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I remember sitting on the back porch as the sun began fading behind the rooftops of the neighbours houses. “I am such a failure Mom,” I burst out feeling the worst case of anxiety I had ever believed possible. It had come to this. I was being sued for 800k, money I did not have.

I thought I was so clever, I had read the contract, I was an intelligent woman managing a geotechnical firm with a staff of eight and ensuring that our contracts were completed on time, within budget and making enough profit to keep the partners happy. Why could I not translate this to my own life? Buying the franchise was a really good idea, I had done my due diligence, it had been making money. All I had to do was bring my brand of vibrant energy to the club and as such soon we would be soaring.

Instead I brought my brand of stress and anxiety about money. I began micro managing and then flipped to the other extreme of totally walking away to let them do whatever they wanted. How could I ever have believed that I had it in me to own something like this and actually make a success. The club had begun bleeding money with me putting in 20k every month and leaving me with just under R300 for groceries. I had been flying high with money and now I was buried under a mountain of debt.

It was worse because my sister had left her job to join me on this adventure and now she had no income to support herself and her family. What had I done? It would have been all right if it was just me, but now I had the responsibility of my sister and her family weighing heavily upon my shoulders.

My mom of course automatically jumped in saying: “No, you are not.” But I could not bring myself to believe her. Who did I think I was anyway, wanting to create a business of my own. Mom was an employee, as was my grandmother before her. It was my destiny to work for someone and I certainly did not have the necessary skill set to set up my own thing.

Just when I thought someone was going to have to cut a hole in my windpipe so that I could breathe, my lawyer calls to tell me I have a case. The franchise agreement does not comply with the Consumer Protection Act and is therefore null and void. They can sue me if they want but they have not adhered to the rule of law and would loose their suit. A situation they did not want to find themselves in because then all the other franchisees would close down stores that were bleeding money just like mine.

I felt as if the Hulk had just stood up off my chest the release was so exhilarating I could begin recovering my finances and seal shut the hole though which the money had been draining. What did I learn from this adventure? Be certain I have a really good lawyer, review any contracts I may feel inclined to sign and explain it back to me as if I was a five year old. Never be so arrogant again to assume I know everything, instead remember always to assume I know nothing and find a really good coach or mentor to help me navigate the journey from employed to business owner. Who would want to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro without a guide?



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