"This Business Can’t Possibly Fail"

It was shortly after 1 p.m. on June 10, 2005, when I gathered the staff of my small business - one of the first spas in the world for men - together for a brief meeting. The press had all left by then - about 40 had attended the official press launch between 10 and 12:30 - and the private party for friends, relatives and business associates was called for 6 p.m. - so the timing seemed right for a little motivational speech to the staff - the 7 fresh-faced and eager young gals who had been hired as service providers.

I said a few words, then yielded the floor to the business consultant with whom I had worked in very close tandem from mid-January through to the official launch on June 10, and upon whom I had relied for advice and support throughout the process.

“This business cannot fail”, he assured the staff. “This business cannot fail.”

It was a comforting message, and one which he had repeated many times during the previous six months. “This business cannot fail.”

And why would it? Attractive young professional women providing personal care services designed to help men look and feel their best, in a comfortable, masculine environment.

How could a business like that fail?

If you are thinking of starting your own small business, should you go into it thinking that your business cannot fail?

If you have read anything about the Law of Attraction, then you may believe that thinking that your business is going to fail can attract the energy that will make it fail.

Whereas believing that your business is going to be a great success attracts the energy that will make it a success.

Throughout the process of developing my small business - and for the two and half years that I ran it -I firmly believed that my business could not fail.

The concept, the product, the execution - were all too good for the business to fail.

But I was wrong.

Any business can fail. Whether you wish to believe it or not.

I don’t believe that an awareness that a business can fail necessarily attracts the energy that will make it fail

But I do believe that a refusal to accept that it can fail could lead to decisions that will make it fail.

I shall have more to say about this in future posts.

Stay tuned.

What is the "Mikey Factor" in Your Small Business?

Back in 1981, I was just starting my career in television production, and working as the Unit Manager on a location drama. One day, I learned a lesson that would serve me well some 20 years later, when I came to develop a small business. The lesson that I learned in 1981 was that any small detail can really screw up a production. This is how I described it in my book entitled “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare”:

One day, one of the lighting guys wasn’t feeling well and left the set early. At the end of the shooting day, word was sent out to the set from the production office that the call time for the following day was being moved up from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m., because the production had fallen behind schedule, but the lighting guy didn’t hear the announcement because he had gone home early.

And you, as the Unit Manager, didn’t think of calling him at home to inform him of the scheduling change.

Ordinarily, that might not be a big deal, but this time, it was.

Because -the next morning, as the convoy of production vehicles was pulling out of the television station to make its way to the set – a small town about an hour north of the station –the huge lighting truck remained in place - and a bolt of white hot terror ran from the top of your head down to your toes, as you realized that the driver of the lighting truck was still in bed, because you hadn’t thought to call him to tell him about the change in call time.

Soon there would be 40 people standing around on the set while the lighting crew was waiting for the truck to arrive so that they could set up for the first scene– and whatever time they had hoped to pick up by virtue of the earlier call time would be entirely lost.

So you got into the truck yourself - and without a license to drive a rig that big or any idea of where the gears were – you willed the vehicle to the set – sweat pouring down your face –and you never forgot how that felt, for the rest of your career in television production – or the rest of your life.

The fellow whom I forgot to call was named Mike, and everyone called him “Mikey”.

Forgetting to call “Mikey” almost ended my career in television production before it began.

But the lesson that I learned stayed with me -and so, when I was developing my small business, which was a spa for men, I made a list of everything that I felt could go wrong - every single small detail that I could think of - that had the power to ruin my business.

And I checked that list every single day.

If you are developing a small business, or if you are already running one, ask yourself “What is the ‘Mikey Factor’ that could ruin or damage my business if I forget to do it. Is it insurance, a security system, labor regulations or building codes?

It takes a lot to make a business successful, but the smallest details can make it fail.

The Top of One Mountain is the Bottom of Another

When I was developing my small business, which was a spa for men, I learned a very valuable lesson, although I did not realize it at the time.

It was November of 2004, and I had just returned from a trip to Vancouver, during which I had made a presentation to two prospective investors - and, subsequent to the presentation, they agreed to provide the bulk of the financing for my small business. The following day, we had a meeting and we all shook hands on the basic terms of an agreement to go forward. When I returned home to Toronto, I felt as if I were sitting on top of a mountain, until I realized that I was at the bottom of another one. Here is a brief excerpt from my book:

It is Saturday -the day after your triumphant return from Vancouver – and for the moment, you are sitting on top of the world.

For a brief moment.

Because - you don’t actually have the money for your dream business -not yet.

You have an agreement in principle. You don’t have a signed agreement. And you won’t get the money until you do.

And - while you are on the subject of what you don’t have -yet - you may as well include: a location, a designer, a contractor, a product line, a bank account, a line of credit, a Small Business Loan, a website, a software program, a security system, a telephone, a staff, a logo, a marketing plan, marketing materials…. and, you have promised your investors that your dream business will launch in June, 2005- exactly seven months from now.

What I did not know at the time, was that the very lesson that I was learning in the development phase of my small business would apply once the business opened. Every time I thought that I had climbed a mountain -by having the best day, the best week or the best month - I would find that I was at the bottom of another mountain - facing the worst day, the worst week or the worst month.

One of the most important - and painful -lessons that I learned in running my small business is that every single day you are at the bottom of another mountain.

If you accept that, you may be able to enjoy the climb.

Make Sure People Can Get To You If You Are the One Who Gets It

If you have read my book entitled “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare”, then you know that I started a small business and ran it for two and half years before I had a falling out with my investors that turned my dream business into a nightmare.

You may not know that, in addition to promoting my book with a kind of evangelical zeal in hopes of helping other would-be entrepreneurs avoid the heartbreaking experience that I had, I also create marketing and communications tools for businesses through another company which I founded. In this latter capacity, I often contact companies -either by phone or email - to introduce myself and to pitch them on the marketing and communications services that I can provide.

Now - when I call up a company to pitch them on an idea which I believe can help them sell more of their products or services, of course I am trying to build my own business, but I am also trying to help them build their business. And, if I didn’t think I could help them, I really wouldn’t be wasting my time or theirs.

A couple of weeks ago, I called up a company that sells products online, with an idea that I felt could really help them sell more of their products. Have you ever tried to contact a large online retailer to see if you can speak to someone in the marketing department? If you have, then you know what I’m talking about.

However, I persevered, and was finally connected to someone in the marketing department who agreed to take a couple of minutes to listen to my idea. I succinctly explained the service that I could provide, and how I felt that it could help them sell their products online. The person to whom I was speaking expressed interest and requested that I submit a proposal in writing, which I did, promptly.

Yesterday I called back to follow-up on the proposal, which was submitted via email, as requested, to see if it had been received and to check on the status. This time, I was unable to get through to the person who had requested that I submit the proposal. I was told that she was not going to take my call unless I was one of their existing clients - “No, no, I explained to the person on switchboard, I am not a client, I am calling to follow-up on a proposal that I submitted at your request.” “Well, she’s not going to take your call” was the response, and what was not stated but implied, “Take a hike”.

Now, let’s just say that my idea is a really good one. I can tell you that it is because I adapted it from one of my mentors who happens to be one of the real gurus of internet marketing.

Let’s just say that my idea (his idea, really) would help this company sell more of their products online.

What if I never call back because I was treated so rudely by someone who doesn’t own the company?

When I ran my small business - one of the first spas for men in the world - I did not answer every phone call that came in. I had a staff of young gals who provided services in the spa, and they took turns answering the phone. But I made sure that everyone who called in with some kind of marketing idea - something that might just help my business - got a return call from me.

Why? - because I understood that a great marketing idea could come from anywhere - and that as the founder of the business I could not afford to miss out on a great idea by having someone who didn’t get it dismiss it out of hand.

If anyone was going to reject an idea that could help me grow my business, it was going to be me.

If you are the one who gets it in your small business, make sure that people with good ideas can get to you. Otherwise, you may be missing out on a really good idea from someone like me.

There is No Such Thing As Dumb Money, Only Dumb Investors

Let’s say you have an idea for a small business, but you don’t have enough of your own money to get it off the ground.

If you are really determined to start your small business, and you really believe that it is going to be successful, then the next step would be to try to borrow money from a bank and/or raise money from investors.

If you decide to raise money from investors - and they could be people you know, or people you don’t know - you will ask yourself, how much do money do I need, when do I need it, and what am I prepared to give up for it, among other questions.

But, perhaps, by now, you have heard the popular distinction between “smart money” and “dumb money”, and you are wondering, how will I know the difference.

I think that all money has the same I.Q.

It’s the investors who can be smart or dumb.

Here are three chracteristics of a “smart” investor for your small business:

1) a smart investor totally understands the concept and the mission of your business

2) a smart investor respects and shares your passion and commitment to your small business

3) a smart investor knows that it takes 3-5 years to build a small business into profitability

And a dumb investor?

1) a dumb investor invests money in your small business without understanding your concept or mission

2) a dumb investor has no passion or commitment to your small business and will abandon it at the first sign of trouble

3) a dumb investor thinks he or she knows how to run your small business better than you do, without any experience in that business

I don’t believe that there is any such thing as “dumb” money. But a “dumb” investor can turn your dream business into a nightmare.