I came across this brief story recently in a book and thought it worth retelling –
This was maybe fifteen years ago, a time when it began to seem as though Envirosell might succeed as an ongoing concern. Up until that point, though, it was an open question – I was borderline broke all the time, working like a dog but plowing every nickel I had back into the company. Things were tight: If I had a meeting in Florida, for instance, I would take the last flight of the day down there to get the cheapest ticket, arriving in the middle of the night. Then I’d pick up my rental car, drive to my destination, sleep in the car, shave and brush my teeth in a gas station bathroom, and go to my appointment trying my best to impersonate a successful research firm founder. Tight. Anyway, on the day in question it became clear that I and my company were going to be all right. And on that day I just happened to visit the Pathmark supermarket near South Street Seaport in New York City. Standing in the imported goods aisle, it suddenly hit me that I afford to buy anything I wanted. If, say, I wished to try some of the English ginger preserves I remembered from my youth, I could just pick up a jar and pay for it, heedless of the fact that it cost maybe four or five bucks. I no longer had to sweat over my food budget, I realized, and at that moment I began to cry. Right there in front of all those imported jellies, jams and preserves.
Stories like this abound in the lives of entrepreneurs. In an episode of the Dragons’ Den I heard one potential investor query a budding young entrepreneur –
How long are you willing to go without money for food to build this business?
Amway business owners are entrepreneurs. They go through the same challenges and struggles as other entrepreneurs. It’s hard to keep going – and easy to quit. Many Amway critics don’t seem to understand this. A story like the above, from Paco Underhill, if given by an Amway Diamond would be disparaged. Having it suggested that perhaps you could go without food to support your Amway business? Merely evidence that Amway leaders are evil.
No – It’s merely evidence that Amway entrepreneurs are just like other entrepreneurs.
I’ve built other businesses than Amway, and had to deal with well meaning relatives – “you’re not spending enough time with your family” … “why don’t you just get a job” … and the pressure (both externally and from within) to just quit and take the easy road is substantial. With Amway, it’s even easier to quit. The money spent is trivial compared to most businesses, and for most new people the “ownership” is less. As author Allan Pease says – if it’s your idea, it’s a good idea. The corollary is that if it’s someone else’s idea, like the Amway business plan, then it’s easier to dismiss it. It hurts less to let it go.
A few years ago, thanks to being an entrepreneur and not an employee, I got to spend 6 weeks travelling Europe with my mother. At one stage, as we walked through a park in Paris, she told me “now I understand why you didn’t just get a job”. It’s almost enough to make you cry in the condiments section.
It’s the times like that, and dreaming of times like that in the future, that keep you going.