#40b – How My Failure Almost Went Viral – Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time

By Kathy Korman Frey

So, here’s where the last post ended:  I’m in the copy room at Funger 315, I realize my Powerpoint presentation displays as Gobbledygook,  I have no workbooks (“printer warming up”), there’s a lobby full of attendees downstairs, and I have two minutes until I’m supposed to begin speaking.

Oh, yeah, and a bunch of the folks in the audience are social media folks.

This failure is about to go viral.

8. 58 am With the Gobbeldygook presentation pulled up on the screen in the copy room, I text downstairs to my team and said,

My txt: “Does the PPT look normal?”

Team txt: “It looks fine!”


8.58 am I can wait no longer.

My txt: “Someone needs to come up here to wait for the workbooks with the security guard.”

I figure I’ll  give the intro, and pray the workbooks are printed and brought down as I’m talking. If  they don’t print, I seriously don’t know what I’ll do. Oh wait, I know:

Shirley MacLaine Freaks Out in “Terms of Endearment”

8:59 am I walk out of  Funger 315 and head downstairs to the lecture hall. The printer hadn’t even started, but Sis U must go on.

9.01 am When I step into the lecture hall, everyone is seated. Their backs are to me, and I see what they are viewing at the front of the room on the large screen.

The WRONG presentation. Awesome.

It’s dated June 2010.  Sure, the June, 2010 presentation did – in fact – look fantastic.  I am not quite sure how this happened, and, at this point I don’t care. Action mode continues.

9.01 and 30 seconds: I go over to the camera guy, “How much additional time do you need to set up?” I ask. A delicious five minutes of time. I feel like a character in a video game (sound effects) “By stapling papers in the hallway earlier like a cavewoman, YOU earned FIVE bonus points to cash in with the CAMERA MAN!” (Sound effects) This really could be a good video game. But, it would be very anxiety provoking. Or, maybe I would pee in my pants laughing. I am not sure which.

9.02 am I make an announcement in my calm Stepford voice,

Me: “Welcome to Sis U! (Smile, wave) We need about five extra minutes while the camera finishes setting up, so please, relax, chat, and here’s a little music for you!” (Smile, hiding inner panic, of what I will find on that Powerpoint).

9.03 am From the podium control panel, I blank out the LCD, and look for the USB drive in the computer menu. It’s not there. The USB with my presentation is not showng up. I remove the USB from one socket (or whatever you call these things) and place it into another. Bingo. It shows up.

9.03 am and 15 seconds. I hold my breath and double-click the document to open it. Will it be Gobbletygook? One of my adorable team members tries to ask me something and I respond in my robot voice, “Can’t talk. Crisis mode.”

9.03 am and 30 seconds. Cha ching! The presentation comes up and the fonts are readable. I quickly page through the presentation, all okay. They are not perfect, but they are readable.

9.07 am I fire back up the LCD screen, look at the camera man – who gives me the thumbs up – and turn off the music.

9.08 am

Me: “Welcome to Sis U! Today, you are participating in a pilot where you will engage in exercises, learning never-before shared. (And…Almost not shared today!) Our goal is to produce measurable results for your career in three hours.”

I know I can handle it from here if my team walks in with those workbooks. I keep on with the intro.

9.18 am My team walks in with the workbooks. (dot, dot, smileyface)

I breathe a sigh of relief. A big one.

So – fast foward: Ultimately, Sis U was a success and exceeded my and my team’s expectations in terms of results (measurable results). Here is a fantastic write up from WUSA Community Content Producer Leigh MacDonald (@NiceShuzNoDrama) and LiveYourTalk.com’s @JillFoster

But in those moments, where I was one step away from severe failure, I was not confident about success. And afterwards, my knee-jerk reaction to chaos or disappointment is always to say, “How can I prevent this from happening again in the future?”

1. You can’t. One viewpoint is that I CAN’T prevent all crises in my life and work. They ARE going to happen. Accepting myself as an imperfect person, who cannot manage everything into perfection like a cyborg, is a big part of my learning here. I just breathe into it, feel happy it turned out okay, and know that I can survive this…and probably other things that will surface in the future.

2. Time management. When I first thought about this crisis, I was convinced the “answer” was time management. Ideally, I would have done everything early, tested the PowerPoint, had the workbooks printed days before. But, in reality, I had – perhaps – one spare hour during the week. This is not to make excuses.  This was just reality. I ask you, what should I have said “no” to of the below items to give myself extra prep time? The White House Council for Women and Girls Conference, my two classes launching that week, my husband’s guys golf trip (planned to coincide with a music fest in Austin).

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3. Delegation. And, of course, the zinger of all lessons for me here is “delegation.”   If I did it over again, I’d have people I trust involved earlier in the process. I cannot cap my own business by my limitations as one person. I need to EXPAND my vision of the business, and I believe that more people and partners is the way to do that.

Parting Thought: Is Your Business Fat or Thin and “The Big Picture”

Fat or Thin. A local business owner down here has described the “Fat / Thin” theory with business. He says, “Sometimes you business is fat. You have a surplus of staff and you are waiting for the business to support them. Then, there are the thin times. You’re spread too thin and need to hire staff and bulk up to handle what you’ve got on your plate.” This experience showed me that, despite the ultimate success of the event,  we’re in a thin time.

The Big Picture. One thing I lost that day was BPP (big picture perspective). Two examples: My friend from business school who went to Iraq and then came back to work in the financial industry. He was right across from the towers on 9-11. He won’t talk about what he saw, in either place. I say, ‘What is REAL stress? Is it that day? No.

Walk the talk: Self-confidence. Second, someone made a great point to me that day and said, “You know, everyone in this room WANTS you to succeed.”  The women involved with the Hot Mommas Project…who are attracted to our movement, and to our events, are special. There are simply no words to describe. So, by indulging in my stress, I am losing sight of that…of them.

Do you lose sight of the bigger picture sometimes? I did. Where is stress an asset, and where does it start to become a liability?

This is an “Inside the Hot Mommas Project”  series for biz junkies. It used to be secret. Now, we’re out.  

5 thoughts on “#40b – How My Failure Almost Went Viral – Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time

  • Well I for one thank you for your honesty about it all! If I were to hypothetically put myself in your place (the panicky, anxiety-ridden person I am), and I had a million other things like above on the go at the same time, I think I would have found someone to help ensure the tech stuff was a-okay. This goes back to your #3 point of DELEGATION. Personally, I suck at that and I have a lot to learn in that regard, I must confess.

    I have showed up to speaking engagements uber-early just to make sure my technology is cooperative and ready-to-go but I have no idea what your exact circumstances were. In the end, though, you’re right, we all need to learn to include more people/partners in helping us make things happen.

    • I am with you on that. Having someone show up really early and get the tech straight is a great idea. I used to have someone like that, but, with new staff I tend to default into “I’ll take care of it” mode which – clearly – is a mistake!

  • Thanks for sharing Kathy. It’s always gr8 to know that a power performer like you is human.

    That would really summarize my thoughts. It’s OK to be human. While you seemed to have some thoughts that everyone in the room was just waiting for you to fail, I’m convinced in most cases everyone in the room is pulling for us to succeed. They probably would have jumped in and helped if they had known what was going on. Then they would have gone away feeling like Sis U was part theirs and that ownership would payoff as the project continues.

    It is one of the best cases of “if anything can go wrong it will go wrong” that I’ve ever heard.


    • Oh yes, very human. Glad it fit the bill of “if anything can go wrong”…I certainly thought so! I like the idea of “the room is rooting for me” – while I don’t think they would revel in my failure, I hadn’t thought of it as a possible positive group of supporters…and, ironically, that is what Sis U is about! Thanks for the comment.

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