Let’s face it, at some point in our businesses we are faced with at least one insurmountable obstacle – one that challenges our passion, taps out our resources, and pulls us far, far out of our comfort zone. Many business owners give up at this point, wave the white flag on entrepreneurship and return to the working world. Others settle into a comfortable life of mediocrity.
But perhaps you are looking for more. Deep down you know that you and your business have more potential. You truly believe that what you are doing serves an important purpose and is your special way of making a difference, helping others, the economy, the environment, etc.
So what does it take for you to get your business to the next level, to grow it to where you have reached your definition of success, and/or to leave a legacy or success story that others can tell?
Why not look to a mortician? Not just any mortician, but one who has left such a legacy. Some of you may have already come across his work. It’s located outside of Boswell, BC and it is a dwelling called the Glass House. I took my son there recently, because I felt it was important he see it. He is after all partially named after this mortician – his great grandfather David Brown. But as my step-aunt Diane (who still runs the Glass House with my step-uncle Eldon) regaled once more the story of how it came about, I couldn’t help but find myself in awe of what my grandfather had created and left for so many to enjoy. The beauty is not so much in the house, but rather in the story of how it came about.
Here is my version of what it takes to achieve success. Anything I missed?
Seizing an Opportunity – David Brown was a mortician. He and my great-uncles ran the funeral home in Red Deer, Alberta. Being a very creative man by nature, he felt that there must be something that could be done with all the embalming fluid bottles that went to waste in funeral homes. Call him a re-cycler or environmentalist before his time, he saw within this problem, an opportunity.
Is there an opportunity that others in your field are missing?
Something Unique – I wish I could tell you how he came up with the idea of using the embalming fluid bottles to build his retirement home, but I haven’t a clue. The how doesn’t really matter. What does is that he came up with something very unique. A dwelling that, to this day, over 50 years later, still attracts the attention of passers by to the point that they will stop and spend some time to have a closer look.
Finding your difference in the marketplace is essential for long term success and can save you a fortune in lost revenues and unnecessary promotional costs.
Planning – My grandfather spent a lot of time planning his development. He required approximately 500,000 bottles for a start. Additionally he knew he would need to test how the bottles would stand up to heat in the summer and cold in the winter. So the experiments began. Mini structures were built and heated, others were built and frozen. Finally he found the right combination of bottles and mortar that would work.
It’s common to think things out at 50,000 feet. But attention to detail and planning for eventualities is worth its weight in gold.
Location – David Brown knew that his structure couldn’t withstand Alberta winters. He also needed a location where the building would experience very little shifting. So he chose a piece of bedrock in the milder climate of BC as the final destination for his glass house. This piece of bedrock happened to be located on a major thoroughfare to Vancouver in its day, so the traffic was tremendous!
They say in marketing only 3 things really matter – location, location, location. Look at your business at the moment, is it possible that better positioning or a different distribution channel could be what you really need to achieve success?
Hard Work – There is a great picture of David Brown at the Glass House. He is sitting down and on the bottom of his shoe is very big hole. He didn’t sit down very often (a trait my mother definitely inherited). He worked hard. He was not a builder, nor was he an architect. He was a mortician, but he built a large majority of the house by himself. It took simple “grit.”
What else can I say about this? Chances are you already know that being a business owner is a lot harder than working for someone else. The good news is hard work WILL pay off!
Vision, Patience, Passion and Determination – Across the road from the glass house is the side of a hill. David used to sit up there, sometimes for hours and simply imagine what his final dwelling would look like. His plans came from this vision and his vision came from his passion and the end result came from his patience and the determination to see that final outcome. Even after the house was completed, he continued to add to his dream.
When the going gets rough, there can be times when the only thing that keeps us on track to success is our vision, patience, passion and determination that what we are doing is the right choice.
Know When You Need Outside Help – While my grandfather was comfortable in building the external structure, he was not going to chance the electrical, plumbing or stone work to his own volition. It was in areas like these that he called in the experts.
Do you know when you need external help and do you know the right talent to bring in?
Savvy Business Sense – While my grandfather was building the house, curious passers by stopped to see the odd structure. If you go, you will see notes inside some of the bottles that people left as the house was being built. In a way the glass house is like a big time bottle. Eventually the traffic became so much that David Brown decided to start charging for visits. Being that the house was on a major road, the revenue became enough for a sustainable business. Soon thereafter, he moved to a house next door, and turned his masterpiece into a tourist attraction.
His unique product was featured in an Architectural Magazine and other publications and of course it continued to attract the attention of passers by. David began working on the grounds to enhance the experience, until he passed away in the early 70’s.
Sometimes success can be as easy as simply re-writing your business plan, raising your prices or changing up your marketing strategy? What can you do to improve your business processes?
Succession Planning – Before he passed away, David Brown offered the business to his children. As I mentioned earlier, Eldon and his wife Diane have been running it ever since. They have continued to add to the attraction and the grounds so that my grandfather’s legacy is still open to the public to enjoy. If you’re ever in the area, stop by and say “Hi”.
Is your business structured so that others can purchase it and run it when you are ready to leave? What is your exit strategy?