The phone rang again. Feeling the
pressure, Jack finally answered. It had been ringing all morning as the news became public. Jack
answered, and the reporter on the other end
said, “What does it feel like to lose 300 million
It was a startling question, and he thought about it. Could it
really be that much? Did he really just lose $300
million in less than a day?
When Jack was growing up, he always had ideas for makingthings better. His family
never had a lot, which meant Jack had to do odd jobs to earn his own money. He sold
newspapers, delivered groceries, and loved
garage sales. He would go around and buy things from other people, then
sell them for a few dollars more. He dreamed
of one day opening his own store.
Jack began thinking of an idea for a store that would
sell merchandise without the
customers ever physically seeing the
products. He made a few catalogs with less than 20 items in them, and then put the catalogs
on display in a small store he rented.
He explained to people in
the neighborhood that he could save them
a lot of money on products they wanted and would deliver them for free within a couple of days. All they had to do
was come to his store, look at his catalog, place their order, and they’d experience big savings. It took a while for people to get the hang of
it, but Jack was on to something. Over the next few years, he expanded his
catalog to include hundreds of items. As the business grew, he started to keep the most
popular items in a warehouse behind the store
to make deliveries faster. Jack began
opening stores in other neighborhoods, and in less than ten years, he had the makings of an empire.
Thirty years went by, and Jack Stupp's
company, Consumer Distributors, was worth over a billion dollars. He was the king of discounted merchandise in Canada and began expanding
to the United States, where he faced huge
competition from a company called Service Merchandise that had the same basic business model. Jack was
wealthier than he ever imagined, although most of his
money was tied up in stock of his own
Unfortunately, the bubble was about to
burst.Both his company and Service Merchandise were soon put out of
business by a new innovation in discount retailing, led by a company called Wal-Mart.
That's when the
phone started to ring. How did it feel
to lose $300 million? Jack answered, "It feels great! I never thought I could lose $300
million and still be ok."
I met Jack when I was living in New York, and loved
to hear him tell stories. We were eating dinner at The Russian Tea Room when he told me
about his company going out of business and his
own loss of $300 million. I was intrigued and wanted to know what he did next. How did he
recover from such a devastating blow?
I'll never forget his answer. Jack said, "I
focused on what worked well." He explained that most people focus on their mistakes and shortcomings, and that, when they have a so-called
failure in life or in business, the first thing they usually do is
lament over what went wrong. It's not
that we shouldn't learn from our mistakes, but he believed it was
more important to study our successes. When we
focus on what we do well and repeat that process, success breeds more
Shortly after Jack lost his business, he went on Canadian television with an incredible deal. As thanks for the years of supporting his business, he offered viewers an
opportunity to buy a brand new pool table for only $1 more than his cost to buy it and ship it directly to them. This was hundreds of dollars less than the retail price, and the response was overwhelming. Within a month,
Jack sold more than ten million pool tables, earning him $10 million in
profit. It was more than his competition
sold in an entire year. He also had no store or inventory, as he’d arranged for the
manufacturer to ship the tables directly.
It was unheard of, but Jack had simply gone back to what worked for him in the past.
When you find yourself struggling and wondering what went
wrong, try thinking back to when something went well. What worked? What was it you did that
produced the results you were happy with?
Figure out the answer, then do more of that!
Until next week...
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