Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. Menu IconA vertical stack of three evenly spaced horizontal lines. Bruce Pellegrino has never been featured in Inc or Forbes Magazine, but he has achieved more than most entrepreneurs who have been. His first entrepreneurial endeavor million Dollar Business Ideas To Start With No Money selling night crawlers to neighbors at age five.
He never completed college because his landscaping business took up too much time. Everything he learned about business was through trial and error. Most people would retire after one multi-million-dollar sale, but Pellegrino aspired for more. Business Insider: You started with a landscaping business. Now, you’ve sold two multi-million-dollar companies. Were you always interested in entrepreneurship? Bruce Pellegrino: Yes, I think so. It started when I was a kid, around five or six years old. Whether it was doing chores for neighbors or catching night crawlers and selling them for 50 cents a dozen, I was always motivated by making money.
I think it was because my parents didn’t have much. They were kind of poor and I was fascinated by the fact that I could make my own money, even if it was only 50 cents. Did you pursue a college degree or did you focus full-time on the landscaping business? I was going to engineering school at night in Newark, and I had a landscaping business during the day that I started with a pickup truck and a lawn mower. Little by little, I gained customers.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was learning the basics of selling, marketing, accounting, and delivering a service. It was like business school 101 without the classroom. I was learning through trial and error how to keep customers happy, how to have recurring customers, and how to price a job. When I moved out of my parents’ home and had to pay rent, everything kind of smacked me in the face. I had to get up every morning and make stuff happen to be successful. I built up my landscaping business, but I got tired of it. So, I decided to sell the business.
I was still going to school at night but, because of the workload, I eventually stopped to focus on being an entrepreneur instead. Do you think that was a good decision? Is school something entrepreneurs should pursue, even though you didn’t? I think it depends on the individual. In hindsight, it probably would have been better to finish business or engineering school. Had I gotten a degree, it might have been better. It would have been different, that’s for sure. I now work for General Electric with a lot of experienced, smart, well-educated people.
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When you’re ready to get serious about becoming a consultant; it million Dollar Business Ideas To Start With No Money him how to cut the leash to traditional office work and create the freedom to million Dollar Business Ideas To Start With No Money. Start with a family member or friend you know who owns a business, after studying your manual we “get it! Working in those jobs, there’s no question people will start knocking on your door. I’ve wanted to do everything – he wrote down just one question on his notepad: How can I become a millionaire? More than anything, i get really inspired by these case studies and I also really enjoy reading them.
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Not having a degree is a little bit of a negative, although it’s ultimately your merits that govern your success, even in large corporations. For me, back in the late 70’s, early 80’s, it was okay not to have a degree. But for my children, I don’t think I’d allow them to drop out of college. Someday, I hope to go back to school and finish my degree. How did those contribute to your business success? I have a couple of patents but I wouldn’t say that they are all that relevant in the scheme of things, at least not in my career. Patents are just the documentation of a new idea, and that’s kind of cool, and sometimes they’re valuable.
Having some differentiation of your product offering, whether that’s patented or not, is a much better thing. A patent also provides some legal protection of your unique idea. If you’ve got something that’s truly different and people happen to want it, you’re going to have a nice little edge over your competition – at least until they figure out what you’re doing . I think comes down to finding a little niche that is either unknown or not exploited yet and running with it as fast and hard as you can. What was the first, “big break” moment in your career? I was 21 when I sold the landscaping business and I got an opportunity to interview for a sales rep job in the field that I’m still in today, 33 years later. It was interesting because, while it was a lot different than mowing lawns, a lot of the basics still applied – sales, marketing and customer service were fundamentally the same.
I was hired to be an industrial sales rep for a company based in Boston that manufactured testing equipment. The testing equipment eventually included very small video cameras that were a quarter-of-an-inch in diameter that could be used to look inside equipment like pumps, motors, and tanks. Would you be interested in doing the work for us? That happened several times, and eventually I realized that the marketplace didn’t always want to buy the equipment. The company I started in 1988, VIT, filled that need in the marketplace. From 1999 on it was just leveraging that network of customers up into a bigger company.
10 million, and then we merged with another company that was doing something similar. 90 million business by 2005 when GE bought it. The growth was pretty steady and consistent from 1988 to 2005. Growing a company requires a lot of hard work and a lot of reinvestment of money. It requires attracting and keeping good employees.
It requires keeping customers happy by doing whatever is necessary. Oftentimes, you you need to do things outside of your comfort zone. For me that meant opening an office in Houston, or Chicago, or Canada. Also, merging a business with another business involves risk with the transfer of equitythings like that. More than anything, growing a business requires a bit of luck.
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I was fortunate to be surrounded by really wonderful people, both as employees and friends. Some of my friends served as my board of advisors, sort of like a board of directors but not in the legal sense. Exporting products and selling them internationally requires a fair amount of logistical support, legal entities, accounting — there’s a lot to it. You need a good team you can trust because they’re spread out around the world.
Another important element is sharing success with key people. For instance, making the guy in Germany and the guy in Japan equity partners was important. Retaining key people and allowing them to participate in their own personal growth are really big parts of growing a small business. How did you sell your businesses? If you get to a certain size, there’s no question people will start knocking on your door.
We got offers all the time. Once a week, someone would show up wanting to buy us. The majority of those offers are not the ones you should go with. Instead, find a strategic investor, somebody that isn’t looking to buy the business because of its ability to turn a profit. They should be a strategic acquirer who sees value in what you are doing and knows how you’ll fit into their existing business. For us to continue growing, we could only be acquired be a handful of large, industrial companies like Westinghouse, Siemens, Honeywell, or GE. How big was your company when it sold to General Electric and how has your business changed since the acquisition?
I was the founder of one of the businesses, VIT, that rolled up into the company GE bought. United States and others spread out, mainly in Europe. I was president and CEO when GE bought the business and its seven legal entities. CEO title on paper for some of them and then, over time, those got shut down or merged with other GE entities. Since then, my job has morphed quite a bit. I’m now working in the marketing department for the same GE division that bought my business.
What has that transition been like? I’m very happy working at GE. Nowadays, large companies like GE have the need to grow and they can do it with a mixture of large, established businesses, like aircraft engine manufacturing, and they can also do it with a blend of smaller, entrepreneurial businesses. General Electric, and the part I work for is the small piece that is really entrepreneurial. They like people who are willing to take chances and make things happen in the marketplace. I fit in fine and it’s certainly different than having your own business. As with anything in life, it has pluses and minuses.
Where I am in my career, I’m not excited to start something new. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing. It’s very challenging, interesting, and I work with wonderful people who are intelligent, dedicated, and hardworking. You seem to have the 360 degree life everyone wants – a great family and a great career. I have a very patient and understanding wife. Thankfully, being successful brings with it the potential for a nice lifestyle. My wife and children understand the trade-off between working hard and having nice things, whether it’s a house, or vacation, or whatever it is you want to do.