Peter J. Burns III: In the World of Entrepreneurship...One Must Become an Apex Predator


An apex predator, also known as an alpha predator or apical predator, is a predator residing at the top of a food chain upon which no other creatures prey. Wikipedia

At the tender age of 19, I came out swinging to fight back at the Nantucket Board of Selectman, who (unsuccessfully) tried to shut down my first "official" business launch...the original moped rental venture (1977) in the United States. With the help of a seasoned Barrister on my side and a Federal Judge in Boston that would simply not tolerate the unethical and indeed illegal behavior from these self-important Island a word...I kicked the stuffing out of them in Court. Three years later, I was a bonafide self-made millionaire...several times over. That was nearly 40 years ago now.

I started at least 100 businesses since then. Many stumbled, which I called my "tuition" but some hit it out of the park. I had a monumental theft from a trusted schoolhood friend that collapsed my first 10 years of asset building ($6 million in losses) and made it all back again...only to get crushed 10 years later in my well-deserved divorce (another $6 million gone poof, lol).

As the old saying goes..."Three's a charm." Well, I hope so because I'm keeping the next damn fortune I create!

My parents raised me very nicely. I lived in the finest areas (Rumson, New Canaan, Barrington Hills), summered on Nantucket, played golf at the greatest clubs...yadda, yadda, yadda...but I was always a little "off" from the atypical preppie I was raised to be. Whereas my younger siblings finished Secondary School, then University and either entered grad school and/or went off to "acceptable" professions..I certainly did nothing of the same. This proverbial "Black Sheep" of the Burns Clan got into more trouble (and had more unbridled adventures) than you can imagine.

Along the way, as a teen, I fashioned multiple entrepreneurial ventures. Some were even completely legit....and they all made a lot of money. That is, until my last "sure thing" blew up everything. Oh well...

At 17, I was practically Goose Stepped to the US Army Enlistment Office by my father and whisked away from the White Shoe Utopia of Suburban Connecticut to the swamps of Ft. Polk, Louisiana for Infantry training...then to various Posts for additional training. Talk about toughening me up! It was either that or becoming a casualty before I even got to go into actual battle. Ha!

Suddenly, I found myself the unexpected recipient a much coveted Appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. No one was more flabbergasted than me. I had been a less than mediocre student (read terrible) in high school and could only dreamof matriculating to my fantasy school of the University of Virginia (UVa.). The only things I did have going for me were nose bleed high test scores and the whole Tom Cruise "Risky Business" thing going on with my high school business ventures. However, it certainly never made me a viable candidate for a top school in the traditional manner...

Anyway, off I went...this time mustered out by the Army to "West Point Prep" (USMAPS) where once again I fooled them all...even myself (!) by excelling at the Prep School and winning the valuable Army 4 Year ROTC Scholarship. I traded in my Appointment to the grateful "Alternate" and was actually admitted to UVa....courtesy of Uncle Sam. I got to go to exactly where I always wanted to go, UVa. and it was completely subsidized by the U.S. Army.

My one year in bucolic Charlottesville was quite fun but again, with academic boredom setting in over the required classes...I didn't truly get excited until I spied the 4th Year McIntire School of Commerce course entitled "Entrepreneurship." Of course, I decided right then and there that I was going to be taking that class. What I did not count on was the "push back" I initially received from the Professor. First off, I was only a "First Year," (Virginia's lingo for freshman). I would not even be eligible for admission to the highlycompetitive McIntire School of Commerce until my "Third Year" (Junior). The "Entrepreneurship" class was only for 4th Year McIntire students who were "graced" by acceptance into the class. The Professor actually used that term. Ha!

Well, I had already lived several lifetimes in my rather colorful existence, including a stint in the Army and I was certainly not going to back down gracefully. The Professor and I made a deal...he would let me come to one of his classes and introduce me to the "stars" that jumped through the requisite hoops to get into that class. If my fellow classmates-to-be let me in...I was in. Needless to say...I used my Irish Charm to become the newest member of the "Entrepreneurship" class at McIntire.

Here's a lesson here about me...saying I "cannot" do something is like throwing blood in the water around a Great White Shark. I will always rise to the occasion if I want something and I never ever quit. To wit:

I wanted the ROTC Scholarship, even though I already had the West Point Appointment. I wasn't even remotely eligible for the civilian scholarship because at the time I was Regular Army. Yet, I won it and went to my dream school UVa.

I could never get into UVa. with my dismal academic record in High School through conventional steps...yet, barely two years later, I was at UVa. and under a full scholarship to boot.

I was ineligible for admission to the 4th Year "Entrepreneurship" class as a freshman. Yet, that's exactly where I ended up, effectively changing the path of my life to where I am now, 4 decades later.

That covers the first 20 years of honing my skills to becoming the Apex Predator of the Entrepreneurial Jungle. The next 40 years have been a series of spectacular wins and bone crushing losses...but always true to my nature, I never gave up and am still swinging for the fences at "60 years young."

Posted on January 26, 2018 .