How many people do you think could set up a business at the age of 76, with no prior experience in that industry, in a country that is pretty much bankrupt and being bailed out by the IMF in order to stay financially solvent (Ireland)……and make a great success of it in less than 12 months?
Sounds like the odds would be stacked against that doesn’t it? But that is exactly what a client I worked with for a few months last year did.
Meet Betty Smith
(Important note: all the work I do with clients is held in the strictest confidence so everything you read here is published with Betty’s approval and kind permission).
I first met Betty when she signed up to do my Successful Women in Business programme (a programme that takes people through a step by step process to create the results they really want in their life and work).
She had signed up because she had a financial need to earn some money and she wanted to get some clarity about the best way to do that and work out a way forward.
As the programme progressed Betty came to one of the group sessions and announced that she had come up with a business idea and had started a food production business.
That is something I got to know about Betty quite quickly – she doesn’t mess about! She makes a decision and gets straight into action.
Her business idea was to produce Poitin (pronounced “po-cheen”) Marmalade and sell it as a premium product.
(For those of you that don’t know what Poitin is, it is an alcoholic spirit unique to Ireland. It can legally only be manufactured in Ireland – in the same way that Champagne can only be manufactured in the Champagne region of France).
At the tender age of 76 Betty was on the path to what would become a thriving business in just 12 short months. Thriving in the worst economic crisis Ireland has probably had in living memory. Thriving even though she had no prior experience of running a food business.
But before it got to the thriving stage, there were all sorts of challenges to navigate.
- she needed money to cover the start-up costs of the business. But due to her age and the Irish banking crisis (most banks are being bailed out by the state to stop them going bust!!) she couldn’t get a loan. Betty was determined to find a way to raise that money. So she had a good sort through her house and sold a load of stuff and that gave her enough money to get started.
- she had no experience of running a food production business so there was a mountain of things she had to learn about production, business skills, industry regulations and health and safety laws.
- she faced a lot of negativity from some people. Including a number of people telling her that her idea had no potential. And even some patronisingly suggesting she should pack it in, go home and enjoy her retirement!
But Betty refused to be deterred by the many challenges that crossed her path. She found a way round each and every one and kept moving forward.
Twelve months on, her product is already in a national supermarket and a number of other retailers. She has a customer list that is growing all the time. She has been featured in 5 newspapers. She is now adding new products and considering expansion plans.
Her business is thriving. And so is she.
So what can we learn from Betty’s inspiring story of creating success when the odds are stacked against you? What insights can we find about how to create the results we want in our life and work – fast.
Betty and I discussed this at some length and here are some of the factors that contributed to her incredible results in such a short period of time:
- She took action consistently and persistently – no matter what.
- She committed to learning personal and business skills that would help her achieve her goals.
- She didn’t know “how” to make it happen but she let go of needing to know “how” and just committed to finding a way.
- She experimented – a lot!
- She didn’t allow herself to get knocked off track by challenges, setbacks, problems and negativity of others. She learnt from those things, implemented what she learnt and moved on – fast.
- She was solution focussed, outcome driven and creative in her problem solving.
- She reached out for help and created a good support network – me and the other participants on the programme, local business support organisations and her husband Jim (aged 80, who Betty tells me calls himself the “nuts and bolts” of the business).
- She was willing to step outside her comfort zone – consistently.
- Her mindset was “I have to find a way to make this happen now.” (As Betty pointed out to me, at her age, having a 5 year business development plan isn’t really an option – it HAD to happen NOW).
- She made decisions fast, acted fast, failed fast, took calculated risks and repeated this cycle ongoing.
I asked Betty of she had any tips that she would like me to include in this article. This is what she said:
There are always challenges in life, work and business. Accept that and commit to overcome them. Experiment. There is always a solution. Take action consistently. Success isn’t a straight road. Keep a sense of humour.
Betty’s journey over the last 12 months is an inspiring example of what can be achieved in a short period of time, at any age, even when the odds are stacked against you.
Her story offers us all some valuable lessons and insights into some of the factors that contribute to getting results fast.