“Haha, an extra $350 is not bad at all,” I was talking to myself. ”All I have to do is change the purchase date.”
I owned a Telco Agency franchise that represented some of the biggest Telco companies in our state in Perth, Australia. Our franchise group was so dominant that customers often received better deals to purchase the latest mobile phones from us than if they dealt directly with the Telco companies. We pretty much ruled the market.
We started with one franchise and moved on to add another two. Life was good. It was even better when I figured out how to get monthly bonuses simply by .. changing the purchase dates.
”Fred, how did you do that?” Anton, another franchise owner, was wondering. “You have been getting the bonus for 3 months in a row now.”
”Well, our sales staffs are very hard working,” I said to him.
”I need to steal a few of them from you,” he said jokingly.
”Yeah, you can try, they are loyal to one person only, me!”
”Haha, we’ll see about that,” he smiled.
Anton was not going to steal anyone from me. His sales staffs were twice as good as mine. He was one of the best franchise owners I knew. He knew the industry well and he was such a good leader. Sometimes I wished I worked for him.
Being a not-so-honest franchise owner, I tried to find other ways to maximise profits. So I learnt the system and every now and then I found loopholes. The latest one being a simple change of dates that would magically improve my monthly sales to ‘earn’ bonuses.
’Sorry, your account has been deactivated’ – a message suddenly appeared as I tried to login into the franchise network.
I didn’t immediately make the connection. I thought it was a system error. It was not. My account was disabled. They figured it out. My ‘creativity’ had been found out.
The weeks that followed were full of drama. I was fined and given a warning. They let me off easy because I had a good record as a franchise operator. I learnt my lessons though, no more changing dates for the bonus.
”Well, we got our agency back,” my wife said to me. “Please try not to cheat the system again.”
”Yes dear,” I said, feeling down.
I worked so hard after that incident. I needed to prove my ability to build the franchise without resorting to dirty tactics. I had to redeem myself, reclaim my self-respect and push away any self-doubt.
It was amazing how an embarrassing incident could turn things around so spectacularly. Maybe it was not so bad after all. I found my strength at the bottom of the valley.
”Did you hear?” my wife was panicking. “The Telco master franchise has lost all of the major Telco accounts.”
“What do you mean ‘lost’?” I started to panic myself.
”Lost as in the big Telco companies are not selling through us anymore,” she tried her best not to faint. ”We are left with small players.”
”It is barely enough to cover rent,” I said.
”So what are we going to do?”
”I don’t know!”
It did not take long before we started to feel the pressure. Small Telco companies typically tried to dominate certain corners of the market. All of their products were tailored to a very specific slice of the population. A great example is an unbreakable (but ugly) mobile phone designed specifically for the construction workers. It was hard to sell their products to the general public that visited our shop.
Making things worse, those big Telco companies started to open up their own shops competing directly with us. So tell me again how we were supposed to survive? It was impossible. Our sales dropped by more than 70% within a short period of 6 months.
I lost my ability to think clearly. I just wanted to stay in bed all day, staring at the ceiling. I was a zombie.
We were part of a small community group called ‘connect’. There were four to five families in each group. The idea was so that we could support each other. Honestly, I never thought much of it. In fact, I always hated going to this group. “Such a waste of time,” I always thought to myself.
“How are you coping, my friend?” Simon our group leader asked me.
”Not good Simon,” I said quietly.
”Come, let’s have a chat, I’ll make you tea,” he said. “We have a few minutes before the others arrive.”
I have to say, it was such a joy to be able to pour out my heart to someone else without being judged. Simon was such a great listener. He was so genuine. He didn’t say much, he just nodded, smiled, asked questions, and most importantly he was there for me.
That night after talking to Simon I went to bed with a lot in my mind. I knew I had to do something, I couldn’t just wait to be slaughtered by big telcos. I needed to find the strength to move on. You know how some people say it takes courage to start? Sometimes it takes a lot more courage to stop and let go.
I had been a franchise owner for more than ten years. It was a part of me, it was my identity, and I was about to let it all go. My mind could not get into gear. I could not comprehend the situation because I had never been in that situation before. How, what, why?
”We have to make a move,” I said to my wife in the morning.
”Yeah, I have been thinking about it too,” she replied.
”I’m not sure I’m ready for this,” I said.
”I’m not either,” she whispered. “But I feel like there is no other way.”
”I cannot do it,” I said to her.
”We’ll do it together.”
I felt like a failure, I felt defeated. The business that I was so proud of. The success that I built with sweat and tears for more than a decade. It was not fair. I did not have a fighting chance.
“Well, we’ve done it,” I said to my wife. I had a million things happening in my mind.
”Yup, no more Telco Agency” my wife replied. “Are you ok?”
”I’m .. I guess, yeah, I’m ok.”
”Are you excited?”
”In a way, I actually am.”
”It’s been a long 7 months,” she whispered.
”Yes, a very long 7 months,” I said quietly. “I thought we would never sell it.”
”But we did,” my wife smiled again.
”Yeah, we finally did.”
”Don’t think about it too much,” she said. “Let’s just leave it all behind.”
”I know, I just feel like an era is over.”
”Yeah, that is true.”
”Well, we can, however, start something new,” I suddenly felt much better.
“Yes we can,” she smiled again. “You can now do what you have been wanting to do in the last 3 years – life coaching.”
”I know …” I started to feel my smile creeping back.
”Come on, we have talked about it.”
”Yes we have, and now I really can, I really really can!”
“You can,” she said. “Remember what you told me 7 months ago?”
”Failure is not the end,” she looked at me with her most beautiful eyes.
”Failure is not the real end, it can be the beginning of your success story.”