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Friday, December 10, 2010

The end and the beginning...

What makes a business work? What happens to make it fail? What happens next? I've asked these questions about 10 million times during the past 18 months. And the answers are often very clear and very confusing at the same time.
The beginning...
My wife, Paula and I were like many young couples 30 years ago. We were struggling with life in general and were not well grounded financially. We worked hard at the family thing but neither of us knew what the future held. Paula had lots of energy and ideas and needed to express herself by making things. And as she made them, I though about ways to make them into money makers. Our first business, The Olde Brush came about by taking her painted items to some retailers and asking them if they liked them. Out of 13 sales attempts, we made 12 sales and decided we had a business. We got some sales reps and the business began. After about 5 years, a couple of small business loans, undercapitalization and 40 employees, our accounting firm and legal team advised us to close up shop and file bankruptcy. We did and lost everything but an old van and a few tools.
The next phase...
We were granted a second chance when we discovered some new designs and lucked into some unusual paint finishes. We decided to try again and took every dime we had to pay for a couple of trade show booths and some inventory. We saved enough $ to rent a trailer and buy gas to get to the first show and wrote a bad check for the hotel. Our hope was to sell $1000 of the $5000 in inventory we took and take $10,000 in orders for later delivery during the 3 day show. What happened was a sign from God. We sold the $5000 inventory during the first morning and took $60,000 in total orders during the show. We were in business again! This time we understood how to make a profit and the next 15 years proved to be an amazing time of opportunity. We won countless awards for creative design and our business grew from a $100,000 revenue to $4 million. We were rolling! We were traveling overseas to design and source products and we were able to redirect a large amount of our profits into beach real estate. Life was great and we spent like there was nothing that could stifle our momemtum.
The END...
Well...the rest of the story is predictable. The housing industry crashed and we experienced "The Perfect Storm". The demand for our products dried up, quickly, and the beach real estate market died. The result was a 3-4 year spiral of losses in the millions. We were not prepared and too proud to admit that we could possibly fail again after all of the successes. We could figure this out! We couldn't and we didn't! And 18 months of questioning and the accepting these events has brought me to this time
The Beginning...
There are lots of things that I know now and many, many that I don't. What I do know for sure is that the reason for the failures has been for the purpose of learning how to give! This seems strange for me but it's fact. I have to pass on what God has given me to those who need what I have. Right now it's a lot of experience and information but it might be something more material in the future. What I can give to others who have experienced similar frustrations is encouragement and hope because I know that the best is yet to come. I hope there are other stories.
Bernie

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