On August 29, 2016, the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation hosted an evening with Bob McNair. As the founder of Cogen Technologies and the founder, chairman, and CEO of the Houston Texans, McNair drew on his vast experience in business and philanthropy to offer advice to Rice University students and young professionals.
In 1960, McNair arrived in Houston with $700 and a goal to break into the trucking industry. However, after he established his trucking company, the industry became deregulated, forcing him into millions of dollars of debt. Despite this failure, McNair used his new knowledge of deregulation to find opportunity in three industries: intermodal transport, telecommunications, and cogeneration. Cogeneration, or the concurrent production of electricity and heat, became McNair’s most successful investment, and in 1999, he sold his company Cogen Technologies for $1.5 billion.
When asked for career advice, McNair emphasized to students and young professionals the importance of adding value to their environments. “The most important thing is putting yourself in a position where you can add the most value, and when you add the most value, the compensation will come to you,” he stated.
This idea of adding value was behind the $8 million endowment from the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation that launched the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rice University, one of six across the country. McNair said, “this is an opportunity for us to make a real contribution to society and to help create an environment that empowers ingenuity and creativity, unleashes the productivity of private enterprise and builds sustainable economic growth.”