“Success is a choice, when failure is NOT an option.” – Terri Maxwell
Twelve years ago, I became an entrepreneur, failed miserably and lost everything (50k at the time). Despite the failure, I was hooked on the freedom, creativity and passion of building a business, and never wanted to go back to a job again.
As my grandfather taught me – try again. The company was someone else’s idea/product and money (since I had none). A year later we sold the company for a tiny bit of money. I then went to a start-up as their top marketing and sales executive (FlashNet) and soon became President of FlashNet Marketing, a subsidiary of the Fort Worth ISP. We rocked it. Unfortunately, after the IPO, the owners of FlashNet mismanaged the company, and it crashed during the dot.com bust. Our stock went from $17 (before the IPO) to $60, and eventually to $3, at which time the company was sold to Prodigy (Now AT&T). I made lots of money, and lost a lot too. But, we had done something cool, and I wondered if I could build my own business.
Now as part of Prodigy I had a choice: work as an employee, or leave and do my own thing. I knew becoming an employee wasn’t exciting, but starting my own business, for real? That pushed fear buttons. Could I really do this? All I could see was past failure, what I didn’t know, what could go wrong.
So, I walked the easy route and took a job. I was miserable. Six months later, September 11th occurred and reminded everyone how truly short life is. Two days later I resigned. On January 1, 2002, I started my own company as a solopreneur.
I was petrified. I made mistake after mistake. I struggled for two years, but eventually matched my corporate income. It was time to go to the next level and turn it into a real company. In January 2004, I kicked off an aggressive lead program and hired a sales manager.
Our income the end of 2004 was the same as 2003, around $250,000. Flat. In 2003 it was just me, so I got to keep the money. In 2004, we had team members, so now I lost a lot of money. Flat revenues AND losing money. We failed. Nothing. Zip. Nada.
So, I stopped. My only thoughts were: “I can’t do this”. I thought about how I had failed. I thought that being successful as an entrepreneur was something other people could do. Not me.
I wondered…what DOES it take to be successful as an entrepreneur? If I knew the magic formula, maybe it could be learned. So, for the next two weeks I interviewed 100 successful entrepreneurs in Dallas, trying to find the common reasons for entrepreneurial success. Was it education? Money? Ideas? Hours worked? Product? A skill? Or maybe some special ingredient only they possessed?
The ONLY common denominator was perseverance. They would NOT quit. They were determined to figure it out, to learn what ever, and to make it happen.
All had failed more than they had been successful. They were grossly inept at the things that made businesses work (lead generation, sales, accounting, operations, processes). But they didn’t care. Somehow, they would learn what they needed to learn and would do it. They didn’t just HOPE this would happen, they KNEW it would happen.
When I asked how they found that belief, they couldn’t tell me. They just said something snapped along the way, and they decided quitting wasn’t an option.
There was now a new choice to make. To quit, or to DECIDE never to quit. Deciding not to quit means the decision is irreversible. There’s no going back. You have to leave it all on the table.
By this time, I had already invested all assets and had no money left. Now what?
Decide never to quit. I snapped. I had a great brand, we had a handful of happy clients. I had an idea the company could be differentiated in the market. I wanted it. So I jumped.
I financed the next 90 days of my personal and business expenses using a second mortgage on the house. I set an audacious goal for 2005… We would hit $1 Million in revenue, despite the last 2 years of only achieving $250,000 per year. I would NEVER quit. The team around me could feel the shift. Something had changed.
Every day, I started at 6am by opening our sales pipeline report. I found 3 leads to contact each day and implemented a disciplined fill, advance, and close focus that I still use today: “Three Good Moves Per Day”. I reinvested every cent back into lead generation. At the end of March 2005, we had grown but were still losing money. This time, it was an easy decision. I would NOT quit. I financed the next 90 days on credit cards.
We made a profit in Q3. At the end of 2005 our revenue was $960,000. There had been many mistakes along the way, but I was forever changed. Success was a choice, but only because failure was no longer an option.
At the end of 2006, our revenue was $3 million…just a year later. All debt was repaid, and I had money again. In 2007, revenue reached $6 million, and we sold the company in 2008.
The rest, of course, is history. And now I take those lessons to help entrepreneurs across the country grow successful businesses.
It all started with one decision: to never quit. Success is a choice, period. Entrepreneur (or being part of a start-up) means mistakes are just part of the deal. The question is…will you quit?