Ever hear a story of grit, entrepreneurship, and success that sends chills up and down your spine? That’s what I felt when I read this recent story from Marty Park, and I knew I had to share with you…
$.86 cents. That was my cash in hand as I pulled into the gas station one morning.
It was the first day, of many, where entrepreneurship and business ownership were really kicking my ass.
I had launched my software company with my friend Greg and had now also spun out an audio production company called On Air. Business was going pretty good but cash-flow was tight — like the lid on a pickle jar tight.
I needed to get to work to make calls — to either sell something and/or to collect on our receivables. I knew for me to take any money as a partner, I needed to get someone to send money TODAY.
But my immediate problem was getting to work. I was out of gas and knew I couldn’t get to the office without filling up the tank.
I had $4.88 in my bank account … but an ATM wouldn’t let me take less than $5 out. So I had no access to that said amount. (Debit payments were not available yet in case you were wondering).
I pulled into the gas station a few blocks from my house. I started to finger through the jeep ashtray to see what luck I could uncover. I pulled 86 cents from the tray and prayed it was going to be enough gas to get me to the office.
I opened the gas cap, put the hose in and squeezed off $0.86 worth of gas. It took about 2 seconds. I quietly said to myself, that is never going to get me to work (our office was all the way downtown).
The worst part wasn’t the lack of money, or the dismal amount of fuel it bought. It was going inside to pay.
Now, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am a little judgmental about the guy working at the gas station. I was quick to think, maybe you should be working a little harder. I was quick to think, is this the best you can do?!
On this day, I was the one being stared down. The attendant did a double take at the total fuel I just pumped. “Ahhh, that will be eighty, six, cents.” I handed him the change all at once, already embarrassed. He flipped his hand over, spilling the coins on the counter and then proceeded to count it out, out loud, for me and the other people in line behind me. Twenty-five, fifty (seriously!), seventy-five, eighty (please hurry), eighty-one, eighty-two, eighty-three (you son*&#$@) eighty-four, eighty-five, eighty-six. “Yup, it’s all there,” he said with a smirk. The look he gave me said, “Is this really the best you can do?!”
I left with shame and a head shake that took me months to get past. But my issues still weren’t over — I needed to get to work.
Fortunately, my place was at a much higher elevation than the office downtown. I drove a stick shift at the time and was able to get up to speed and then put it into neutral and allow the car to roll down most of the streets. I turned it off at the lights. I rolled all the way downtown and right into the parkade.
I made it! Except, I was even broke-er, and still needed to perform to collect money and a solution.
I had to shake off the stress and feeling sorry for myself. I had to get on the phone. I had to hide my issues from the staff and team. Just all smiles walking into my office.
I dialed through the entire day. Sales calls. Cold Calls. Call to clients. I finally had a client say he would pay the invoice today and put a check in the mail. “No, No, No, ” I said. He said, “Okay I’ll leave it here at the front desk if you want to come pick it up.” I couldn’t do that either … I was out of gas. I suggested that a courier was faster and better because we could track the envelope. And, with my busy afternoon schedule, it was the best way. He agreed with a little concern in his voice.
The courier was sent to pick up the envelope and I sweated the next few hours away. At about 3 pm the courier arrived with a delivery. I ran to the reception desk trying to look relaxed. I grabbed the envelope and took it to Greg’s office. We had $1250 in the door. I pleaded with Greg to cut us both cheques from that money now. Greg was reluctant. He knew cash was tight and didn’t want it all going right back out. I finally shared my desperate situation and almost begged him. He nodded, agreed, and cut us both cheques for $500.
Every entrepreneur and business owner has those moments where the universe dares you to stop, to shut it down and just quit. Don’t. You can find a way.
I ran to the bank, deposited the money and filled the gas tank. I survived. Actually, I did more than that. I succeeded.
Every entrepreneur and business owner has those moments where the universe dares you to stop, to shut it down and just quit.
Don’t. You can find a way. I did, and it has been a situation and a triumph over adversity that I have drawn on for years when things get tough.
Let persistence and a commitment to creative solutions be your guides.
If times are tight for you right now, keep this story in mind. It’s always darkest before the dawn. Keep going. Keep trying and dig deep. You can overcome any challenge that stands in your way.
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