Leveraging Your Success

Society tries to teach us humility.  Nobody likes an arrogant jackass that gloats when they win.  As a result, when we fail we’re taught to use that failure as a chance to learn something, to take away a positive from a negative.

But nobody is ever taught what to do with success.

Sure, I’ve written about celebrating your success, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Let me give you an example of the difference.

When powerful NHL club like the Chicago Blackhawks wins the Stanley Cup, they have a parade and they celebrate their win.  The city and its fans enjoy the moment.

On the other hand, let’s look at the Carolina Hurricanes.

They moved from Hartford to Carolina in 1997 and to be honest, barely anyone in Raleigh noticed.  Their attendance was shocking.  Even when their brand new arena opened in 1999, their attendance was the second lowest of the 30 NHL teams.

The team was terrible and nobody in their new city cared.

In the 2001-2002 season, they fielded a pretty good team and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final, where they came up short and lost.  Making the final isn’t the same as winning, but it is a level of success.  The next year the team increased their average attendance by 50%.

Unfortunately, their success didn’t last and attendance dipped again.

In 2005-2006 though, the Hurricanes, having missed the playoffs two years in a row, made it to and won the Stanley Cup.  This time, the team’s ownership and management leveraged that success to make the club something greater in the community.  They created fans and used the championship to sell people season ticket packages.

Since winning that Stanley Cup in 2006, the team has made the playoffs just once in ten years, which is terrible.  As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I can sadly say my Leafs have only made the playoffs once in that same ten-year span.

Now after ten years of futility in Raleigh, the Hurricanes’ attendance is woeful – worst in the entire league and the team is probably going to be sold and moved out of Raleigh.

Great, so I’ve taught you about the history of a mediocre, poorly run ice hockey team in a southern state with no history of the game, so what?

Well, there are two lessons.

One, you need to be continuously successful over the long term to continue to prosper.  I know, it sounds pretty stupid reading that, but one-off successes will help you out, but they also are really good at masking problems.  When Carolina had a good run in 2002, their attendance went up, but the team had not built that connection with the fans.  They caught the momentary upside that the excitement of success can deliver.

Two, when you have success you need to leverage it to build out your business more broadly and to improve your foundations.  What the Hurricanes did really well when they won the Stanley Cup in 2006 was that they used that to ingratiate their players and club with the community.  They used the strength of their product to build themselves a more stable business.

Those two things tie together.  You can use success to build out and strengthen your overall business, but you need to keep having success to add fuel to that fire.

Let’s move away from hockey to something you might more closely relate to.

If you create a really good info product, launch it and have success, you’re going to bring in some money to your business.  That’s a good outcome, but then what?

You need to leverage that success and strengthen your existing business or grow new parts.  That could take the shape of buying more traffic with your newfound financial capabilities to increase your sales.  You could also decide to create a complimentary product and direct your new customers to your next thing.

You’re taking assets generated from success in your business, to build something bigger and better that’s more resilient.

The great analogy that I am often reminded of is the one-legged stool.  If you have created that successful info product, launch it, do well financially and then wait six months and do it all again, that might work, but at some point in the future, it’s not going to.  Your single leg of your stool is going to get knocked out from underneath you.

Conversely, if you re-invest the proceeds of your success into building out second and third legs of your stool, strengthening your first leg and making the whole thing more stable, you’re going to be in a much better position going forward.

Success is never guaranteed.  You always have to work at it.  However, when you have some success, you should never squander the opportunity it brings by merely celebrating your victory, you need to knuckle down and figure out how you can turn your current success into bigger, ongoing future success.

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