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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.