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Jiffy Rental Center
Jiffy Rental Center
Jiffy Rental Center in Riverton, Wyoming

Talk about a pregnant pause.  Here in this big auditorium filled with business students, no one was standing up to ask a question. The speaker was the president of a local Savings and Loan association who had just finished his talk.  
“I have a question for you,” I said, standing up. 

“Sure,” he said, somewhat relieved.

“If banks are the only ones who can have checking accounts,” I began, “why can’t Savings and Loan Associations offer checking on savings account?”

He laughed. “That’s a silly question, he replied. “Banks are banks and under the control of an entirely different federal agency than Savings and Loan Associations. We do what we do and they do what they do. That’s not going to change.”

“I think you’re wrong,” I told him. 

“Well, if I am wrong, the whole Savings and Loan System is going to be in turmoil,” he shot back.

The year was 1972.  I was in college.  A few years later, Savings & Loan Associations were offering checking privileges on savings accounts to their customers.

Did I see this coming? Yes.  Was I smarter than the Savings & Loan executive? No. I just asked a question that was outside the usual and customary thinking.  Financial services were going to change.  They did.  Today, they are still changing. 

I once wrote to the FAA asking why a general aviation airplane could not be lowered safety to the ground with a parachute. I imagined that in an extreme emergency, the pilot could pull a special handle and a parachute could lower the plane safely to the ground.  Months later, I received a glossy black and white picture of a Cessna airplane descending to the ground by a large parachute.  The date on the picture was 1959.  The accompanying letter said that the parachute was impractical because of its weight.   
"Wow," I marveled.  "No one was curious enough to try lowering an aircraft to the ground with a parachute until 1959?"  In 1961, President Kennedy envisioned putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  How can these two events even be considered in the same sentence, let alone a few years apart?  Herein lies a truth about timing:  whether or not an idea is one small step for man or it is truly a giant leap for mankind doesn’t matter.  Both are possible ideas at the same time.  The question to ask, is "Why not?   Years later, I turn the page in a magazine to see an advertisement for Cirrus Aircraft featuring a airplane equipped with a parachute for emergencies.   “I knew it could be done,” I said, laughing to myself.

Most of us have a history of encounters with ideas or inventions that someone else brings to reality.  Along the way, many more failures occur than successes.  As it turns out, giving up easily has no reward.

A while back, I gave a talk to a group of high school students. 

“In business,” I told them, “you need three things: a good idea, capital, and timing.” 

“Which one of those do you think is the hardest to find?” I asked.

 “Capital,” they all yelled out.

Welcome to the class of 2010. These kids believe that if they only had money, they could do grand things.   But money rarely generates good ideas. Usually, it is the other way around. It takes a good idea to earn money. 

"All the opportunities are gone," one student told me.  

Actually, the opposite is true.  Millions of good ideas happen every day that are financially successful to improve a product or a service.  

Necessity is the mother of invention.  The merit of any business idea is an inherent quality to fulfill people's needs or desires.  Timing is everything.   Some people call this luck. It is more about being in the right place and at the right time.  A good business idea doesn't go anywhere without entrepreneurial spirit to pursue it.  Entrepreneurs are willing to take a chance on an idea, an invention, or a new way to improve a product or service.   Business schools can teach management, marketing, and finance, but the spirit to take a risk, to start a business, or to pursue a dream is more about who we are, our risk threshhold, and our willingness to think not so much of ourselves, but to think of others and their benefit.  And ask "why not?"  


Jiffy Rental Center Riverton