From my experience representing companies and business owners, I often observe general themes that all successful businesses possess. It does not matter the type of business, whether is started in a garage or with investors, or the actual business experience the owners hold. Often a successful origin of a business begins with the question “why not?”
Successful businesses are usually started as a solution to a specific problem. Often when individuals see problems or issues that they determine are insurmountable or unassailable, they give up, move on to something else, or decide to travel an apparently easier path. Whether the problem is technical, scientific, or more general in nature, this mental barrier prevents progress.
The difference is that a successful businessperson sees a problem and reacts to it differently. Instead of giving up, they ask “why not?” “Why can’t the problem be solved?” “There must be a way to overcome this problem.” “What if we try this approach instead?” “What if we think of the problem from a different perspective?” Many successful businesses have been created out of attempts to answer these basic questions.
In fact, history is filled with examples of successful individuals and businesses with this “why not” outlook. A quote by Thomas Edison highlights this attitude:
I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.
A successful person does not see a barrier. Instead, they see a problem that can be solved—the solution has just not yet been discovered. Instead of an obstacle, they see an opportunity.
I am reminded of one example of this approach around Thanksgiving. It involves a children’s book and an idea based on “why not?” When I was young, my favorite Thanksgiving book was Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin. It is story about Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s house, a handsome and charismatic stranger, and the uninvited and unsavory guest, Mr. Whiskers. Grandma’s famous and secret cranberry bread recipe is in danger of being stolen, but is saved by an unlikely hero. I still can picture the book being read to me in school as I made turkeys with the shape of my hand. It always brings back fun childhood memories and was a favorite of my younger sisters and brother as well.
Years passed and my eldest child was born. For his first Thanksgiving, I began my search to purchase a copy of this book. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that the book was out of print, the Devlins had passed away, and Cranberry Thanksgiving had been out of the market for several years. In my search for the book, I found used copies of Cranberry Thanksgiving being sold for up to $150-$200 apiece. These copies were being snatched up by parents, similar to myself, who wanted to share their favorite childhood books with their own children.
Where I saw a barrier to purchasing a cherished childhood book and memory, Jill Morgan saw a business opportunity. She had a similar experience to mine when she attempted to locate her favorite children’s book to read to her own children. Instead of moving on, she asked “why can’t these good children’s books be published and find new homes?” With that question fresh in her mind she founded Purple House Press whose mission it is to locate and publish children’s books that have been out of print and lost to time. With this purpose in mind, Purple House Press tracked down copyright holders to classic no longer published children’s books, usually by communicating with authors who had long-retired or the spouses and children of the deceased authors and illustrators. After obtaining the appropriate rights, Purple House Press would republish and sell these books at a fraction of the cost for which the used copies were being sold on auction sites.
The authors and illustrators (and/or their families) were happy that their books could find a new audience. Parents were also happy that they could share their favorite books and memories with their own children. The Purple House Press approach has been a success and attracted positive publicity from major publications and news organizations as lost children’s books are being rediscovered by a new generation of young readers. As a result, Purple House Press has sold well-over 500,000 books and publishes several rediscovered books a year. Where others saw a barrier or no solution, someone else saw an opportunity. Success then followed.
One of the books republished a few years ago by Purple House Press was Cranberry Thanksgiving. I eagerly purchased multiple copies and presented them to my siblings. Now this beloved childhood story is being read by the next generation of my family members each Thanksgiving.
This Thanksgiving I propose that you take a problem or issue that has been a barrier to your business. Then, say to yourself “why not” and view the problem from a different perspective. You will be surprised with the results.
© 2016 Matthew W. Harrison and Harrison Law, PLLC All Rights Reserved
This website and article have been prepared by Harrison Law, PLLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.