Strictly Business: Wisdom of a business veteran

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

Published:

 

In the world of technology, the brashness of youth often trumps the wisdom of age. But when serial entrepreneur Steve Hix,74, spoke not long ago at a Clark County PubTalk event, the young people filling the seats at Fort Vancouver’s Artillery Barracks paid close attention to the guy who was probably the oldest person in the room.

Hix seemed amazed at his own success as a serial entrepreneur. He thanked his wife, Jean, married 51 years; his employees and investors; and God.But the Camas resident wasn’t offering a nostalgia fix about his mastery of turning an idea into a product, and a product into a successful business.Rather, he seemed a man in a hurry to contribute even more to the U.S. and Clark County economy.

“We have to keep starting companies. We can’t stop,” Hix said. “We are losing so many companies offshore that we need to regenerate.”

Hix’s latest offering is a company called Circle Technology. Simply put, Circle will offer a computer-based system that can be used to manage conferences, corporate meetings, or sales calls. A leader controls the session on a central computer, while participants can offer comments or revise documents on monitors connected via an internal wireless network. Hix says the product is ideally suited for the quiet person in the back of the room who would never speak up at a meeting but who might have plenty to say with a keyboard.

As for himself, Hix is anything but shy. Like most entrepreneurs, he’s an optimist by nature.His intuition to “go for it” (after plenty of planning and research) has served him well.

But he gives voice to his worries about the U.S. economy. For the first time in his career, Hix will manufacture products overseas because he cannot find a U.S. maker of LCD terminals.He doesn’t like that the U.S. has lost ground to India in patenting new products.

But as Clark County struggles to build a more vibrant local economy, Hix encourages us to look inward in order to dig out of the trough.

“I think we need to realize that we have to make it work,” he said. “No one else will make it work.”

Stay informed

This is my second column as The Columbian’s business editor, and my aim is to make this a regular feature in Sunday’s Business section. Readers will notice on some Sundays that the newspaper’s business reporters, Cami Joner and Aaron Corvin, will write for this space. The columns are part of a “Strictly Business” blog available on The Columbian’s websitehttp://www.columbian.com/weblogs/strictly-business. I hope you take a look and enjoy the blog.

Also, you can follow daily business news through our daily email of the day’s most important local news and upcoming stories by signing up on The Columbian’s website: http://www.columbian.com/newsletters. We’re on Twitter and Facebook as well, as we keep adding new ways to keep you informed about Clark County’s businesses and our local economy. We welcome your feedback and look forward to finding more ways to deliver business news.