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To score success, you must be willing to make mistakes

Remember Chicken Litter? I’m not surprised; it got about as far off the ground as a hen in flight. But without it, there might never have been a Kitty Litter, which revolutionized life for pet owners and earned me more than a few dollars in the process.I was in my 20s, laboring in my father’s sand and gravel business, and chafing to climb out of the rut we seemed to be in. When my father started buying crumbled clay to use as an industrial oil and grease absorbent, I looked for other ways to use the material. One day, I was talking to a guy about nesting chickens, and the Big Idea kicked in.

Remember what business you’re in

When people ask you about the nature of your business, do you answer correctly? This may seem hard to believe, but I maintain that many entrepreneurs don’t truly understand what business they’re in. I should know, because sometimes I’m one of the worst offenders.

You set the pace for employees

It may just be me, but I think that entrepreneurs make lousy golfers. I’ve tried golf, but I feel like the time spent playing 18 holes — plus that extended 19th one at the end — is better spent elsewhere. I even built a golf course on my Big Rock Valley estate, complete with inverted pickle barrels for cups to accommodate my atrocious putting, but I hardly ever take the time to use it, except for occasionally entertaining my distributors and salespeople.

Treat your best employees like you can’t live without them — because you can’t

This column is one in a series that will explore the thoughts, ideas and unadorned advice of an entrepreneur who made it, Edward Lowe. When he “brought the cat indoors” with a revolutionary cat-box filler, Kitty Litter, he created an industry that changed the lives of millions of cat lovers, not to mention cats. During his life, Ed Lowe used “plain talk” to speak about the bottom line from the bottom of his heart. We believe these writings, revised and updated after his death, offer value for both your business and personal life.

Start with your head, leave with your heart

This may be the last thing on your mind right now, but unless you’re carried out in a box, all entrepreneurs eventually must leave what they started. That’s what I did after more than 40 years at the helm of what became Edward Lowe Industries. I unearthed the cat-box-filler industry, and maybe some people expected me to be buried in it. But in a move that surprised many who knew me, I sold it.

Hire the best, then let it rest

When I invented Kitty Litter in 1947, being an overbearing boss was the last thing on my mind. Quite simply, there was nobody to boss around. Employees weren’t even a pipe dream back then — I was often using the proceeds of a sale during the day to pay for my hotel room that night. From bagging the clay to changing countless litter boxes at pet shows to demonstrate my product’s prowess, I did it all myself. It would have been great to have help — especially for the litter boxes!