Nobody gets into business for it to fail but businesses can and do fail. My first foray, having left the so-called security of the day job was case in point.
Before I get into the story of how (and more importantly why) it failed, and the life lessons taught me, let me state that I am not sharing this to add to any panic or fear out there among fellow business owners and employers, rather I hope to help re-frame what’s happening in our community with some sort of perspective based on painful personal experience.
Let me also state that as I write this, Carambola, our school meals business, was shut by proper Government directive which closed schools last Thursday afternoon placing 120 of us, Yours Truly included, in a situation where we have zero income for the foreseeable…
Back to the story…
That first business, a Bewley’s Cafe franchise in Limerick city, failed within the first five years of our ownership and it was one of the toughest times of our lives. However it failed over a period of time and as a result of four very specific things coming at us consecutively, three of which were completely beyond our control.
The Perfect Storm that wiped us out included four elements which arrived consecutively between 2000 and 2002.
To understand the Perfect Storm and learn the 5 reasons why Business Owners can remain hopeful through Corona, stick on the kettle, grab a coffee and think with me in your preferred way…
The Perfect Storm that wiped us out included four elements which arrived consecutively between 2000 and 2002; they were:
- An already declining market: Around the turn of the century Bewley’s largely traditional fare of bacon, egg and sausage, black or white coffee, real tea leaves etc, became old very quickly as a new generation wanted lattes, cappuccinos, wraps and paninis. Punters voted with their feet and went elsewhere to sexier, younger brands offering what they were looking for. Bewley’s as a brand attempted to change to offer said fare but it was too little, too late, akin to the Titanic seeing the iceberg but not having enough time to adjust course. Before any other factor came into play, our business already demonstrated a steady decline.
- Foot and Mouth Disease: The second element in our perfect storm was Bovine Foot and Mouth disease which hit our island in 2001. In a strange way what’s happening today reminds me of that time. The Government, in an effort to stop the disease spreading, issued a decree that no one should travel from the country side into our cities so as not to spread the virus. Most complied. Business dropped 20% overnight! The disease was wrestled under control and life got back to normal for most – not for us though.
- 911 – The Twin Towers Attacks: Just as Foot and Mouth was finishing, 911 struck – the Twin Towers were hit in NYC and air travel all but ceased, particularly between the USA and Shannon – the Americans didn’t come in in their droves as we were used to and as Shannon airport services the Midwest, with Limerick as it’s capital, businesses in the region didn’t get the usual boost. Business stayed flat at 20% down.
- The Feckin’ Celtic Tiger: Then in 2002 we had a rent review, and the greed brought on by the feckin’ Celtic Tiger days pushed our rent, for what was effectively a coffee shop on a pedestrian street in Ireland’s third city, to €1,000 per day! Game over! We couldn’t withstand that final blow although it took us until 2005 to close the doors, digging a deeper financial hole day by day.
Yet here we are today, fifteen years on, thinking together over coffee.
And, what came from the ashes of that business going under has been far more valuable and impactful than it could ever have been had it survived.
Am I willing your business to fail as a result of Corona Virus? clearly not – you know me better than that by now I hope. No, instead I am trying to offer some perspective:
As I see it there is only one element demonstrating currently and that is disease, albeit a far more dangerous one than Foot and Mouth, which only affected the animal population.
So let’s look at where you are now, relative to where we were when the Perfect Storm hit us?
- Firstly, allow me assume until COVID -19 hit, your business was going in the right direction? so you weren’t already on a slippery slope. This is good.
- Secondly, Corona virus has affected the entire planet, back then Foot and Mouth was a relatively localized inconvenience. What does that mean? It means everyone (but only EVERYONE) is in the same boat this time, so the tolerance levels to allow businesses recover should be sufficient to see healthy businesses recover and get back on their feet. Governments and banks will do what is within their power to help and not penalize unduly – employees, though hurting cannot blame their employers for the situation we all find ourselves in. This, too is good.
- Thirdly, though I can’t say this with 100% certainty, please God there won’t be the equivalent of a 911 at the end of this, thus aiding our recovery.
- And finally, I am assuming because everyone is in this together, landlords, at least those with a human heart (there must be many), will play their part to help
their fellow humans reestablish once the dust settles and not pressure unnecessarily around late payments, nor seek stupid increases.
The most important thing that can happen in the coming weeks and months is that YOU and yours survive. Start with that. Once you get through this with your health, the rest can be fixed. As someone said, “If your problems are only financial, you don’t have problems…”
The four lessons I took from our first business failing, which I am recommending we cling to during today’s unprecedented situation are:
- Our business failed, we didn’t. That is worth repeating… our business failed, we didn’t.
- This, too shall pass.
- So long as we stay safe, we will survive – if our problems are only financial, we don’t have problems.
- When we come out the far side we will never be the same again and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
and the fifth, because we are living through a global pandemic;
- The world will never be the same again, and that, too, is not necessarily a bad thing.
Stay safe out there. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Stay in touch.
Thanks for thinking with me.
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FANCY A COFFEE WITH COLM in ‘real’? I have been creating free weekly content for over three years now and am very happy to have the opportunity to do so. That said, if you enjoy my work, perhaps you might consider buying me the odd coffee to help defray the hidden costs around sourcing, creating, editing, uploading and sharing? Some pretty cool rewards await those who do! Check out my PATREON page here.
MORE: Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:
- Ep 205: Three Tips on How to Get Even More out of Life – click here.
- EP 204: How To Survive and Thrive through Life’s Storms – click here
- Ep 203 The Story of Little Tomi Reihental, Holocaust Survivor – click here
BONUS: My infamous Man on the Train story…
- The ‘Man on the Train’ story. How my fortunes changed through a seemingly random (is there any such thing?) meeting – click here.
FREE AUDIO BOOK. If would like a complimentary copy of my book “Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business Despite the Roadblocks” in audio, narrated by Yours Truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here.
LINKEDIN. Perhaps the thing to do right now is simply to hook up professionally on LinkedIn – if that’s of interest, click here.