Publisher's Note: All In

Leaders in industry don’t work at a job, but pursue a calling.

In doing so, they inspire the rest of us to better ourselves and to match our skills with our passions.  They give us confidence to pursue our dreams and to go all-in building our own companies.  In this issue, we feature two men who went all-in early and lost, but like many inspiring leaders, you could not keep them down.

Mike Hoque, CEO of DRG Concepts, immigrated here from Bangladesh in his mid-20s and started up a limo service with one car, grossing $90,000 his first year.  In his second year, he grossed $900,000 and bought a building in Dallas to serve as his company headquarters.  He then turned his focus on food and, partnering with a celebrity chef, opened a seafood restaurant. Unfortunately, it eventually failed.

In 2004, Hoque opened the Dallas Fish Market in the Main Street District between the West End Historic District and Deep Ellum that had fallen from grace.  One year after its opening, Bon Appétit named it one of America’s Best Seafood Restaurants, and today the Main Street District is thriving.

He has since opened five additional restaurants, including Dallas Chop House, Chop House Burger and Wild Salsa, all in a cluster around the Dallas Fish Market.  This spring, he will bring Wild Salsa and Chop House Burger to downtown Fort Worth's City Place in hopes of helping transform the dark underutilized area, just as he did in Dallas.

Like a Phoenix, Dick Lowe, 87, a founding partner in Four Sevens Oil Co., has had to come back more than once.  He graduated from TCU on a football scholarship, with a geology degree in 1951.  After a job as a mud logger and a site geologist, at 29, the entrepreneur quit his job and moved to Fort Worth.  Lowe was willing to risk it all (walking away from a salary) to go all-in and start his own company.

A great salesman, Lowe found investors who believed in him.  After drilling 16 dry holes, opportunity struck, and he drilled 32 straight good wells.  Six years later, at the age of 35, he sold them, and his share was $1 million.

He then started a new company that went public, which at its peak put the value of Lowe’s stock at $77 million.  Eventually, however, the company had problems, and after a failed restructure, Lowe owed $11 million and only had $3,000 in a shoebox.  He was in his early 60s.  That’s when his old friend Hunter Enis called.

Lowe and Enis formed Four Sevens Oil Co., and while the 1990s were productive, the real growth came in the early 2000s when they started leasing property and drilling in the Barnett Shale.  In 2004, Four Sevens sold its Barnett Shale holdings of 26,000 acres to XTO Energy for $155 million. Two years later, it sold a 39,000-acre deal for $845 million, to make an even $1 billion

“Never a doubt in my mind,” Lowe says, when asked if he questioned whether he could mount a big comeback at an age when most people are contemplating retirement.

Going all-in means you are totally committed to something.  These two men went all-in, and their stories are inspiring to me.  I hope you find them equally inspiring.

Hal A. Brown