My Two Year Business Course – Part 2

Sleepless nights and best laid plans

We continued to plan for expansion and staged several fashion parades in Adelaide to test our market with a view to setting up a store. We produced a professional product brochure with provision for mail orders in lieu of what would now be online shopping!

But despite all of this work, planning and vision, we were worried. The accountant advised – you need to close the shops, you are haemorrhaging money – and I was devastated.

I had done so much right, learnt so much, and even been ahead of my time in many ways.

I had to let seven staff go, sell up and pack up.

My family supported me as they have always done, but as I drove away from the store on September 11, 2001 – I pulled over in the car and cried my eyes out.

I was not ready to learn from the experience, I just felt a failure.

I grieved for my shops. Something went out of my life. A big hole had to be filled and I needed to get up and get going quickly.

Was it a failure? I guess it was really. It cost us a lot of money too.

What did I do wrong? Nothing really. But perhaps a few things weren’t quite right.

As the song says, ‘wishing won’t make it so’. I can now recognise that choosing to run a business in a country town 4 hours from a main city centre, expanding after only 1 year and using our own money were not advantageous. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I do know that if the internet and social media had been in existence as they are today, I could have still been in business. What an opportunity for today’s entrepreneurs. Distance is not the issue it once was.

As a family, we made some great friends, some of whom we still see today and I see their successes and I feel pretty good.

I estimate that it took me 18 months to get on the horse again and gallop.

In my next roles, I was able to develop more sophisticated and online procedure manuals, develop marketing plans and a business plan. I knew how I wanted to manage my staff and excite them to be successful people too. I knew what was needed to make a business work. The internet came into its own and I was able to take advantage of its possibilities.

15 years later, I can look back and say ‘Wool & Ewe’ was a great learning experience that prepared me to operate two very successful & profitable organisations as a manager and CEO. I could not have taken on these roles if it wasn’t for what I call my personal two year training course.

Today I can use what seems now a short course, to help others and put my experience into practice.

My first slide in my planning workshops today, is about setting the GPS and sticking to your roadmap – set a single, defined and fantastic purpose, believe in it and don’t be distracted by others. Don’t let others decide you should head in a different direction, because that’s where you can get lost.

But the purpose is not enough. There has to a plan of action for every part of your plan and that helps you not to move too far away from your journey.

You can review the plan, but the purpose should still be there.

Many posts on social media tell me that if I am to be happy and successful, I have to have a passion, believe in myself, set goals etc etc, and this morning I read one said that if you fall down seven times, as long as you get up the eighth time, you have been a success.

To me success is hard to measure, as it is subjective. I prefer to say – I am satisfied with where I am and will keep on helping others, learning from each experience and being an example to the next generations.

I do still know that wool is a wonderful fibre and I cringe at how it is so expensive to buy in Australia today. The growers and their representative marketing and governing bodies have a lot to answer for and need to educate the buying public. Blending the fibre is no sin and whilst pure wool is wonderful, any blend can work.

I know that I had beautiful stores, great products, fabulous marketing and customer interaction and that I taught a lot of people how to offer exceptional customer service.

In the lifespan of the business, it just didn’t make enough money and at the end of the day, that is the most important thing in running any business. No money – no business.

Learning from that experience is a close second.

Maybe one day, the label ‘Wool and Ewe’ will appear in a different format and that passion may be resurrected, because I have a feeling that someone still believes in it.

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