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Success Can Kill Your Business

July 4, 2014

Photo courtesy of Ovidiu M

Ask any 9-to-5er what you should plan for when going full-time in your business and they’ll tell you, “Have a back-up plan in case you fail.”

True entrepreneurs will do something different — they’ll warn you to plan for success.

Why? Because it’s success that can kill a business if you aren’t prepared for it.

When two renegade cows took over a billboard above a busy highway outside Atlanta in 1995, no one knew the message they conveyed would be heard all around America. The three-dimensional billboard shows one black and white cow atop the back of another cow, who was painting the words, “Eat Mor Chikin®.”

In his book by the same name, Eat Mor Chikin, Inspire More People, Chick-fil-A® founder S. Truett Cathy explains that the company had no idea that the advertising campaign with the now-famous cows would prove to be so popular. The company had not planned a major, nationwide billboard campaign, but when Cathy saw the positive response from that first billboard, he saw the unexpected opportunity and took advantage of it—and the rest is history. For more than a decade, Chick-fil-A’s renegade cows have been amusing the public and driving customers in herds to the popular fast-food restaurant.

According to Chick-fil-A, within a year, the Richards Group, the advertising agency that developed the original billboard, turned the renegade cows into an integrated advertising campaign that included point-of-purchase items in the stores and radio ads.

In the 12 years since the cow campaign debuted in 1995, Chick-fil-A’s business increased five-fold from $500,000,000 in 1995 to more than $2.64 billion in 2007. Not bad work for a couple of renegade cattle and a paintbrush!

Prior to that campaign, the company hoped for success in the general sense, but no one could have foreseen the impact that one little billboard would have. So, don’t just prepare for failure; prepare for success.

Numerous business books are filled with horror stories of businesses cannibalized out of business by their own success. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you can’t meet an increased demand for your product or service. Be ready to succeed. Plan for it and have a contingency plan.

In 1995, when teenage rebel Shawn Nelson decided to build a bigger, better beanbag, not too many folks laughed. He sold the oversized, overstuffed bean bags to family and friends until one day he got an order for 12,000 of them from a company rep who saw and liked the bags. He officially founded LoveSac® with some friends in 1998.

Their $500,000.00 order might have seemed like a windfall, but with a company of one, Shawn had to scramble to produce that first big order. He did, using all the profits to complete the huge order, but the Cinderella story had begun. In 2005 he walked away with $1 million as the winner of Richard Branson’s (Virgin Atlantic® owner and billionaire) reality TV show “The Rebel Billionaire.”

Then in 2006, with only $500,000.00 in estimated assets, Nelson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. His top 30 unsecured claims totaled more than $3.2 million. That hasn’t stopped him. In 2008, Nelson’s unique seating became the only seating in a refurbished Texas movie theater. He hasn’t let his roller coaster ride of success and failure deter him from his business.

Entrepreneurs never travel smooth, flat highways. While most businesses won’t ever experience the extreme ups and downs of Shawn Nelson’s LoveSac® venture, complete with winning a reality show and a million dollars, you never know what can happen.

Plan for success. Failure will take care of itself. If you focus on failing, that’s where your mind will be. Refocus and plan to succeed. Big corporations do.

Car manufacturers are working on new models years before the public ever sees them. Microsoft knows what will happen this year, next year, and the next. Even as one new product is hitting the shelves, research and development has already started working on the next product and the next improvements.

For the entrepreneur just starting off, that pressure can seem immense. You haven’t even gotten your first year under your belt and already you need to project the next year and the next and the next!

Relax. You don’t have to do it all at once. There is a process to get to the top of the stairs. Take it one step at a time…

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Friday, I give tips on how to build the foundation needed to have a successful business and platformSee other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for me to cover something specific, let me know via Twitter.

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