One-on-One with an Angel: Richard Westheimer
1 What is your professional background, and how did it prepare you for your role in QCA?
I began my professional life as a 20-year Cincinnati Public School elementary school teacher and then leadership consultant for the schools. In the mid 90s, I took over our family office, managing and then initiating our alternative and direct investment portfolio.
2 Why did you join QCA?Deal flow and collaboration are the keys to developing a great direct investment portfolio. QCA was developing a channel to good deal flow and was assembling terrific cadre of experienced investors and successful entrepreneurs with whom I looked forward to collaborating.
3 As an educator, what do you consider as Cincinnati’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to education?
The strength of the STRIVE partnership is becoming a real community asset. All institutional participants have improved their work under the auspices of STRIVE and are serving as a model for such collaborations nationwide. In addition, the Community Learning Center program, pioneered by CPS has gone a long way to removing the barriers that kids who grow up in communities of constructed poverty face. The weaknesses are similar to weaknesses in all urban environments. Schools are asked to do everything from acting as foster parents, to social service agencies, to counseling services, to… They are given sufficient resources to teach but must use those resources to serve so many other roles in kids’ lives. Ohio’s funding structure puts an undue burden on urban property owners to fund this work.
4 What is one piece of advice you were given early in your career that continues to serve you well today?
All enterprises have a mix of dedicated participants and "tagalongs." Team up with the dedicated folks no matter their status in the enterprise, and you’ll be golden.
5 What are one or two common themes you run across when working with entrepreneurs?
We — entrepreneurs and investors — tend to focus on what we are comfortable with and attribute to those things outsized importance. Often the important things are outside of our experience or comfort zone. It is to our benefit — again as entrepreneurs and investors — to invite rouge players and naysayers to the table to help push us out of those comfort zones.
6 What are you reading today, and what is one thing you have learned from it?
I read a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Just finished Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates’ personal narrative lyrically and fearlessly explores growing up black and poor on the mean streets of Baltimore. It is at once one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read and the most haunting. I would put it on my required reading list for good citizenship. The last fiction I read was Nathan Coulter by Wendell Berry — a story that rests on a theme of good hard menial work being "good" in and of itself. It further teases out issues of trust and collaboration and how important they are to any enterprise that involves more than one person, no matter how simple or complex.
7 What company do you suggest entrepreneurs watch as a good example of success?
This, of course, depends on the entrepreneur and her or his enterprise. I do think it is important for fledgling entrepreneurs to study failed enterprises, as well as thriving ones.