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MAY 2007

Light bulbs, your check engine light, and a brighter future

Last month we talked about passion, and how being passionate can make being in business more rewarding than any job ever could be! An enduring passion for the work on the part of the owners, managers, and employees makes a huge difference in the level of success of any business.

When business is good, being passionate about it isn’t hard. However, it is the times when things don’t appear rosy that measure how badly a businessperson wants lasting success. Thomas Alva Edison tested thousands of possible filaments for his light bulb before he found one that worked. He had no assurance of success, and he had plenty of reasons to give up after thousands of failures.

If you had been Edison, how many trie­s would you have been willing to make? Could you have stayed passionate about the possibility of an incandescent bulb after 500 failures? Do you approach your business with a willingness to experiment and seek out even small improvements? Do you reward your employees for being unafraid to take sensible risks?

No matter how well educated you are or how well run your business is, eventually, you will face adversity. As I wrote in my last installment, I faced nearly losing my home to fire and news of an IRS audit on the same day. My response to both was to redouble my passion and determination to succeed.

When the going gets tough, what do you do? When you lose your best employee, what do you do? When a bigger competitor moves into your neighborhood, what do you do? What do you do when you’re broke? When the idea of a better tomorrow seems ridiculous, what do you do?

The answer to these questions should tell you how badly you really want to succeed. If you face adversity by seeking to avoid the serious issues, you are behaving like the person who continues to drive a car with the check engine light on.

Serious success comes from finding the courage to face problems and dig for answers. What is it about your operation that made your best customer decide to buy from the competition? What is it about today that you could change to create a better tomorrow?

I recently sat next to an executive on a flight back to Fort Worth. He whined about clients that were ungrateful and competitors who were unfair. It never dawned on him that he controlled his future or that he could choose his responses to these setbacks. If he had been the one searching for the right material for a filament, we would still be in the dark. And, it would be someone else’s fault.

Significant success does not come to anyone by luck. Nor does it come to those who devote themselves to some form of escape. Thinking about how we respond to adversity reveals the habits we have developed as entrepreneurs. That’s not to say that it isn’t wise to keep life in balance. Family and recreation are important to a healthy state of mind and a positive business attitude. Sometimes the best thing to do is to go home and come back fresh to face a critical issue with a clear head.

If you want significant success, you’ll have to work on those habits that build it. Go to work early. Get there first. Be the last to leave. Use every snippet of time you can to accomplish something. Analyze your operation in detail. Watch your competitors. Mimic them where their traits seem successful and avoid those patterns that detract from their business.

No one can do this for you, not even this article. We can’t instill in you anything more than a temporary notion. If you don’t have a persevering attitude and yet say you want a better tomorrow, you’ll probably fail. The persevering attitude comes from your heart; it comes out of the stress; it grows out of the difficult times. It is your passion made visible and ultimately it rests entirely in your hands. Do you REALLY want it?

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Ron Sturgeon is past owner of AAA Small Car World. In 1999, he sold his six Texas locations, with 140 employees, to Greenleaf. In 2001, he founded North Texas Insurance Auction, which he sold to Copart in 2002. In 2002, his book “Salvaging Millions” was published to help small business owners achieve significant success, and was recently reprinted. In June 2003, he joined the new ownership and management team of GreenLeaf. He also manages his real estate holdings and investments. You can learn more about him at He can be reached at 5940 Eden, Haltom City, TX 76117, or 817-834-3625 ext 6#.

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