- Would you like to ruin a business?
- Have you been looking for tips that will guarantee you to fail?
- Want to screw up your next big deal?
I didn’t think so. That’s why you should read my friend, MJ Gottlieb’s new book How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying: What Every Entrepreneur Should Not Do When Running a Business.
Because it will save you a lot of time, money, pain and aggravation to learn from someone else’s mistakes rather than your own.
Don’t own a business? His advice isn’t just for entrepreneurs. The same advice for an entrepreneur applies in the corporate world.
I recently had the opportunity to ask MJ to share his perspective with you. He writes with an honesty and humility about his trials and mistakes that will draw you right in.
Learn What NOT to Do
MJ, why a book on ruining a business?
When an entrepreneur starts a business, a tremendous amount of time, effort and (often) money is spent and great sacrifices are made at the expense of friends and family. That is a fact. It is also a fact that losing (ruining) a business after all that sacrifice can be an extraordinarily painful experience. What most people don’t realize is that they can significantly mitigate the risk of failure by learning from the mistakes of others before the clock starts and the stakes are for real. If you truly study brands, you will see a pattern of common-thread mistakes that most businesses both past and present seem to share in common. The ones who are willing to recognize a mistake and quickly adapt, adjust and modify will survive, the rest disappear.
It’s not that aspiring entrepreneurs don’t want to learn from failure, I think society is simply focused too much on the end result (the success) and is viewing things through rose-colored glasses. Most of the information that I come across focuses on the small percent who are succeeding, as opposed to studying and learning from the vast majority who are not.
Statistics show 90% of start-ups fail and 70-80% of all businesses fail within 10 years. Despite these facts, the market is flooded with how-to books and courses on how to succeed. Here’s my concern with this. Every business is different with its own unique blueprint to success, so there is absolutely no way you can tell someone how to run their business. You can, however, find the key mistakes that most businesses seem to share in common to start to swing the percentages in the other direction and give more hope to the entrepreneur.
Learn From Adversity
How has adversity helped make you who you are?
I think it’s all about one’s perspective on the word. Corny as it may sound, I have come to crave adversity and look at it as yet another great opportunity to grow. The only reason I can see that perspective is because I operated from the other side for a very long time. When I was young, I ran away from everything and accomplished nothing. It wasn’t until I was able to turn around and look adversity in the face that I was able to take the power away from it and use it to my advantage.
I think adversity not only makes you a stronger person but also is the only way to see what you are truly capable of. I think there should always be adversity to some extent, as it will always challenge us to grow. Without adversity there is complacency, which I think is a four-letter word. I always want some goal ahead of me that I have not yet achieved or some stumbling block I have not quite yet moved aside.
For example, basketball was my salvation, and I played every day until I couldn’t play anymore and had to get my hip replaced. I still do two hours of physical therapy every night because I not only want to get back on the basketball court but also want to dunk again. The doctor says that is most likely not going to happen. I say it most likely will. While he is showing me the adversity, I choose to take it as a challenge and an opportunity.
Take me to the dark days after your first business failed. What were you thinking?
I fell into a deep depression. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t look at anyone, let alone myself. I was so ashamed that I refused to show my face anywhere in the fashion industry and got a job mopping floors in a bar fifty blocks away.
Here’s where it changed. I started going to Barnes & Noble every day before work and started reading every book on success I could get my hands on. The more I read the more I realized what was between the lines of every success story: FAILURE. That was a revelation. I suddenly realized the greatest successes and the people I admired the most had experienced similar failures as I did.
This is why The Lemon-Aide Guide Series is so important to me. You have heard that success is not about how many times you fall but only with how many times you get up. I would say that is true with an asterisk. I think the first step is to learn from those who have fallen so you don’t fall from a punch you could have easily seen coming from watching the game film (studying). Then, when you do get hit with a punch you have not yet seen, it’s about learning not to get hit with the same punch again…and knowing there will be more punches.
Practice Gratitude to Get Through Life’s Bumps
You always seem upbeat, positive and ready to take on a new challenge. Is that something that you can teach or is it something people are just born with?
I believe I am this way strictly as a result of going through the bumps, lumps, scrapes and bruises both personally and professionally and know it is possible to come out the other side and use that experience to help prevent others from going down a similar path. Practicing gratitude every day for wherever I am no matter what circumstance I am in helps me a great deal.
I am upbeat because I used to be as down in the dumps as they come. I am positive because I know what it’s like to be negative. I am ready to take on new challenges only because I know what it feels like to feel beaten down, defeated and hopeless.
I also think it is very important to have someone who always has your back and is always up for a challenge. Personally, that could be a husband, wife or significant other, but you can’t take them to work with you so, in business, it has to be someone else. I am extremely fortunate and give that credit to Gary who has been my business partner and best friend since we were in college. He is about the most upbeat person on the planet—so much so, that I actually used to get upset over the fact that he never got upset. One of the biggest lessons I learned from him was when we were losing the first business, I was freaking out and he (of course) was not, and I asked him why. He looked over at me and said, “What exactly would that accomplish?” I learn so much from him it is insane.
The last thing I’ll say about this is that I think most people need to be upbeat in order to be even willing to take on a new challenge. I know when I was down in the dumps, the last thing I was looking for was a challenge.
Success Shortcut: Find Someone You Trust
When you are making a key hiring decision, what do you look for?
I was riding up to Baltimore with Daymond John from Shark Tank a few weeks ago and we were talking about this. He told me the most important thing to him when making a hiring decision is trust. He would rather find a person he trusts and create the position, than simply fill the position with someone adept in the particular skillset for the job.
I am in 100% agreement. I think the foundation of all businesses should be built on trust. Daymond doesn’t have to look over his back, micromanage his companies or deal with any of the other headaches that come with a workforce you can’t trust. I think having the piece of mind when you go to sleep at night that your store isn’t being looted by your own people (without you knowing it) is priceless.
MJ’s Top 3 List for the Young Entrepreneur
Talk to the young entrepreneur. So far, this person has made no mistakes, had no failures. It’s a blank slate. That person asks you for your top 3 on your advice list. What do you say?
1. There are two types of mistakes. The first are the ones you make and choose to ignore. These ones lead to inevitable failure. The second are the mistakes you learn from. Those mistakes must be made as they will become the stepping stones to your success.
2. Study the brands, businesses and entrepreneurs you admire and get to know their stories. When you do, don’t only look at what made them succeed but also find the key mistakes they made and what they did to fix them. If you study success enough you will find common-thread mistakes and know when they apply to you when you experience them in your journey.
3. Work backwards from the perspective of what the market wants as opposed to what you want. Then study your competition and find what will differentiate your product and/or service from your competition.
4. Only do what you love and only do it with people who you love to work with.
I know that’s four.
Is there such a thing as work-life balance for an entrepreneur?
If there is I haven’t found it. That’s not to say that I don’t try to achieve it, I just know that being an entrepreneur is like living inside of Murphy’s Law. I’m cool with it because it’s the path I chose.
I do, however, think it is extremely necessary to do your best to find that balance. If I am in town, I head to the gym and hit the heavy bag every night. I can also say that being of service to others helps me tremendously, and I do that as an avocation in some way, shape or form every month. The hidden treasure of helping others is it gets me out of my head and allows me to focus on someone other than myself.
What’s your hope for the Lemon-Aide Guide series?
The Lemon-Aide Guide will be a series that focuses on stories of people and companies who have turned previous failures into current successes. Each book in the series will focus on a market leader from a different niche and use case studies to highlight the biggest mistakes they made (the wrong) and what they learned from those mistakes to get back on track (the right). This way we can give entrepreneurs and small businesses the full context they need to realize not only how people succeeded but why they succeeded… and that not only is it OK to make mistakes, it is a requirement. You can’t make lemon-aide without the lemons. We need to start focusing on where the juice came from.
How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying: What Every Entrepreneur Should Not Do When Running a Business