Why I Burned The Ships

Building a company to last and not to exit

Pete Catoe
Founder & CEO ECRS (ECR Software)

I’m often asked if ECRS has an exit strategy.  An exit from what, I wonder.  

My career goal is to build a world class software company, and the other leaders who work at ECRS share this same goal: a lasting company that provides real value to our customers, employees, community, country and of course produces a fair return.  Can a leadership team simultaneously build to last and build to exit?  

In my opinion you can’t. Similar to Hernando Cortez, when you decide to burn the ships at the beach, and you have no possible retreat, it keeps everyone focused forward on conquering the many challenges that any business set on the long-term is sure to confront.  Building a lasting sustainable business is a marathon, not a sprint.  Nearly every decision and investment made at ECRS is done so in the context of how it affects the whole, in juxtaposition to an exit strategy, or how the decision will affect the shorter-term valuation.

So my answer is No. At ECRS we don’t have an exit strategy, and as long as I’m in charge we never will.  However, I’m a realist, so one day, when I’ve exhausted all that I personally have to offer ECRS, I will step aside and personally retreat.  When that day comes, it is my intense hope that ECRS will continue to charge forward independently, conquering new challenges and markets under a steadfast leader who understands that exit plans, just like ships, should be burnt.