One of my mentors in business brokerage, Bill Ososke, the founder of IBA, often could be heard saying when training new brokers, “you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk during a meeting.” This message resonated with me and it is advice & practice that I continue to recommend to the brokers I manage as the President & CEO of International Business Associates. One of the benefits of being a business broker is that you have an opportunity to learn valuable business lessons from the experiences of successful entrepreneurs if you are willing to ask questions and listen. This is an opportunity that I personally try to take advantage of on a regular basis.
One individual who was kind enough to share stories from his life with me was George Hancock, an iconic Pacific Northwest entrepreneur, who unfortunately recently lost his battle with cancer and passed away. George’s name is not as famous in the Pacific Northwest as Howard Schultz or Ivar Haglund, but through his vision & business acumen from a humble beginning in an English fishing town he rose to create one of the most iconic craft beer brands in the Pacific Northwest, Pyramid Breweries. A beer brand that at one point under George’s leadership was the nation’s fourth-largest craft brewery and provided a restaurant/brewery which will forever be tied to numerous Mariners fan memories from the magical 2001 baseball season.
Interestingly, I met George Hancock for the first time when he decided he was ready for a new challenge outside of the craft beer industry. I do not recall who referred George to IBA, but I do recall the conversation we had during our first meeting when George came to our office to see what companies IBA was representing at the time and famously said, “I am bored on the board of directors for Pyramid Brewery”. I was instantly engaged by George’s personality & business acumen during that meeting. We discussed his entrepreneurial goals for the future, multiple businesses represented for sale by IBA, and soccer during the meeting. As a soccer fan, his stories about George Best were captivating. When asked why he did not want to invest his money in the stock market or real estate after experiencing significant success as an entrepreneur, he said, “I have no control of my money if I invest it in the stock market, I would bet on myself every day of the week and twice on Sunday as an entrepreneur and wish to do that again.” Ultimately, George purchased Eltech Electric, a marine electric engineering & contracting company, through IBA in a transaction that was a pleasure to facilitate as a mergers & acquisitions broker. Post transaction the company thrived for numerous years under George’s leadership as he took a profitable business with no management infrastructure and created a well-run company that achieved financial results that exceeded what occurred prior to George’s acquisition of the company.
George also served as a role model for me in my personal life as a parent for his ability to balance being a father with being an entrepreneur. I can recall numerous times that he & I needed to meet and him scheduling the meeting, so he could attend his son’s lacrosse games or other family events. This balance of life provides a lesson to all of us, as I am sure memories of his family played a significant role in his final thoughts.
It was an honor & pleasure to have known George Hancock. This evening I will drink a Pyramid Hefeweizen in his honor after leaving work early to transport my son to & from soccer tryouts. Hopefully, my son will demonstrate a little George Best magic on the pitch. Goodbye George. Thank you for the opportunity to walk with you on the path of life for a short time. I enjoyed the experience.
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