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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Learn from Your Childhood

Bill Tobin says he knew early in life that he wanted to work for himself.  Like most of us, he got his first business loan from his Mom.

Key Question:


Only if you are driven to make something happen.

Bill Tobin can be described as an entrepreneur, a deal maker, an innovator, a visionary. He has founded and self-funded nine businesses during his career. He has put the right people together at the right time to solve problems and create businesses. He has made himself wealthy. He says, "An entrepreneur is driven. He is like a dog with a bone -- he doesn't drop it until there's not a scrap of meat left on it. He stays with it. He is focused, tenacious, myopic." However, Bill also says no one should fall in love with their ugly child."

Q: What does he mean by "ugly child?"

A: Bill is talking about a business idea you have that just doesn't work, it doesn't make money. You created it and it is your baby, but, it turns out to drain you of cash and that means it is ugly. AT&T just pulled the plug on a service they tried to develop which cost them $100 million and was employing 60 people. Today those people are being assigned to other departments and the product is dead. Bill is saying to let go of ideas that don't work. If you aren't supposed to fall in love with your ugly child, but, you are supposed to be tenacious, when is the right time to give up? You have to weigh all of the elements carefully.

What if you love cooking and open a restaurant that serves your favorite recipes. If you are able to make one location profitable and create a nice lifestyle for your family you might be completely satisfied. However, if you imagine multiple locations and you see yourself as a major restaurant tycoon you have an entirely new goal. Bill Tobin is saying, it might be a bad idea to try to add locations. If you pour money into buying equipment and leasing space and don't see returns, you should give up or change the strategy.

Think about it

Why would you want to start a business?  Do you tend to be the person who gets to work early and leaves late?  Do you enjoy solving hard problems?  Do you love people?  Are you healthy?  What did you do with your free time when you were still living at home with your parents?

Clip from: PC Flowers & Gifts

Stamford, Connecticut:  Bill Tobin has always risen to a challenge. He's always been an entrepreneur. When FTD Florist told him to go away, he began looking to find a way to take over. He said, "I had to do it. I had to do it. Everybody said it couldn't be done. Everybody said, `It won't work.' "

When this episode of the show was taped, Bill Tobin was selling more flowers than any one person in the world. He started PC Flowers and Gifts in 1989 and by 1996 he had become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in cyberspace. Though he sold the business to Figis, he continues to leverage his knowledge with strategic cyber partners throughout the world.  
Among other things Bill established over 2,700 co-branded web sites. In 2000, Bill was awarded a patent for web co-branding protocols. 

PC Flowers & Gifts

Bill Tobin, Founder

134 Davenport Circle
Stamford, CT 06902

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:
Internet Sales

Year Founded: 1989

Learn from Your Childhood

BILL: I started my first company when I was 11. I actually borrowed my mother's credit card and she bought me a lawn mower at Sears and a hand edger, and from 11 through 16, I did it manually, and then at 16 I got a car. And by the time I graduated college, I had 50 guys and I had 12 trucks and I owned one of the largest landscaping companies in Long Island. And so I then used that experience, went in the Army and came back three years later and decided that there was just no way I wanted to work for anybody because, unfortunately, I was being offered salaries that were about a quarter of what I was making as a landscape entrepreneur in college.

HATTIE: Let's stop a minute. Bill Tobin had a positive business experience very early in life. Even though his father was a policeman with a job, Bill learned beginning at the age of 11 that he never wanted to work for someone else. Lots of companies have downsized. Corporate America is getting smaller and smaller, but high schools and colleges are still preparing people for "a job," "how to write a resume." I want to suggest that you can make a living in a lot of ways and having a job is not the only option. You can be self-employed, which means you're a one-person operation; you can have a small business; you can be an entrepreneur. All these choices are available for you. The only thing standing between you and working for yourself is more information and knowledge.

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