100-million-napkin

When was the last time you went to a restaurant? Do you remember what you had to eat? Does the waiter come to mind? Was the service outstanding? Did you enjoy the experience?

What about the napkin? Do you remember what color it was? Was it paper or cloth? Did it change your life in any way? Did the napkin have any value or bring any wealth to you?

Well, I can distinctly remember THE napkin from a meal in 1996. I don’t remember the meal. I don’t even remember the waiter. But the napkin, that I do remember. Why? Because on that napkin I wrote out the dream that would become the business plan that would create a $100 million enterprise in less than 10 years.

As my business partner and I dreamt about the possibilities and sketched out that initial plan and draft budget, we had no idea of the dramatic highs and the challenging lows we would encounter over those next 10 years. But we had a dream and the rudimentary beginnings of an enterprise, and for that day and at that time, that was enough. Committing our dream to that napkin was not only symbolic, it was our start.

Biz PlanFast forward 10 years, following many endless days and sleepless nights, and we would come to realize that the white paper napkin was the first step. It was a first step in a challenging but rewarding journey that would ultimately result in the sale of our company — at a value of more than $100 million.

And so, the old saying that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” was validated in our lives. Or in this instance, a $100 million company can often begin on the back of a napkin.

So the next time you’re tempted to wad up your dream and just pitch it in the trash don’t do it. Resist that urge. Hold on to that dream. Write it down. Share it with someone you trust. And then begin systematically and methodically working daily to bring that dream to reality. And if you need a reminder, go down to your closest restaurant (the Golden Arches will even do), grab a napkin and start your journey. You’ll be glad you did.

Stay tuned for the upcoming book entitled by the same name: “The $100 Million Napkin.” The book will recount the success principles that I learned and applied over the ten years while building the business that was ultimately sold to the largest public company in the industry.