Go for the Goal

7. Admit That You Don't Know Everything

Your business was founded on a good idea. Don't let the flood of other good ideas that rushed in afterward drown your efforts.

Missett ruefully recalls the period in the mid-1980s when the fitness industry had gone volcanic and a group of consultants urged her to fan out her company's program. Don't just have franchisees with small Jazzercise operations in strip malls, the consultants said; build your own health clubs, and fill them with Jazzercise and other classes, such as children's gymnastics.

"Well, I only have a degree in theater, not an MBA," Missett says, "so I went along with it." After just one fitness club had been built, she realized she should have stuck to her original concept. "Our strength was the dance program, not all these other things that were popping up, so we stopped doing all those other things."

Similarly, at one point, Gardenburger's Wenner realized his product's energy was spread too thin. In the late 1980s, he brought cheese, milk and chicken substitutes under the Gardenburger umbrella. Then, when sales fell short of his expectations, he had a revelation: "If we didn't focus on the familiar round shape of a Gardenburger, this fabulous product of ours was going to get lost in the hustle." So he got rid of everything but the burger line in the early 1990s.

8. Make It Work

In 1993, Burgerville USA was developing a location that Mears says "looked like it would have been wonderful for us." The trouble was, he had resolved at the start of that fiscal year not to open restaurants that wouldn't pull in at least $1 million a year, and the analysis suggested this site would pull in about $900,000. That's not bad, and not far off the mark, "But I had taken a stand and said we just couldn't live that way," he says. "So we added breakfast items and espresso, tweaked the look of the restaurant, and we [generated] twice the volume we'd anticipated-$1.8 million the first year."

The lesson that emerged from that experience, he says, was if you know what you want, don't back off.

9. Play the Margins

It's common practice to check in periodically with major clients and verify that your firm is still on their minds, treating them right and deserving of their business. But Giglierano says an entrepreneur who wants to see sales rise will resolve to do the same with smaller and even marginal customers.

"Some of these small customers have probably remained small because you aren't calling on them enough," says Giglierano. They want to be treated like important clients, not like also-rans. "If they saw somebody from your company more often, they would have increased their orders."

These small customers may be on the verge of major growth and could take you up with them. But how will you know that if you only pay attention to the heavy-hitters?

10. Relive Your Failures

The beginning of the year offers a clean slate, a chance to put problems behind you and move forward. Samaha suggests a wiser way of looking at things might be to put any failings of the past year in the middle of the table and let everybody take a long, painful look at them.

"I'm not talking about a day of finger-pointing and cutting off heads," Samaha says. "I'm talking about doing a post-mortem in a learning environment, where mistakes are valuable learning tools, just as successes are."

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This article was originally published in the December 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Go for the Goal.

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