Category Archives: Small business

The story that keeps on giving

Catch Saturday’s Eagle for the latest from the ongoing saga of Thomas Etheredge’s Wild West World. In the meantime, I’m hoping some of our readers from the banking industry can answer a question that keeps nagging at me:

How does a man essentially without a business plan land millions in loans from small Wichita bank branches?

Our detailed look at Etheredge’s failure over the past year reveals that his loan requests had no traction at Wichita’s large banks.

But the smaller banks – many jousting for local market share – jumped aboard quickly. And we’ve been told that some of the loans were without disbursement oversight. It’s clear that Etheredge used his connections at Summit Church to inspire faith and cash from his friends there. But that doesn’t explain the bank loans.

Was it carelessness? Eagerness for market share? A blind buy-in to a high-profile project?

How to get rich

New York Times columnist Paul P. Brown says Felix Dennis, publisher of Maxim, The Week, Stuff and Computer Shopper magazines, among others, is pretty candid in his book “How to Get Rich” about the mistakes he made building his business.

That’s why Brown, who today reviewed several books aimed at small business owners and entrepreneurs, finds Dennis’ advice fairly credible, including these gems:

  • Never be overoptimistic when it comes to day-to-day finances. “If cash flow is good, then no matter how badly run or poorly managed a company is, there is always a decent chance of turning it around,” Dennis says. “But if a business’s cash flow is weak or failing, then the chances are it must shut down or be sold in the not-too distant future.”
  • Never act big. You, and your company, should live below your means.
  • Never skimp on hiring talent.

Check out Brown’s columns for more small-business tool kits.

Forget the Joyland coaster

One more thought on Jerry Murphy, generated from the Internet responses this morning to our story on the Tulsa carnival entrepreneur:

People, forget the Joyland roller coaster. It’s not happening at the old Wild West World. Not today, not tomorrow, not next summer, not ever.

Despite its obvious romance to Wichitans, insurance companies don’t like wood coasters. And start-up companies, especially those taking over a business that’s failed once, don’t like big insurance bills. It’s a lovely historical idea, but it’s impractical.

There will be coasters at Murphy’s park, but they’ll be newer steel coasters.

Murphy: No ego, just ideas

I walked away impressed Tuesday after three hours with Jerry Murphy, the Tulsa businessman who wants to revive Wild West World.

And if you’ll excuse a bad paraphrase, I know Thomas Etheredge. And Jerry Murphy’s no Thomas Etheredge.

That’s a good thing. I found very little of the huckster’s bluster in Murphy, just a simple plea for Wichitans: Give me a summer to put a new brand on the park and I’ll show you a good time.

Murphy, who’s got five decades of experience running carnivals and water parks, proved quickly to me he knows where Etheredge went wrong: There are plans for at least one roller coaster, trees and canopies to provide shade on what turned out to be an asphalt broiler, higher-quality food and longer-term plans to add a small water park.

And there also are plans in the works to reach out to the season ticket holders who invested in Etheredge, through discounts and ticket tradeouts that haven’t been firmed up. The park will be repackaged, and it looks like Wichitans will have a chance to select its theme in a public contest.

Murphy admitted that he looks forward to the challenge of rehabilitating the park’s image. But he can’t do it alone, and if is a barometer, Wichitans remain very bitter about the failed theme park. Will Wichitans give Jerry Murphy a chance?

Success off the court

If you had asked me what players on the two Wichita State basketball teams I covered from 1985-87 would become successful businessmen, I’m not sure Tom Kosich would have been part of the conversation. He was an easy-going, life-of-the-party kind of guy (probably still is) who seemed to have no plan for his life, other than to enjoy it. And now? He’s president of Noodle Inc., a telecom service company with headquarters in the San Francisco area. He is also on the Board of Directors for the WSU Alumni Association and was in town last year to as part of the Distinguished Alumni Speaker Breakfast Series. On Tuesday, his company sent out a news release saying it had bought naming rights to the bullpen at Eck Stadium and would name it in honor of Shocker pitching coach Brent Kemnitz, a close friend of Kosich’s.

Not bad for a guy whose sole job the first year I covered the team (he was red-shirting because of a bad back) was to carry Gene Smithson’s dry erase board on road trips. He was a role player the next season, where his main job was trying to get new coach Eddie Fogler — a Dean Smith disciple — to lighten up a bit. The famous story that season was when Fogler was telling the team before it departed for a trip to Hawaii that “Honolulu in December is not that great.” Kosich’s reported response: “Coach, I’ve been to Terre Haute in February and it’s not that great either.”

How entrepreneurs fight a slumping economy

Business Week has an interesting take this morning on how the nation’s entrepreneurs are fighting back against a slumping economy.

I’m guessing that its theme – keep plugging away with smaller margins – drew a few frowns from nine-digit salaried CEOs and corporate investors across Wall Street today.

But sitting here in the lap of entrepreneurship, you grab a special bit of appreciation for priorities – a long-term plan for business prosperity instead of maximizing quarterly profits. It’s another affirmation of one of Charles Koch’s core business philosophies: Privately operated businesses do best when they can focus, Wall Street-free, on long-term plans to add value to their products.

Our loss is your gain

Bill Wilson is right: It’s amazing what you can find out there in cyberspace. Wild West World lives on not only in MySpace, but now ANYBODY can own a piece of its rueful history — just check out eBay.

Wichita power seller “acountrypawnguy“says he loves theme parks so much he went out and bought up Wild West World’s souvenirs, apparently so he can share his love with the rest of the world. In his description of a souvenir throw he’s selling (as of this writing, it’s going for $4.79 plus $12.50 shipping), he wistfully opines, spelling errors and all:

Ok Here’s the deal. We had this beautiful amusement park open just outside of Wichita called Wild West World. It cost over 52 million and went out of business in 90 days. This was a beautiful park and we are all sick to have it closed. I went and bought up all the souvenirs from there. Why? Because I love amusment parks and I love pictures and sourvenirs.

Although the park reportedly cost some $20 million less than this guy states, and he certainly didn’t buy up all the souvenirs that went up for auction, you can certainly cash in on the sentiment.

So here’s your chance, folks! There are less than five days left to snatch up a “Rare item from Park that went under in 3 mos.


Wild West World’s MySpace page

As a true maverick – I detest American Idol and I don’t have a MySpace page – I retained the right of skepticism when friends told me you can find anything on MySpace.

But as this Wild West World entry proves, they were right.

Somewhere in cyberspace there lurks a fan of the two-month misadventure in prepackaged Western entertainment that has ended in bankruptcy.

It’s interesting and a little reassuring, frankly, to see that the park mattered to someone besides the legions of workers and vendors who didn’t get paid out there. If the author’s out there,  please get in touch with us. You’d make a good story.

Here’s a shocker: We’re in a recession

Thanks to FedEx Kinkos, we now know small-business owners are concerned about the economy.

The company released its national “Signs of the Times” small-business survey today, which also found that 66 percent of those polled foresee flat or falling profits in 2008.

Sounds like bad news all around. However, there is a silver lining, at least for the newspaper industry: Some 92 percent of small-business owners say they will either keep the same or increase spending on marketing and advertising budgets it this year.

FedEx Kinkos was kind enough to offer some marketing tips to help you through it.