One characteristic that all successful entrepreneurs have is the ability to persevere, and ignore the naysayers who criticize, mock, and doubt what they have set out to accomplish. These individuals have made the conscious choice to ignore this criticism and they choose to persevere instead. This is one of the most common characteristics I’ve observed as I’ve read numerous business biographies. Some have become motivated by hearing others laugh at them and then they have chosen to rise above that criticism to succeed. Others have experienced reverses and misfortunes and have chosen to rise above them.
Cordia Harrington, who is the founder of Tennessee Bun Company, Nashville Bun Company, and Cornerstone Baking Company (collectively known as The Bakery Cos.) is an inspiring example of perseverance. You may have never heard of her, but I guarantee you’ve enjoyed what she makes. She is known as “The Bun Lady” and her companies make the English muffins on an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s, the buttery rolls at O’Charley’s and the biscuits at KFC, among a host of other bun and bakery products. In 2019, she sold a majority stake in The Bakery Cos. to private equity firm Arbor Investments for an undisclosed sum.
She bought a McDonald’s franchise as a single mom in 1990 (after applying and training for two years) in hope of offering a better life to her three sons. Her story is a great example of the creativity and ingenuity that it takes to succeed at anything. The restaurant was in a poor location and sales weren’t what she had hoped they would be.
Harrington didn’t place the blame on her poor location. She went out and did something about it that transformed the restaurant and gave her another big opportunity years later. She purchased a Greyhound bus franchise and moved the routes so they would stop at her restaurant. Talk about ingenuity!
She said: “I needed to grow sales in this small town (Effingham, Illinois), so I purchased a Greyhound franchise and moved it to my restaurant parking lot. It worked. In the winter, we averaged 68 buses a day, and in the summer, over 100 buses a day—all stopping for food.”
When challenges arise in your property management business, do you have the courage and the initiative to look for new ways to generate business? Or is it easier to place the blame on external situations or factors? I recently discovered this great quote by former President Lyndon B. Johnson that I think identifies the easy way out of problems, but not the one that will help you achieve lasting success. He said: “There are plenty of recommendations on how to get out of trouble cheaply and fast. Most of them come down to this: deny your responsibility.”
Don’t deny your responsibility. Take the initiative to make things happen. Harrington had an opportunity years later at her McDonald’s franchise when she heard of their need of a bun supplier and decided to take the initiative to provide the buns to all of their franchises.
“She landed a spot on the restaurant’s corporate bun committee. Learning of their need for a bun supplier, she fought like mad (calling regularly and even sending photographs of herself in a chef’s uniform) to land the supplier job, even though her resume included no baking experience.”
“When she earned the position, she sold her franchises, cleaned out her bank accounts and borrowed $13.5 million to create Tennessee Bun Company in 1996. Today, it is one of the fastest automated bakeries in the world, producing 1,000 buns a minute.” –Success, August 2010, p. 34.
I really like this comment she makes:
“There are going to be tons of naysayers who will tell us not to take risks. They’ll tell us to keep the comfortable job where there is income and insurance. But if you believe in something, then you should go for it. The real key is that you
have to have passion and enthusiasm for the product or project you are going to sell.” — Success, August 2010, pp. 34-35.
In a recent interview, she was asked what advice she most often gives to entrepreneurs. She said: What I’ve learned the hard way and really probably from listening to well over 500 pitches from people who have an idea and they want to have a business — I hear those all the time, every day, twice today as a matter of fact — is 90 percent of the time, people are coming to me with, ‘Oh I’ve got this great product.’ Everybody’s got the idea of what they want to do, but I always tell them — and I think this is most important — that it’s best to have the customer first, not the product first. For example, I earned the right to be a supplier to McDonald’s, and after I had the customer and I knew the market I was going to be serving, then I was able to build the plant in the right place, produce the product in the right way, with the right equipment. Then I’m solving a problem for them. If you’ve already got the customers, then you’ve got the distribution angle, and that gives you your base business. From there, you can grow your business.”
This is true with property managers as well. Having a system to get customers who need you to solve challenges for them is the essence of the business. Once you have a customer, you can add new revenue streams with additional services that help you solve challenges for them. With a franchise model, you have both the marketing system and the operations system set up to help you run and profit from the business.
Never forget that the resolve to succeed even when others don’t believe in you is one of the most important ingredients in the recipe that leads to success in anything.
Are you motivated by what naysayers have told you about your property management business? Are you motivated to do what it takes to prove them wrong?
Have you had others laugh at you or doubt what you are trying to do with your property management business? Do you have the resolve to believe in what you are doing at your business when others don’t?
I love this statement by B.C. Forbes about this quality that you need to hold onto every day of your life: “History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”
Few individuals had as many reverses of fortune in business as Walt Disney. There is a lot we can learn from his life and more importantly his perseverance when others had all but given up on him or thought he was crazy.
The story of how he created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a particularly inspiring example of what it takes to persevere when others don’t believe in what you are trying to do. A great summary of this story is told by Darcy Andries in her book The Secret of Success is Not a Secret. She says:
“The film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was not Walt Disney’s first business venture. In fact, at least three of Disney’s previous businesses had failed and, and after one such failure, he was forced to file for bankruptcy. Disney had once been fired by a newspaper editor who told him he ‘had no good ideas.’ Somehow, Disney knew that the Snow White venture would be different and that this idea was a good one. Not everyone agreed with him, and early in production others warned him that he was going too far. The whole concept of creating such an extravagant family film seemed ludicrous to his critics. For four years, Disney ignored the skeptics and critics as he worked. Costs for the film exceeded $1.5 million and pushed his company to the edge of bankruptcy before he was done. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated feature presentation, became the most successful motion picture of 1938 and earned an honorary Oscar in 1939, in part because it ‘pioneered a great new entertainment field.’ Since its release, the film has earned more than $400 million. Disney holds the record for having received the most Academy Awards, twenty-six, including four honorary awards. He was nominated for sixty-four awards during his lifetime.” –pp. 172-173.
Have the courage to persevere and ignore the critics. Take the responsibility and the initiative to do what others may not be willing to do. Persevere through the difficulties you’re facing. Someday soon, you’ll look back on your challenges, the failures, and the criticism you’ve experienced as the stepping stones that led to your success in your property management business. If you would like help establishing better systems and solutions to grow your business, please set up a time to discuss your business with one of our franchise consultants and do a free portfolio growth assessment analysis here.