Itís all downhill after you open

   Years ago, one of my former partners sent me a fortune cookie (minus the cookie) which I had framed and placed on my desk.
   I looked at it every day until it was indelibly etched into my memory. It read: "Opening a business is easy. The difficult part is keeping it open." Actually, the reason itís in my memory and no longer on my desk is that, upon closing one of my businesses years ago, I irritably smashed the frame to smithereens and tore the little fortune into shreds.
   Nevertheless, itís a point well taken. I thought of it again the other day as I prepared to open another business.
   This one happened to be an additional retail store, but Iíve done wholesale and service business start-ups as well. The fortune rings true in all cases.
   Opening a business is a glorious experience. You are past the wishy-washy stage of whether to take the plunge. Youíve made the decision Ė itís irrevocable. Nothing can stand in your way. You go ahead and order business cads. Look out, world.
   The adrenaline is flowing. You get more things done in one day that you ever thought possible. Thereís no time for procrastination.
   You are energized with the overwhelming expectation that reality is on your side. You have lingering doubts, but they are swept aside by the euphoria brought on by enthusiasm and optimism.
   Happy times are here. All you ever needed was something to be enthusiastic about and now youíve got it Ė your own business. Itís all coming together, except the sales.
   Best of all, youíre a genius. Your optimism is contagious. Friends and family listen to your grand scheme and stamp their approval, congratulating you on your initiative and guts.
   Everyone agrees you might have something. They donít want to spoil the party. They wish you luck, and they mean it.
   So you roll along, too excited to tire, gearing for the big day. But thereís one point that escapes you somehow, which is better left ignored in all the hoopla Ė all youíve done so far is spend money.
   That is whatís so easy. Most of the people you talk to all day, with the exception of friends and family, are bleeding you dry. So far, theyíre the only ones making money off of your idea.
   Of course theyíre going to say nice things. Whether youíre buying business cards, office equipment or inventory, youíre helping to keep them in business.
   Hiring staff is no different. Nothing is more stimulating than sharing your vision of the future business with prospective employees. They have to be enthusiastic if they want the job.
   Perhaps Iím being a little harsh, but itís a trap Iíve seen so many people, including myself, fall into time and time again.
   Iíve been both the victim and the perpetrator. I have had, in retrospect, some incredibly stupid ideas that I have acted upon only because I overwhelmed people with my enthusiasm and confidence.
   On the other hand, people close to me have come up with some bizarre business concepts that I could have cast a heavy doubt upon. Yet their enthusiasm was so great it was mildly infectious to the point where it was enough to dissuade me from dissuading them.
   And thatís the way it should be. If youíre going to spoil the party, do it before it gets started. Once someone is convinced that their business plan has merit, who are we to stifle their dreams? Thatís a job for reality.
    So thatís what I was thinking at 2:00 a.m. last Tuesday as we put the finishing touches on a store that was to be opening in seven hours.
   I had listened for weeks as people told me what a good move I was making. I believed them, just as I had for the business which resulted in the mutilated fortune on my desk.
   I drove home, too excited to be tired. Months of talking and planning, weeks of scrambling, days of organized chaos Ė all coming down to the big day.
   I was there, of course, at 9:00 a.m. when the doors opened. Reality took its sweet time, but finally entered in the form of a little old lady, who walked slowly through the store, glancing left and right, and then turned and exited without a word or purchase.
    I was crushed. Genius? Ha! Try failure. All that work, all that money. Of course the idea was stupid, a disaster. I should have known. How could I have been so confident, so enthusiastic? What an idiot!
   Like the cookie said, the difficult part was just beginning.

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