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How Failing Can Teach You To Succeed
By: Tom Roarty
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After starting off my career as a designer for various magazines covering mostly music, fashion, and entertainment, I felt it would be a good idea to venture off on my own. I had the designers, printers, editorial, and distribution staff all in place. The one thing that I did not count on was the human factor that goes into running a business.

At the time, I had no money to really speak of, but luckily these were the days of what seemed to be endless credit. I applied for and received enough credit to buy a few Macs, a printer, office space, and office furniture and have enough left over to cover the printing costs of the first nine issues of the publication. All that was needed now was to produce the magazine.

I found that getting interviewers and writers was easy at the time. The Pass magazine covered mostly arts and entertainment. Where we ran into a problem was with our sales guy. I worked with him for years, and he had enough of working where we had been coworkers, so he found a home with us. But before starting, he wanted to take a week off to visit Amsterdam. One week turned into two, than three, and eventually a month later he came back to the States and was never the same. Our salesman was gone.

I still thought that if I produced the magazine, I could generate enough buzz to land the ad revenue needed to keep the business afloat, so I pushed on. The day our first issue was ready for distribution, all of those involved felt a huge feeling of accomplishment. It was just an office of three that had accomplished what only people with money and stature had done in the past. What we did was special at the time.

Upon arriving at the print shop to pick up our magazines for distribution, we hit obstacle No. 2. How do we move all these bundles to their drop-off locations? Centrally located on Long Island, we distributed from Manhattan to the Hamptons, which was all covered by two drivers. After being up all night and day interviewing, designing, editing, and producing, the week ended with the hardest part: Distributing. By the time our third issue came out, the second driver left, leaving just one person for distribution. From there, the problems just started to mount.

Because most of the week’s hours were spent producing or distributing the publication, there was no time to find a salesperson, so the bills started to pile up, and due to lack of sleep, the work started to suffer. By issue No. 6, you could feel the bottom dropping out.

Our ninth issue would be our last. I settled up with all those I owed cash to and came very close to filing for bankruptcy because of the credit-card debt I was in. It took years to pay off those loans. I count the magazine’s last day as the one I sent out the final payment for it, even though the creative joy it gave me was long gone.

Looking back on the experience, I’m surprisingly not focused on the unsuccessful attributes of the business, but rather the accomplishments I had and lessons they had taught me. Being beat down in such a matter provides you a crossroads. I chose the unpaved trail to a continued career as a creative and never looked back.


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