Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Know When to Hold 'Em - Know When to Fold 'Em- Part Deux

One of my previously posted blogs on this topic was about having the courage to know when to close your business. Well, this is about having the courage to take a big (but calculated) risk that your business still has life in it.

A friend and sharp business woman from one of the best schools that I know of, "The School of Hard Knocks," shared this story with me and I wanted to share it with you.

A little background.... this friend and I met in the small town we grew up in. We both went to work very young and both were managing businesses before we graduated from high school. With that, as we both remarked last week during lunch, was the pleasure and luck to both have worked for straight shootin', high expectations, solid foundation business people. Both of our bosses took huge risks by putting their businesses in the hands of very young women. As I recounted to her, "I was sent to LA to Fashion Week with a budget of $10k (this was A LOT of money then) at the age of 15 to buy a store full of junior style clothing for a boutique." Even as I said it all of these years later, it amazes and honors me that the owner had that faith and trust in me to do this. Although, I must say, I did a good job -- so it worked out for both of us ;)

Anyway, this friend now owns a children's boutique in one of the trendiest malls in LA. If any of you have ever been in retail, you know that restaurants and then clothing stores are at the top of the food chain for failing. So she took a big risk 20 years ago when she committed to a lease - an expensive one - and took the plunge. She has had some great years and some so-so years, but this Recession really shook her to her knees.

The numbers just weren't there and the decline happened so fast she couldn't even believe it. At first she thought it was a blip on the radar but then, it continued. And, as always seems to happen in mall management negotiation, they tossed her a grenade. They were moving her into a space 1/2 the size for the same amount of rent she was paying for her current space -- right before the Holiday Season. 

That was it. She was sure she was down for the count so off to the BK attorney she went. Fortunately, she landed a thoughtful attorney with a heart. At the end of the meeting, he asked her a game changing question, "How long can you work for free? I think you might be able to pull out of this if you really want it." She was stunned. She had already thrown in the towel and was ready to let her dream go....but something inside her answered, "Until after the Holiday Season".

She and the attorney then reworked the numbers and came up with a skeletal staff level, a way to purchase product to get through the Season and she jumped in with both feet, working harder than she had worked since her early days in a fast food joint. She kept her best employees and had daily meetings which included a session on positive thinking, soulful selling techniques and the goal of having the best Holiday Season ever.

Guess what? She's still open and it is February 2nd and she did have THE BEST Holiday Season ever and it was followed by THE BEST January she has ever had. (Keep in mind, she is in a space 1/2 the size of her old space, paying the same rent and is working with a bare bones staff.)

She made it! While others died on the vine this last Season, she did better than she had ever done before. Why? Well, I have my theories, but I'd love to hear from you!

Why do you think she brought her business back to life and even exceeded her own expectations? I can’t wait to hear your answers…..

Wishing you the best,
Mary Mussard

1 comment:

  1. Mary..I started a company and would like to speak with you...Gene