In a 2008 Business Week interview, Michael Gerber of E-Myth fame, noted:

“I see an entrepreneur as the chief designer of a business that works better than any other.  In my experience with small businesses, most don’t start with a big idea. They start with a small idea.  The big idea for most is to start a small business and go to work and earn a living.  They create a small business because the idea is small.  It constrains them from larger opportunities.  I’m suggesting that if you approach your business in an original way, inventing a business format that can be cloned, you will do just what Ray Kroc did with McDonald’s.”

Michael Gerber had recently started another company of his own with a big idea: Teaching others to become entrepreneurs and create visionary businesses themselves starting in a Dreaming Room, as a natural followup to his highly successful consulting business and E-Myth book series.

Since our passion and, for some of us, business, is specialty tea, I’m going to discuss some “teas” of business/life success.

A Business Must Have Fluidi-Tea

On the way home last night, we drove by a recently shuttered Blockbuster store.  I wonder if the business plan of the once highly successful Blockbuster chain included a contingency plan should it become possible to download videos from the Internet.  Who knew?  Fluidi-tea, flexibili-tea, and a Plan B are necessary to sustaining the life of a business.  Reinventing/tweaking often becomes necessary.  Concepts can become stale and outdated or technology can make them obsolete.  It is the lifeblood of the entrepreneur to get up, move on, and rethink, to conceptualize and, yes, to dream.  Much of what I have posted at T Ching have been stories of start-ups like my own and more established companies in the specialty tea retailing niche.  Every one of them has, at some point, rethought/changed the way they did things.

Teaware and fuschia flowers arranged on a layered tray

 The Serendipi-Tea and Unplanned Opportuni-Tea of Business

Sometimes even visionaries don’t see something, positive or negative, that comes right out of the blue.  But what sets them apart is that they are able to take hold of it, manage it, and use it to propel their business forward or save it from disaster.  And they don’t fall apart or go crazy when either happens.  My online acquaintance and co-contributor here, Naja Hayward, is one who was recently blessed with an unforeseen opportunity that may take her business places she never saw it going.  She followed the bread crumbs (followed up on an opportunity/open door), which is – to be honest – what happens frequently in real-life business.  A regular customer recently brought a friend into our store who turned out to be the very decision maker we had contacted who had not been willing to give us even a short appointment…and he was knocked out by our teas.  He asked for a meeting with us before leaving.  Serendipi-tea, unseen opportuni-tea.  Don’t just sit and wait for it to happen, but if it does, move on it.

King Solomon, the richest and wisest man who ever lived – an entrepreneur himself – said: “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”  It’s how we respond that makes the difference.

What About Tenaci-Tea?

Huge.  If you know a business that became an “overnight success” literally, I’d love to hear about it.  Most powerhouses in any industry started as a seed that grew through vision, hard work, and persistence.  Last night I heard the late and amazing coach John Wooden say how important it is.  He liked to call it “intentness”.  You must intend to keep going regardless of the challenges.  Entrepreneurs are not quitters.

Then There is the Reali-Tea of Business

Charles Cain is obviously concerned about the structure of the wholesale tea industry.  Yet, this is the way it is and probably will be as long as most of us are in this niche.  So we deal with it.  It exists in industry in general…the supply chain that finishes with the end-user/buyer/consumer is often inefficient and expensive.  It is part of the reali-tea of life and business that things are not necessarily ideal nor how we would wish them to be.

In the future, I can see the specialty tea world becoming a mirror image of what the specialty coffee world is – a few big winners, possibly (but probably not) one leader sooooo far ahead of even other biggies (like Starbucks in coffee) that he/she is in his/her own universe, and thousands of “also-rans”.  But there is nothing wrong with being what the world might call an “also ran,” or where Michael Gerber says most people start – with a small idea – if your dream is simply to make a living doing something you love.  Some of the happiest people I’ve ever seen are doing just that (watch the Food Channel’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives”) because that can bring a reward some of the “Titans of Industry” will never have – tranquili-tea.

Coach John Wooden was, by most people’s standards, a huge success in life.  Here is his definition of success: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

The wealthiest and most successful businessperson in the world cannot buy that kind of success – it is earned through doing things not just tactically well, but honorably well.  It is not the kind of success that is dependent on your net worth, but your worth as a contributor to the betterment of society.

Plan for business success, but enjoy the journey to the hoped-for destination and don’t lose your sereni-tea along the way.

This article has been reformatted and updated from the original June 2010 publication.

Photo “Tea Time” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “kkmarais” and is being posted unaltered (source)