“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill
Running a small business is never easy. It comes with long hours, red tape, unreliable staff or suppliers, and finicky customers. It can be a seemingly never-ending roller coaster ride of emotional and financial highs and lows. In fact, the average self-made millionaire has been broke, bankrupt, or financially destitute 3.7 times before becoming a financial success. Just about every business struggles for survival at some point in its life!
My first karate school was running on air for months before I cracked the code and eventually turned it into a chain of 400 schools. Along the way my savings vanished, my house was mortgaged beyond its worth, and I had $127,000 spread over an ever-expanding collection of credit cards.
On its first day of operation, with a fleet of air freighters flying in from all over the country to its Memphis headquarters, the ground crews of Federal Express waited expectantly. As the planes landed, one after another, and rolled up to the unloading dock, the crews scurried around like ants picking up packages from each plane and taking them to the central distribution center. When they had completed this task, they found a total of 16 packages had arrived. Today FedEx is synonymous with overnight delivery, and a major worldwide success story.
Colonel Sanders, of KFC Fame, was 65 years old sitting on the front porch of his failing motel when his social security check of $105 arrived to see him through the month. Disgusted and with little hope of increasing his motel business since the new Interstate had stolen all his traffic, he thought hard about what he could do well. The only thing that came to mind was his fried chicken, people went crazy over it. Armed with nothing more than a hand written recipe, this senior citizen hit the road and visited 1010 roadside restaurants before one agreed to buy his chicken recipe and pay him a 5% residual fee on the sales. That person went on to be a multi millionaire – as of course did the Colonel. By 1964, Colonel Sanders had 600 franchises selling his trademark chicken. At this time, he sold his company for $2 million dollars but remained as a spokesperson. In 1976, the Colonel was ranked as the world’s second most recognizable celebrity.
McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, was once on the verge of bankruptcy, even with 200 stores in operation. Baron Hilton (Founder of Hilton Hotels) was so desperate for cash to meet payroll at one point that he kept his hotel chain going with a loan from a bellboy of just $300. In the eighties, former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman was on the verge of bankruptcy. In Foreman’s case, fear of financial ruin proved to be a good thing because it drove him to re-enter the boxing ring at age 45 and regain his heavyweight title against Michael Moorer in 1994. This second chance at success enabled him to pay off millions of dollars of debt and launch a new career as an entrepreneur hawking George Foreman Grills. Millions have been sold, in fact I think we have two!
Before Rich Devos and Jay Van Andel struck diamonds by founding the Amway Corporation, they sold products for Nutralite. Nutralite was a California company that marketed products through direct sales in much the same way as Amway would later do. Shortly after embarking upon their new venture, they held what was to be a large meeting to try to attract distributors.
They ran radio ads and newspaper ads, handed out flyers, and scoured the town, telling everyone about the meeting and the excellent business opportunity they would be offering. They believed wholeheartedly in the products and the income potential they offered to other distributors. Because they felt so good about the product, they felt sure the hall would be filled to capacity with people eager to hear what they had to say. That night, despite their huge promotional effort, only two people showed up in a room set up for several hundred people.
They gave their sales pitch as best they could to these two people and then drove home through the night because they couldn’t afford a motel room. Looking back and laughing at the incident, DeVos said, “We could have done one of two things. Either we could give up, or we could persist. We persisted.” Later, as Amway become a billion dollar corporation, they bought the Nutralite company they had once represented. As B.C. Forbes (of Forbes magazine) said. “One worthwhile task, carried to a successful conclusion, is better than a hundred half-finished tasks.”
It is truly amazing how many turning points in the lives of most entrepreneurs come down to the same decision. Should we try again, or should we throw in the towel and settle down to a life of peace and security, such as it is. There is absolutely no better long-term solution to business success than single-minded, bulldog determination. There must, of course, be a capacity for making changes to deal with fluctuations in market conditions. Constant attention must be paid to implementing necessary changes in strategy, marketing, and sales, but the long-term goals remain the same.
Persistence is the ingredient that truly separates those at the top from the also-rans and wannabes. Like all the other ingredients, it can be easily learned, and putting it into action is as easy as deciding to just do it! Out of the greatest
disasters, come the greatest redemptions. As legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey so aptly put it, “In times like these, it pays to remember there have always been times like these.”
The Desire and Determination to Succeed Must Never Waver!
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