Five Questions For … Houston Entrepreneur and Investor Neal Murthy
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learned that people can’t really be managed. They can be incentivized, acknowledged, developed/trained, and even shamed, but they manage themselves. Acknowledging the intrinsic qualities—motivations, desires, idiosyncrasies—of each individual is the way of “managing” people. And, if they’re not the right person for the job, get rid of them. They’ll be better off, and you and your company will be better off.
X: Tell me about your early influences.
NM: Whoa. Too many to list. I pride myself in drawing inspiration and influence from many sources and domains. Here’s a breakdown.
As a person: My dad, my brother, 10 years my senior and a vice president at Dell, and an old acquaintance named Denis Waring, an ethnomusicologist in Connecticut—one of my greatest passions is music of all types—had a profound influence on me.
As a consultant: Marvin Bower, an important founding figure in the history of McKinsey responsible for its founding principles and culture, was a powerful influence from history. Jack Ivancevich, a professor at the University of Houston and an influential management professor I had while getting my MBA, was another important figure.
As a game designer: I take influence from a variety of sources of human-made beauty in design, including Klaus Teuber (developer of Settlers of Catan and its variants), Hayao Miyazaki (filmmaker), Buckminster Fuller (architect), and Paul Rand (graphic designer.)
X: What’s your biggest failure as an entrepreneur?
NM: Ha! I’ve had many, many failures. How can I choose just one?
I suppose I’d say it was not starting my game company, Nefer Games, sooner. I semi-retired in 2014, leaving my second consultancy behind to be run by others. For the next two-ish years, I spent my life wandering—guiding other companies, but not really doing anything for myself. I finally had the will to move this thing forward. Time will tell if it succeeds, but not starting sooner is definitely a major failing, I feel.
X: What did you want to be when you were a kid?
NM: A veterinarian, then a computer scientist. But, I’ve designed games since I was around 11 as a hobby, and I’m now turning that into my next career. So maybe I always wanted to be a game designer in the back of my mind.