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Lesson #17: Chaos Rules: Be Prepared to Deal with It When It Happens

Summertime. Eighty degrees and sunny. A beautiful Saturday morning. Radio ads were blasting GAYNORS grand opening. The store opened at ten. We were ready. And so were the customers.

The line extended forever with customers waiting to get in and it was only 9:30 A.M. We were ready for a rush but had no idea it was going to be this kind of rush. The limo appeared, and suddenly I was thinking to myself, are these customers or fans or are they both? The limo drove up to the front entrance, and you would have thought Elvis was reincarnated. The customers went crazy. The three soap stars emerged, and we shuffled them into the store. Inside the store, we set up a mock stage in the back, standing room only.

I forgot to tell you in the last chapter that I created a thirty-two-page flyer advertising the grand opening and the soap opera stars. I sent out twenty-five thousand of them. It was a great idea. To add to the excitement, we had the soap stars interviewed on local radio stations, and I recall one TV station showing up at the opening. This turned out to be a huge media event, and one thing you learned quickly: You have no control over the media.

We opened the doors at 10:00 A.M. You would have thought there wasn’t a single other retail store in Farmington Hills with the number of customers that poured through the entrance. They grabbed shopping carts, shopping baskets, and some just ran to where the soap stars were.

Virtually all the aisles were full by 10:15 A.M. The soap stars did their dialogue and answered questions for an hour. It was pandemonium. Afterward, we slipped them through the backdoor, and as a special surprise, we went to lunch with them. They were so nice and cooperative. I didn’t want to leave the store with so many customers inside, but how often do you get to have lunch with soap stars?

We came back to chaos. Customers continued to come; the parking lot was packed. We sold out of more than a hundred bottles of Giorgio cologne. Clinique 1-2-3 was gone just like that. I learned that Maybelline makeup remover was a best-selling product when we had to restock it three times. The lines to checkout were long, but we had six registers and six baggers. I had three employees handle customer carryouts and restocking the carts and baskets.

When 9:00 P.M. came, we locked the door and were thrilled that the day was over. We were exhausted! It was the most exhilarating feeling ever, but at the same time, we knew the next day was only a short time away. We had to spend the next few hours restocking the shelves. That is when we found out that what we thought would be a thirty-day supply of many items turned into a one-day supply. Sunday would be another big day, and we had to be ready.

Opening day was the best sales day until the day GAYNORS was liquidated. It turned out that customers love a good store liquidation as much as a good store opening, and better yet, I didn’t have to spend $25,000 that day. However, I have a lot more to tell you before that delightful day.

Life Lesson Tip: Chaos is normalcy for an entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurs handle chaos like any other problem: They take the time to figure it out. Don’t react to chaos instantly and, especially, don’t raise your voice in front of employees or customers. When possible, address chaos the following morning. It is amazing how time is sometimes the best solution for solving a problem.

Thanks for reading loyal reader! 


Adam Harris was born in coal country, right in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. His father, Gregory, worked the mines every day and came home to his best friend, Jim Beam. Gregory had many frie


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