Monday, January 20, 2014

Fall down seven times; stand up eight.

 How many times have we told ourselves," if we only knew then what we know now"?  The same thought applies not only in our personal life, but in all aspects of life. In my recent decision to close the brick and mortar location of My Favorite Things, I've realized, this isn't the end, but opportunity for a new beginning. I made mistakes. Some, I probably could have avoided but some where beyond my control. When I first opened the business, I had anticipated purchasing the inventory of an already established business. I was under the understanding the business had done fairly well and didn't have money to hire an attorney so, we had just made an agreement. Had I known what I was in for, I would have never agreed to any of it. If you are considering purchasing a business, by all means, get yourself a lawyer, it will save a lot of headaches down the line. I was not prepared to deal with an underhanded person trying to take advantage of my naivety. I began the business with a complete name change and renovating the layout of the business to create a more enjoyable shopping experience. Our first mistake was overlooking the classic bait and switch. All high end inventory was gone and we were left with piles of unsellable goods, but false promises we would get the rest of it shortly.  I should have stopped and backed out then, but we persisted. We cleaned and cleaned, ran around like crazy adding new inventory and making homemade items to fill the store and when we were done, it smelled good, looked good, was nicely stocked with a good variety. It seemed like we were heading in the right decision. Then, the ball dropped. An onset of angry customers who felt cheated from the previous owner. It wasn't one or two customers but a steady parade of people demanding money or merchandise that the previous owner had failed to settle with them. I tried unsuccessfully to explain this was a new business, and although I purchased inventory from the former business I wasn't associated with them and they would need to take their concerns to the former business owner. Ten days into it I decided to just close temporarily, cancel my purchase agreement & contacted the owner of the inventory to come remove all the inventory and start from scratch. That has been a whole other can of worms that I am still dealing with and trying to sort out. After speaking with an attorney, the contract was never legal in the first place and I'm still tied up in small claims court dealing with the former owners nonsense and desperation for money. I knew after speaking with former customers I was going to be in for hell in trying to reasonably negotiate with the person I was dealing with. So, I learned a tough lesson the hard way.

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley

I'm not giving up entirely. At the moment, I am just closing the brick and mortar location. Had I known the situation, I would have never agreed to purchase anything from the other business. I actually, would not have chosen to open a business in that location, because even when we removed all the former inventory, had new signs installed and sent out press releases, people just assumed it was the same business and just had the name changed and new employees. Six months later and people still didn't get it. In a small town, the location was doomed from the beginning.  No matter how many times we explained to people, including putting a sign on the front door that we were not associated, people thought what they wanted. It was a harsh reality that our lack of traffic came from customers who had already been burned and vowed never to step foot inside our locale. At this time, we are just clearing out, officially closing on February 1st.

 We will continue to sell online. 

At some point in the future, perhaps we will attempt to re-brand and re-open in a new location, but for now, the stress and embarrassment of not fully investigating what kind of person I was trying to do business with is enough to deal with.  I won't give up, because I truly believe I can be successful and I have faith that everything in life is a blessing or a lesson, this time it just happened to be a little of both. 

 Learn from me, if you ever decide to purchase an already existing business, ask around, don't just speak with the owner or their favorite customers. Speak with everyone in your community, speak with the police and see if complaints had been filed. Fully document everything, in writing and never sign a contract without a lawyer reviewing and and being present. Never assume anything and always put everything in writing. Don't think purchasing an already existing business is going to be easier than starting from scratch. Either way is hard. Owning a business is never easy, but from scratch you don't inherit enemies of the former business and you don't have to clean up messes you didn't make. 

Lessons Learned.