By Michael Watt
Sometimes – in fact, most times – it’s better to be lucky than good.
Thirty years ago today, for example, I was backing up my father’s station wagon to the loading dock at a printing plant in Wilkes Barre, Pa., in a part of town that even Wilkes-Barre residents would have to describe as dark, desolate and depressing. It was late at night and snowing, pretty hard. My college chums and I had just put the finishing touches on an issue of The Aquinas, the weekly student newspaper we published on behalf of our fellow students at the University of Scranton – that was the finest issue of our collegiate careers. It had a news story about a scandal, great op-ed pieces and terrific sports coverage. This was the edition that would go on top of the pile when we went on our job interviews. (How good was it? Two of the students involved still work for a newspaper to this day – how about that?)
As I was backing up the car I turned on the radio. All I heard for the first few minutes was the sound of someone crying. On the air. This is not good, I thought. DJs are not supposed to cry on the air. Once he gained control of himself he informed his listening public that John Lennon had been murdered outside his home in New York City. Well, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, as it still does to this day whenever I think of that moment. Then I looked at the bundles of papers on the loading dock and quickly realized I was looking at a 2,000 copies of irrelevancy. Our career-defining pinnacle, the issue that was going to have the campus talking and debating and sending kudos in our direction was going to be overlooked as the world mourned the loss of a man and a big part of our collective youth.
Years later a fellow I know in the catalog business told me that he and his partner put everything they had into this one major issue that was going to make – or break – their young company. They invested $500,000 into the effort, and they themselves drove the truck with all the catalogs to the facility where their catalogs were going to be disbursed around the world and make them rich, rich, rich. That day was September 10, 2001. Talk about bad timing.
The catalog company survived but it was much harder to do so after pushing all their chips to the middle of the table like that. And, like I said, two of the editors on that Aquinas staff are still in the business. So no harm, no foul.
Timing is so important in launching a business. Have you ever had a similar experience – where you put everything you had into something, only to have the result overshadowed by an event completely outside of your control?
Thank you for reading this blog.
Michael Watt is the president of Long Island Inc., a marketing and communications strategies firm. For more information visit www.longislandinc.com.