Tuesday, December 13, 2005

All, some or none?

It used to be easier for me to make decisions. When I was young, I would ponder things briefly, decide either yea or nay and go on with life. Win, lose or draw, I never looked back. What was done was done. Next.

I made some good decisions over the years and benefited accordingly. I also made some bad decisions and suffered accordingly. No, not the whiny, "woe is me, how could this happen to me," sort of suffering. More like: "Hmmm, that was certainly an interesting experience, but I don't think I'll try that again."

Ten or so years ago, the joke around my house was that whenever I made my famous Sunday morning breakfast crepes, they would be served with fruit syrups that cost $10,000 per bottle. That dollar amount was actually low, but it served to make the point. I had underwritten the research and development of specially formulated fruit syrups and jellies (apple, blueberry, peach, loganberry and others) that were all natural and tasted heavenly. I paid to develop a proprietary system, to design and build processing equipment, lease a building, hire staff, pay for marketing and everything else that was necessary to get our products launched. Every month, I kept on adding to the kitty to keep things moving along. Finally, long after I should have pulled the plug, I closed the company down. It crashed and burned. The few bottles of syrups and jellies that were left I took home. They were delicious, not because they had cost me so much money but because they were a far superior product to anything else that was on the market at the time. There still isn't anything as good available, anywhere.

I am not going to invest in a food processing plant again. Like many entrepreneurs, I make a lot of mistakes. I just don't like to make the same mistake more than once.

Once, I started a small trucking company in the United States, running it remotely from Canada. I could tell some interesting stories about that enterprise, but I won't. Well, maybe just one little story. My trucks ran from New York State to the west coast, carrying mostly candy and air conditioners for clients of mine. To avoid coming back empty, the trucks hauled back fruits and vegetables, destined for food distribution centres back east. One driver, coming back with a full load of strawberries, decided to stop in Nevada somewhere (it may have been Las Vegas, but I can't remember for sure) to have a bite to eat. He met a hooker and decided to stop for a quickie. No harm, right?

The driver left the truck running, so that the refrigeration unit in the trailer would keep the strawberries cool. The truck ran until all the fuel was used up. When the driver didn't return, the hot Nevada sun cooked the strawberries into syrup. No, that is not where I got the idea for the syrup factory. When we finally found the truck, after two days and with the help of several police departments, the entire load was compost. Garbage. Not worth a nickel. We never did find the driver. That must have been one supremely talented hooker. I thought about the situation briefly, decided to cut my losses and suddenly I was no longer in the trucking business. Next.

I am still the same person I was years ago. I'm just a bit older. When I decide now whether to invest in something, I have to consider whether I really want yet another headache. And, in case things don't work out as they should, I need to consider how long it would take me to recover from the disaster.

Right now, I am looking at a possible investment in a company to be set up in Panama. It would, I believe, fill a genuine need there and have a strong potential for success. Also, with the help of a Spanish-speaking friend as translator, I have found am 88-acre parcel of land in Panama that is so attractively priced and perfectly located, it is screaming to be bought as an investment. Do I do make either investment, neither investment or both? I don't know. I am still thinking.

I'm not looking for advice or encouragement, I am simply trying to make a point. Like any responsible entrepreneur, I need to consider my family. I need to consider staff of my other businesses. I have a somewhat paternal nature and I am genuinely concerned about people who work for me. I want to make sure I can keep my employees and sub-contractors working, even during inevitable economic slowdowns. I also want to make sure that when I finally expire, hopefully at a ripe old age, no-one has to clean up financial messes I made, untangle business relationships far and wide, or generally be inconvenienced by my actions in any way.

Maybe, I should just have a nap and leave these things for others to do.

But then, what would I do for fun?

No comments:

Post a Comment