Dave Hitz .jpgForbes magazine has a fascinating interview with NetApp cofounder Dave Hitz, who describes his experiences at Deep Springs ranch before coming to Princeton. One of those experiences was learning how to castrate a bull (the title of Hitz’s 2009 book).

Hitz says his experience on the ranch was invaluable because it exposed him, a suburban kid, to people from other walks of life. Here is some advice for entrepreneurs straight from Hitz:

“I do think it would probably be good for all entrepreneurs to do some kind of blue collar work. I mean suburbs kids. Being on the ranch was the first time I’d interacted with a lot of people who had no college degree, no sort of formal education. And it’s pretty easy to imagine, ‘Oh, well, I’ve got the college degree. I grew up in the suburbs. I’m better than all those guys.’ And when you’re on the ranch and the job is something that they know how to do really well and it involves sharp knives or heavy lifting equipment, skip loaders and stuff, suddenly you find out those folks are a whole lot smarter than you are in some pretty important domains about how you get to keep your fingers.

“It gives you a different perspective on the roles different people play. Maybe you don’t feel as superior as you thought you were. Like, those are pretty smart folks in their own domain. The reason I think that matters for entrepreneurs and for business, two reasons: In big giant companies, you’ve hired a lot of people, either yourself or outsourced it, who are doing that kind of stuff for you. Do you respect ’em or not?  And you kind of can’t fake that.  If you don’t, they’re gonna feel it. People don’t do so well in environments where they’re not being respected.

“In smaller companies especially, if you’re an entrepreneur, you may find yourself doing some of (those jobs). I mean if you’re the CEO and it’s a 10-person company, probably you go pick up the pizza yourself. You sweep the floor if it didn’t happen and it’s important for it to look good.  You don’t wanna be having a lot of that weird stuff like ‘Oh, well, that labor’s beneath me.’  So does it have to be a cattle ranch?  No. But I think something like that that just sort of helps get you in touch with your not-your-Ivy League high-falutin background.  I think that is very healthy.”

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