While writing The Family Business, our first book, we engaged Michael Larsen of the Larsen Pomada Literary Agency in San Francisco to represent us. Michael guided us to produce a book proposal which he used to pitch us to major publishers in New York. As he reviewed our proposal he would often ask, “Is that the best word?” That question has colored my writing ever since. In the past, I have described entrepreneurs as “Tough.” The image that word conjures is a brawny, hardened character who relishes the challenges of business ownership. Meeting with a middle aged owner of a children’s gym changed my commitment to that description. She was demur and had a gentle voice, but she had endured several financial setbacks and prevailed with a profitable business. The better word to describe successful entrepreneurs is “resilient.”
To succeed in your own business you must be able to roll with the punches. Let’s return to our protagonist, the gym owner. She bought a franchise gym against the advice of the franchisor. She negotiated for space in a high end, high traffic retail center during a period of growth and multiple vacancies. The landlord preferred a national brand, but had bills to pay. She grew her business despite the naysayers. After three years, she expected a call from the property manager to renew her lease. What she got was a thirty day notice to vacate because she had not notified the landlord during the period specified in the lease that she wanted to stay. She had to remove all her equipment and demo the tenant improvements within 30 days. She scrambled to find alternative space as she solicited the aid of friends, family and even clients to vacate the old place. Within three months she was operational in an office complex. She lost a good portion of her business because the new location was less convenient, but she rebuilt. In two years, she was competing with the other franchisees for top store, when the recession hit. Her enrollments declined with the general reduction in discretionary income, but she persisted and prevailed. Our recent meeting was to discuss how she could prepare her business for a successful exit.
This story reveals that you must keep your end goal in mind as you face the immediate challenges of the day. You must educate yourself to avoid the mistakes of the inexperienced. You must be committed to the goal but not the path. The story isn’t over until you create the ending. In this case, the gym owner needs to prepare a business that can survive without her. Had she done that earlier, she could have acquired other locations and made more money.
As you write the story of your business, your character will be revealed. There are several words that describe all the successful business owners I know: courageous, creative, positive, visionary, diligent, and focused. I wish I could say that all successful entrepreneurs are honest and caring. That unfortunately is not true, though I hold to the belief that all successful human beings are. The End.