Your Failure Can Be the Key to Your Fortune
You may have heard the story of how an engineer at 3M was trying to invent a super strong adhesive, but came up with a super weak one instead. That weak adhesive he invented became the secret to 3M Post-it Notes.
Another hugely successful product was developed by an inventor trying to develop a food preservative. Though the product he developed failed at preserving foods, when he accidentally spilled some on his hands he discovered that the ingredient he invented was very sweet. Thus was born the first artificial sweetener, saccharine.
In 1985, Proforma had been in business seven years. We were doing great, growing our distributorship in the Cleveland, Ohio, market. We were recognized for our fast growth by Inc. magazine on their list of the 500 fastest growing companies three years in a row. We decided to expand our distributorship to Columbus, Ohio (about two hours south of Cleveland). We traveled to Columbus several times interviewing scores of candidates to hire and manage our Columbus office. Finally, after a month, we decided on the “perfect” candidate and made an appointment to meet with him one last time to hire and onboard him.
But when we arrived for the meeting, he informed us that he did not want to accept the job. He informed us that our story of how we started our own distributorship inspired him to start his own distributorship like we had. Ugh. Failure! Back to the drawing board.
I thought long and hard about how we failed and how we could avoid failing like that again. And the more I thought about it, it occurred to me that perhaps many people might want to own their own business. I thought about how we could find a way to leverage our success and infrastructure to help other people own their own business rather than be employees. The more I thought about the concept, the more it made sense to develop a franchise ownership model.
In 1986, we started franchising Proforma.
The rest is history, as they say. Today, we have 700 franchise owners with $500 million in sales and 200 support team associates helping our growing network of independent franchise owners.
The next time you experience a “failure,” let me encourage you to:
- Think through what the causes of the “failure” might have been.
- Outline what you learned through the process.
- Determine if there are any creative alternative ideas that could turn your failure into your fortune.
Truly your failure can be the key to your fortune.