Luck: When Practice Meets Opportunity

In 2001, New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe took a hit from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. Bledsoe suffered internal bleeding and had to leave the game. As a result, the Patriots were forced to play their backup quarterback Tom Brady – a 6th round draft choice in the 2000 NFL Draft.  That year Tom led the Patriots to their first ever Super Bowl victory. 13 years later, with 5 Super Bowl appearances and 3 Super Bowl wins, many consider him one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Tom Brady Super Bowl

Following Drew Bledsoe’s injury in 2001, Tom Brady went on to win 3 Super Bowls as quarterback of the New England Patriots (photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

As many of you know, Wicked Good Cupcakes received national attention after appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank and striking a deal with “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary. As a result, our sales skyrocketed and the company grew by 600% percent the following year. When I talk to people about our company, I often hear the phrase “You guys were so lucky that you were on Shark Tank”, or “If I could get on a show like Shark Tank, I’d be rich!”.  Frankly, I don’t see it that way. Now, don’t get me wrong. I readily admit that Shark Tank catapulted our sales and was the impetus that put us where we are today. But I can’t help but think of a phrase one of my high school sports coaches taught me. “Luck is when practice meets opportunity”.

Do you think Tom Brady was lucky because Drew Bledsoe got injured? Really, it was simply an opportunity (an unfortunate one for Drew Bledsoe). If Tom Brady had not capitalized on that opportunity, would we be talking about him today? How many other players get a chance to play as a result of a starter’s injury that never amount to anything? Hundreds…thousands? Were they lucky?

Being on Shark Tank was the ultimate opportunity. Remember however, that if you’re not ready to capitalize on that opportunity, then it’s totally wasted (where’s the luck now?). The fact is, there are many companies that have appeared on Shark Tank (or Oprah, Ellen, pick any high profile media opportunity) that did not succeed or are no longer in business. Some speculate that the number of companies that have appeared on Shark Tank that are no longer in business is as high as 80%.

Take Toygaroo for example. They appeared on Shark Tank in March of 2011 pitching a company that was essentially the Netflix of toys. It was such a good idea that Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary invested a combined $200,000 for 35% of the business. Just over one year later, Toygaroo filed for bankruptcy (http://sharktankblog.com/toygaroo-bankruptcy/ ). I’m not here to speculate on what happened or what went wrong, but the fact is, just because you get a national television appearance, doesn’t mean you’ve been lucky and been given the golden ticket.

Any business takes hard work, dedication, planning and sound principles. Even then, there’s no guarantee. We didn’t just sit back and “count the money” after our appearance on Shark Tank. We spent tremendous amounts of time and money improving our business, creating systems, creating new product and improving our process. Have we made mistakes? Of course we have, but the point is, we continue to “practice” and improve so that our business will still be standing 10 years from now.

Most businesses fail in my opinion, not because they were “unlucky” or didn’t get opportunities, but because they either failed to recognize opportunities, or more importantly, failed to execute on opportunities. So practice. Work on your business, hone your skills and prepare for when the next opportunity presents itself. Like a good athlete, it’s the time you put in behind the scenes that prepares you for success. That my friends is why good luck is when practice meets opportunity.