Revisiting the CrashProof material dislodged a bunch of memories about the live seminars I once presented.
Before I start, a short comment from Pam Franz about those Springboks I wrote about last time:
I was at that seminar when the Springboks were next door, 22 years ago, wow time flies.
Your mail jarred my memory and brought a huge smile to my face as all I remember was thinking how I would rather have been in the room next door !!!
Didn’t realise you had trouble dealing with the distraction, you covered that very well. Thanks for sharing the memory.
In 2002 I presented the CrashProof seminar to a group of Pietermaritzburg CAs. It was an afternoon session.
I had already laid out this material to more than 300 audiences. More than 900 hours in front of groups of entrepreneurs. More than 2000 hours writing and revising and testing the content. I knew what to expect with each slide.
My biggest insight from this work? How entwined our personal affairs are with our commercial efforts. Each choice we make first looks at how the kids will to eat at the end of the month. Rather than on how to proceed because it's good business.
For instance, a month-end looms. There's not enough money in the bank to pay the bills of the month end. But not paying the bills is also not an option. And no amount of sales effort will bring in the required money in time. What to do?
Most of us approach our bank for short-term finance. They offer their standard product - an overdraft. That overdraft involves signing some documents. One of these is a personal suretyship.
Signing that single sheet throws every single asset we have into the game. Our homes, our cars, our furniture, wristwatches, everything...
If we were to close after a couple of bad months, the bank could take it all away. That's what happened to me back in 1992. (I'll tell you about the wristwatch sometime.)
Your home might be worth 1 million Rand. But you might owe just 100,000 Rand to your business banker. The bank could auction your home for any price it might get on the day. In other words it's not the way you would sell it to get the best price. It's a distress sale, out of your hands, and the banks only desire is to clear its own bill.
When we make this choice and sign these documents we're in Tony Robbins mode: Everything is possible. Except failure.
Tell that to the 90% of us who fail. It's the most likely small-business outcome. And it hurts so effing much. I've yet to meet somebody whose life wasn't redefined by such a failure.
And it has steaming heaps of personal fallout as well. Your spouse doesn't like you much if you've given away the family fortune to survive a bad month. Much less if you're married in community of property.
Teetering on the brink of closure is a life defining event. But with some guidance it is easy to prevent. That's the guidance I shared during the seminar.
After my closure in 1992 I spent 42 months talking to small business owners. Finding out what they were doing to stave off business closure. These weren't people in the first thrall of start-up. These were people struggling to survive each day. In different industries, different markets, and different parts of the country.
I'd lost everything in 1992. But it took three years before it all left the house. The legal process is a long relentless grind. I felt like the only person on earth in trouble.
Once I knew where to look, I realised that we are all in trouble. Expect no guarantees when you run your own business.
I spoke to hundreds of people about how they planned to survive setbacks. Some trends began to emerge. Some people offered great ideas.
- How can I protect my assets if something goes wrong?
- How can I ensure enough cash resources for the inevitable lean months?
- How can I borrow money without putting my entire life, my family's life, at risk? *...
*After thousands of hours presenting this seminar *I knew what to expect during a seminar. I got it right I knew exactly when people would laugh. And when they would scribble notes. And when they would smile as they remembered their own version of my story. And when they would go still.
It was with this in mind that I drove to Pietermaritzburg. I lived in Umhlanga Rocks at the time. (I have yet to find a nicer place on earth to be.)
The venue is crucial to the success of a presentation. When I walked into the Pietermaritzburg venue my heart sank. Most rooms are flat. I could prowl the floor at the same level as folk at their desks.
I'd read in a book somewhere that it keeps people focused if you can call on them by name. I memorised every name at every seminar. As folk arrived I handed them name tags.
Before I started I would walk down the back row. This was to check the sound. And to take note of three people. Back-left, back-right, and back-middle.
Early in the seminar I would direct a probing question to the fellow in the back-left seat. Everybody in front of him would pay attention because they might be next. Then, a few minutes later, I would reach out to the lady in back-middle.. And then, soon afterwards, the chap in back-right.
I always caught the first person unawares. Sometimes the second person. Never the third person. Nobody slept during the rest of the session. At least, not unless I'd offered Sherry at the start.
So, I would enter a room knowing everybody there. For big events like the Green Industries bash in the Drakensberg, I got the list beforehand. I'd memorise the names from that. And then, when they had the badges on, greet as many of them as I could before going on stage.
This was self-preservation as much as it was fun. Anything to help people learn enough to protect themselves and their businesses.
This Pietermaritzburg bash was different. I knew one name out of 50 people present. No badges. This smacked of loneliness. And hard work.
And then I walked into the arena. You know those old pictures of lecture halls in the Middle Ages? In centre is a pit. A doctor dressed in dirty overalls dissects a corpse. The speaker is at the bottom of the room under intense scrutiny. It's easy for the listeners to look down.
Well, that was the room.
The room was full of people I had often jousted with during the previous seven years: Accountants. Don't get me wrong. I love that my accountant is conservative and not prey to the latest fad. I feel the same way about my doctor.
Professionals are suspicious by nature. They test each new idea tentatively. It's like my daughter when she eats a new food that's good for her. She cuts a very small morsel to test. She chews that snippet with care. If it doesn't have enough sugar it doesn't pass. She makes a professional decision that Brussels Sprouts won't form part of the future.
I've always thought accountants are like that.
And so, into the presentation.
I knew which parts of the presentation would evoke which emotions. It turns out this works for human beings of every gender, age, colour, anywhere in the world. But not for accountants.
Nary a smile during three hours of presenting. Not even a glimmer. This was stuff that had won the acclaim of 15,000 business owners countrywide. Not a glimmer
One fellow grunted every now and then, then scowled, and then wrote a brisk note.
This was the longest three hours of my life. When I faced root-canal treatment it was like a walk on a Mauritian beach compared to this.
As we finished I packed up fast. I checked my bag to find my Swiss Army knife. (Essential presenter kit.) I had thoughts of ending the pain forever.
You may recall me talking about different audiences when I wrote about [that event in Welkom]? This was much, much worse, and without the visuals.
As the audience shuffled out, the top honcho came over. He shook my hand. "My Lord, Peter, well done! I've never seen them so animated before."
And that's why I now package most of my work into online courses...
CrashProof your Business Revisited v1.1 launches next week.
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