original idea of the book was to document the history and operating strategies of CaptiveAire. I added in my personal background. As the book progressed, I wanted to communicate the nature of entrepreneurial life as a life choice. Some individuals think in terms of starting a business and selling out at a young age and retiring. The reality is it takes a very long time to develop a great business. Think of Fred Smith of FedEx — he remains the chairman after 47 years.
NSJ: What role does the entrepreneurial spirit play in the nation’s and the state’s economy?
Luddy: The entrepreneur must anticipate future needs, including innovation. Since 2000 we have witnessed many new businesses, which satisfy old and new market requirements. From restaurants, taxi (Uber), online shopping and an array of personal services. Entrepreneurs create new competition, which is critical to a vibrant marketplace.
NSJ: Why have you become engaged in the public charter school movement?
Luddy: Most employers are very cognizant of the education and skills delicenses of current and future employees. It was obvious to me that charters were one of the best competitive ideas in public education. I helped lobby for the N.C. Charter School bill, passed in 1995.
NSJ: What advice do you have to would-be entrepreneurs with just an idea and limited capital?
Luddy: Start as a small business and do most of the work yourself. Milton Friedman referred to this as sweat capital. This is a very slow process but also affords the opportunity to learn and grow personally. It took about eight years for my company to gain financial stability, but during those years we gained expertise and learned how to be resourceful and compete under adversity.
“Entrepreneurial Life: The Path from Startup to Market Leader” can be purchased at www.lulu.com.