I absolutely love reading business biographies because there is always some nugget of information that helps me to be a better investor. How do I find good business biographies? Searching Amazon for the highest rated business biographies that exist. Bouncing Back: The Life of Bill Bartmann published September 2013 is ranked #9.
Bill Bartmann’s story is one of perseverance and determination, and I have no doubt it will be made into a movie at some point. Bartmann grew up dirt poor, in an abusive family, and dropped out of High School when he was 15. Soon after he moved out of his parents place, he found a job at a traveling circus (literally), joined a gang so he could live at their head quarters (a shack), and became an alcoholic by the time he was 16. He got so drunk one evening that he fell down a flight of stairs and was paralyzed and told he would never walk again. This was all before the age of 18. Does this sound like a promising story? And this is just the beginning.
Through sheer determination, Bill Bartmann ended up walking again, getting his GED, getting his college degree, and law degree. He would start several businesses involving real estate, to oil exploration, to oil services and each time went from nothing to millionaire to back to nothing.
Bartmann would end up founding Commercial Financial Services (CFS) when he was dead broke, and created a whole industry. Bartmann grew CFS into a multi billion-dollar operation, with 3900 employees, with net margins as high as 48%. Bartmann became a billionaire.
In 1998, an anonymous letter was sent to regulators by a rogue employee, which started an investigation into CFS. Was it a fraud? As a result, a domino effect ensued which forced CFS into bankruptcy. Bartmann would be charged with criminal and civil litigation. The IRS, SEC, DOJ, FBI took their case against Bartmann to court. He faced something like 57 counts and 600 years in prison. They wanted him bad. The only problem was CFS wasn’t a fraud and Bartmann was found Not Guilty on all counts. In 2005, after all the litigation expenses and his ownership in CFS now worthless, Bartmann was broke again.
Just like before, he kept moving forward and started CFS (Part 2). His new company is now on the Inc. 500 list (for the 5th time).
The book was an amazing read. You can buy it [HERE].
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