264 banks on the wall, 264 banks…I’ll…

Relentless beats smart all day long.

Banks blow chunks when it comes to small business support. Everybody knows it (including the bankers). But every once in a while one of them has an entrepreneurial spasm and supports a great idea. It just might be yours. But only if you’re relentless.

John McCormack, author of my favorite “motivational” book – Self-made in America, went to 265 banks trying to get a loan to open a hair salon in a mall in the 1970s – an unheard of proposition then. No bank was biting.

He called his wife after the 265th and told her he was going to open a Tex Mex restaurant because the banks were all offering him money for that. She told him go ahead, but reminded him that Walt Disney had gone to 302 banks before the 303rd gave him money for his ridiculous idea to open an amusement park in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

John decided he would keep trying until he went through 302 banks before opening a Tex Mex. The next day the 266th bank gave him the money. He now owns many locations and makes $200k+ a year in profit from each one.

In 1989, John wrote this in “Self-Made in America” about banks:

Bankers are by nature conservative bean-counters, and entrepreneurs are, by definition risk-taking bean-planters. I’ll make my point simply: can you point out a banker or a bookkeeper who has ever started anything on his or her own – other than trouble?

Banks in this country are bureaucratically stacked against the entrepreneur or the original thinker, and our country’s economy is paying dearly for it. Bankers love to write checks to companies with track records, because they don’t do any work to do it, but as we can well document many of those “safe loans” made in the last decade have been nothing short of foolhardy. To this day, I worry more about my bank going broke than I do about myself going broke.

That’s a guy who, 23 years ago might as well have been talking about the banks of the last five years. Nothing has changed.

I am not a victim
So how did John McCormack respond to this well-known fact? He kept going. He was relentless. He didn’t let this keep him from reaching his dreams. John knew what I say all the time:

Circumstances don’t make me who I am. How I respond to them, does.

90% of life is what I make happen. 10% is what happens to me. Are you a victim of the banks, or a victor who will find the one bank who is having an entrepreneurial spasm and will work with you?

What made McCormack keep going? In his own words:

It wasn’t brains, brawn or even our business plan that resulted in our ultimate success. It was persistence, pure and simple.

I call it being relentless, a form of conation. I’m not smart, I’m just relentless. You don’t have to be smart, just relentless.

Keep hunting. A good idea will ALWAYS get money if you need it, even if it takes you being relentless. And if your idea can be proved without big money, even better. Prove it first, then go get the money. Either way, relentless beats smart every day.

Just keep counting banks, you might end up with a better story than Disney or McCormack. If you get to the 304th bank before you get your loan, write a book about it!