Don’t Worry About The Problems

“The births of all things are weak and tender, and therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.”” – Montaigne, Michel de

I ran across a memo on the ETR Message Board ( the other day that reminded me of something very important – one of the great secrets of success.

The memo was about my Beach Blanket Babylon message (#207). In that message, I used this great San Francisco based theatrical production to illustrate some important business-building principles, including using a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to establish a franchise for your product/service.

It happens that one of our ETRs is the principal sound engineer at BBB.  And he was nice enough to comment on the message, cautioning readers not to take my message too literally. He said he assumed I was speaking with tongue in cheek when I encouraged you to go ahead and create a BBB of your own.  “Just rent a barn and throw it together,” I seem to have said.

Yes – I admit it – I was being somewhat flippant.

I come from a theatrical family. My father was a playwright and actor . . . my mother was a Broadway lyricist . . . my brothers and sisters are actors, directors, and dancers . . . and my godparents were Jean and Walter Kerr! So, yes, I know that mounting a production like BBB is an amazing accomplishment. That it takes great people and a lot of smarts and hard work.

So why didn’t I say that? Why did I make it sound so easy? Why was I so glib about all that goes into it?

Here’s why (and I touched on it in my quick reply on the Message Board): because I think I can be more helpful if I can help you ignore those facts . . . at least at the very beginning.

I’ve started a bunch of businesses myself and know lots of guys who have done the same – and almost all began (as near as I can tell) with the same ignorance of the harsh realities. You see something that’s bad or imperfect, and you might say, “I can do better than that.” You wake up one morning with a whole new industry in your head and think, “Gosh, this is going to make me a billionaire!”

These are naive impulses, but they are good because they get you going – and getting going is the most important thing.

Most businesses die on the vine because the realities – like mites – attack before the plant is strong enough to withstand them.

When you make a decision to do something great . . . to start a new business, say, or launch a theatrical production or write a novel . . . you don’t begin with a list of the 86 problems you are going to encounter. You begin with the foolish idea that you can actually do it. And most of the time the foolishness extends to the degree that you think you can (1) not only do it but (2) do it quickly and (3) do it easily.

That said, any experienced professional will want to caution eager upstarts about the many problems and difficulties involved in beginning any new enterprise. The trick is to introduce the difficulties gradually and only after the interest has been firmly rooted – unless, of course, you are sure that the idea itself is a bad one. You don’t want to let someone spend time and money (not to mention hope and happiness) on a project you know has absolutely no chance of working.

So I will probably continue to encourage you to start all sorts of new businesses. And I’ll probably make them sound quick and easy. If you decide to try one of them, you’ll know in the back of your mind that there will be problems ahead, but you won’t hear it from me – at least not at the outset.