One of the dangers of starting out in a technical type of business is that that kind of consumes your focus. Today, a very big part of my focus is on marketing and business development and not the technology side of our activities.
Lawrence Behr is the founder of Lawrence Behr Associates, Inc., and subsequently, the LBA Group, Inc. A recognized leader in the telecommunications industry, Mr. Behr’s more than fifty years of experience span the areas of broadcast, military and commercial telecommunications technology. He has frequently served as an expert witness before the Federal Communications Commission, the courts and zoning authorities in communications regulatory matters. He is a past Director of the National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers. Mr. Behr is a Fellow of the Radio Club of America and Society of Broadcast Engineers. He is also a frequent lecturer and author and holds patents on several inventions in antenna technology. Lawrence is a long-time amateur radio operator (K4JRZ).
What are you working on right now?
We are working on evolving new business areas in radio frequency risk management, RF safety, and several other areas that are achieving a great deal of significances in today’s wireless world.
Where did the idea for Lawrence Behr Associates come from?
Our company is celebrating 50 years in business this year. For decades there has always been a significant need for highly skilled consulting services in the areas of spectrum management and radio frequency issues. We simply filled a need that is constantly evolving. Today the focus more and more is on how we live with RF devices that are increasingly surrounding us, so that’s why we are putting our emphasis in this area of RF risk management.
How do you make money?
Our company is organized in several facets. We have several subsidiaries and our direction in one is through marketing of technology, through another it’s the marketing of safety education, and in the other it’s our consulting activities and the revenue model is fee based.
What does your typical day look like?
On the entrepreneurial side there is no day as such. All of the thinking, creative processes and so forth go on sporadically 24 hours a day. There is a period of administration and other activities related to the corporations that fit pretty much into a normal day. We’ve got some very good people and it’s very well organized and I find I’m able to use a lot of that time for creative purposes as well.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life is a matter of cultivating them, doing research and working with people on and off our staff to explore marketing opportunities. At the point where they appear to have legs, then we will create a product and roll that product out. At that point, it’s a matter of assessment to determine its future course.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The radio frequency risk management area very much has my attention. It’s a very important area. It’s an area that’s often not recognized for its importance. It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with talking on cellphones but of the impacts that radio frequency energy, which is increasingly being found in our environment, has on all sorts of processes, on people and on events. That’s the space that we’re concentrating on, because it is an exciting space.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Many years ago before I started the LBA companies I started a fried chicken company called the Drum Stick. I had myself down as a budding Colonel Sanders, although he had not come on the scene at that point. I don’t think I ate chicken for years after I sold that thing, because part of the entrepreneurial experience was taking boxes of chickens and a cleaver and splitting them up and throwing them in the fryer. I think that’s probably the worst thing I ever did. I learned that I would not do chicken anymore, not commercially anyway, and I don’t fry much chicken today.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I started out more from a technical and technological perspective and that was good and it worked well. I would; however, have brought in more business development activities earlier. One of the dangers of starting out in a technical type of business is that that kind of consumes your focus. Today, a very big part of my focus is on marketing and business development and not the technology side of our activities.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The biggest thing is awareness. You must be aware of what is going on around you in your area of interest. Technology, marketing, people, companies, all of it, you must know what the environment is that you are operating in, because that will completely drive your successful implementation of business decision and marketing decisions.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We had a couple of periods during the history of the companies that we did not stay in front of technology and markets started disappearing and we had to make shifts. Those were very uncomfortable periods, but they worked. We caught it in time; however, I wish I had been more perceptive of market trends. That was a period when my head was much more stuck in the technological side of the business.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would look very closely at the on-line training and education space. For instance, we have recently started up LBA University, which specializes in on-line safety training. It represents a niche and niches are good for this. As an entrepreneur you could look into your particular background and see what niches your knowledgebase support and research those and look at the on-line education and training model to monetize it.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would like to, as a Hispanic, see better entrepreneurial opportunities available to Hispanic youth. As far as how I would accomplish it, I’m already involved in several organizations that are working in that direction.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I’m an outdoorsman and I really enjoy hiking, and canoeing, and I’m also a hunter, and an occasional fisherman. This is something I do quite a bit.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
There are way more than three, but just as a sample, Google, in its many manifestations, is tool for all the things we know Google for. LinkedIn is an excellent relationship tool and we use it to spread our word quite a bit. Facebook is a great person to person communicator, if used properly, and a great booster for the business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Well, I have to say there are two and they both provide some good business lessons. One is Titan about John D. Rockefeller. The other one is A Man Called Intrepid about the 2nd World War and the intense espionage and spy networks set up and the political machinations that went on in the very early part of the war. There are some excellent lessons in both of those for a business person. There’re just a variety of insights on negotiation, on relationships, on trade craft, if you will. Those are two excellent books that I would recommend.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Who is your hero?
I don’t have any one hero. At my age, I’ve met so many outstanding people and had so many excellent mentors that I don’t think we have time in this interview to consider all of them and list just one.
What is your greatest concern with your business and within your industry moving forward over the next several years?
I’m concerned that there is a relative lack of concern over radio frequency risk management as it impacts safety and processes. What I’m talking about is that radio frequency signals can interact with other devices which can be very safety critical. For instance, there was a case a few years ago where a new radar system at an airport interacted with the control mechanisms on a large natural gas pipeline causing it to explode. That’s the type of RF risk management that really isn’t getting a lot of attention. A lot of attention isn’t being paid to the way that, say, power windmills disrupt SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) transmissions, which control things like your power system, your water and waste water systems and so forth. That’s the area that I’m worried that I don’t see a lot of real priority being given to and it’s increasing rapidly and there is a potential for disaster.
You must take a lot of personal satisfaction in the fact that the company you founded is 50 years old this year? What’s next for you?
I just enjoy every day that we go forward doing new things. But, as a practical and personal matter, I’m 70, so at some point I’m going to be looking for an exit. One of my other activities right now is to talk to people about the possibility of mergers/acquisitions and other ways of accomplishing that while preserving or increasing what we’ve got. It’s not a high priority right now, but it certainly is in the future. The day will come when I spend a lot more time out on the river or hiking in the woods.