How not to fail.

This is near the anniversary of my biggest business failure. I learned some very expensive and some very painful lessons. Here’s the short story.

As a formerly successful entrepreneur I figured I could start a new enterprise that would be even more successful than my first company. I had ten years of success and so going after another goal…well it’s seemed doable.

There were two big mistakes that I made that, for coaching purposes, I will  share with you. 1. I was so sure of my success in the venture that I didn’t want to take on any partners. 2. I was so sure that my idea would work I ignored what was going on around me and in the technology world in general.

My simple idea was to have a way for anyone anywhere who wanted to hear/sample a cd before they bought it simply call an 800 number and through the magic of Telephony technology (Press one for two for etc.) they could find and play samples of the selected cd. Note that this idea was prior to the internet…but just only 6 months before the internet. The IR technology that existed at the time just had to be tweaked so to speak and then sold to companies that were selling music and any audio cd. Finding the technical people to accomplish this was not too hard. I choose to finance the company with my own funds.

This choice sounds natural enough but here is a lesson. If you have an idea that is valuable and other people think so then other people will want to invest. If you don’t give other people the opportunity to invest that is your choice but if don’t find other people to invest then maybe your idea is not worth investing in (gambling on). Lots of people surveyed at the time thought they would use the service. Some record chains were just beginning to let people hear music before they purchased in the store so why not over the phone?

Here’s the thing about technology that my blinders would let me see at the time. Technology moves much faster than one can imagine. By not keeping one eye on the developments of the tech of the time I got behind in developing a web version of the same service. So the unique selling proposition I had was obsolete before it was sell-able to the market. Do I regret losing tons of money? Of course I regret it. No reason for you to do that same mistake.

If your business needs to keep up with or ahead of technology then you must be prepared to either have very deep pockets or very wealthy friends/backers. This is so obvious in today’s world that it hardly needs saying. But the point is knowing how your particular business niche is moving forward via your competition or the industry at large is very important. Having the latest technology may not be necessary but knowing how technology will impact your specific business in both the short term and long term is now part of your job (yet another hat to wear).

Learn from your mistakes (miss-steps) and be prepared to change course quickly when necessary.

Keep on keeping on…



The Equinox ceremony is over and fall is upon us. All businesses have cycles and being clear about the cycles of your business is important in how you plan and deal with said cycles. All industries have cycles and I would be surprised if you found that your business in not affected by these ever changing cycles.

So the ups and downs of cash flow can often be related to industry cycles even if remotely. So step back and look at your cash flow and see if some cycle is at play as part of your challenge. If you find some indications that indeed a cycle is at play then what can you do about it? I recommend some planning as absolutely necessary.

Nature in her wisdom created Seasons, the cycles of life if you will, for a purpose. These seasons are of course, natural occurrences, and as such are something we can get ready for and prepare accordingly. Fall is here; we pack up the summer clothes and get out the fall and winter clothes. No big deal, unless, you don’t have fall or winter clothes.

So planning for business cycles, whether seasonal or not, becomes one of your jobs as an owner of your business. In the retail setting these cycles are partially what drive business: holidays are where the money is made. But for most service businesses these holiday cycles are a nuisance rather than a gift. A business must put some cash aside from the good times to deal with the lean times. I know, too obvious, and yet often not done by the small business venture.

Does your business even have a reserve account for emergencies? Many a sleepless night can be avoided by following some fiscal discipline when times are ‘good’. Bigger small businesses have banking relationships or funding sources that may be helpful through tough times once or twice. But eventually even they have to plan better for cycles. To be successful the old adage still rings true: “It’s not how much money you make, but rather, how much money you keep that makes the difference.”

Keep on keeping on…

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