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The real secret to a million-dollar business

In case you've been jealous of all those big $$$ claims.

Back in like, 1999, I kept getting calls from a collection agency for a mobile phone bill I’d already paid.

Yes, I’d paid it late — to a previous collection agency, which, because collection agencies are just knuckleheads earning dollars from home in their dirty undies, had neglected to do the proper paperwork and log my payment. Instead, they’d sold my imaginary debt to another group of knuckleheads.

One day, I made the mistake of picking up the phone.

I ended up talking to one such sad-sack, who kept trying to bargain with me so she could get at least a piece of the money I didn’t owe.

HER: “We’re willing to reduce the bill by 10% if you pay today.”

ME: “I paid two months ago.”

HER: “Our records show it as unpaid.”

ME: “Mine show it as paid. I’m looking at the paid-in-full letter right now.”

HER: “We’re willing to drop the charges if you mail us that letter.”

ME: “I’m willing to do that if you send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope. I’m not going to waste a stamp on it.”

Never mind that I didn’t have a stamp.

A self-addressed, stamped envelope was the only way I’d mail anything. I still hate mail but I try to keep a stash of Forever stamps with my stationery so I don’t get into these fixes.

HER: “We can’t do that.”

ME: “Then I’ll fax it to you.”

HER: “We don’t have a fax.”

ME: “You don’t have a fax machine? What kind of company doesn’t have a fax machine?”

Remember, this was 1999, before you could scan it, email it, and tell them to suck it.

Everyone had a fax. If you needed one in a fix, you’d run out and get it at Staples.

HER: “We’re a million-dollar business, ma’am.”

ME: “Really? A million dollars is a lot. So why can’t you get a fax?”

HER: “They have one down the hall, but they’ve left for the day. And all our other fax machines are at outside facilities.”

Translation: My neighbor’s got one, but I can’t ask to use it again. And I don’t want to put on pants and go to Kinko’s.

The point?

When someone says they have a “million-dollar business,” don’t get too impressed or jealous.

Anyone can say that! It’s like saying “best-seller.” 

What qualifies as a million-dollar business?

A shoe store in a space that costs a million dollars a year to rent, and sells just enough sandals and booties and ugly loafers to cover that rent — is that a million-dollar business?

If you have a coffee shop and put a million-dollar price sticker on 1 pound of your special, fair-trade Costa Rican beans (full-bodied mouthfeel with notes of honey, tamarind and chocolate), and are pretty sure someone will bite, then boom – million-dollar business?

If a 2nd grader runs a lemonade stand in the yard of his parents’ 8-million-dollar McMansion, is she a multi-million-dollar lemonade tycoon?

A stripper who owes a million dollars to her coke dealer and is on track to make it back to him by 2025 if he lets her live, and if she gets those 36-E implants, which will mean bigger tips — is she a million-dollar entrepreneur?

Online-marketer-guru-preneur who pays nine-hundred-thousand clams for her business coach, launch coach, branding coach, launch team, platinum-level mastermind, photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower for the FB ads, First Class airfare to Paris for said shoot, and the Louis Vuitton handbag she’s holding in said shoot (she was going to return it but that didn’t feel abundant)…and grosses one million on the launch: is that a million-dollar launch?

If a life coach has the number 1,000,000 clipped out of a magazine and stuck at the top of her vision board between a photo of Oprah and a photo of a tall, frothy green juice, and she can feel in her bones that she’s making it all happen, is that a million-dollar life-coaching business?

Judging from all the people who claim to own million-dollar businesses, or to be “on track to do a million dollars,” I believe it is.

So, next time you start feeling bad that everyone but you runs a million-dollar or multi-million-dollar business, remember that they probably don’t have a fax machine. (Not that anyone still does. But you get the point.)

Or, remember that you DO have a million-dollar business. If you say so, you have one.

Now you.

What do you think makes a million-dollar company?

Do you have one?

Do you have a fax machine? WHY?

Tweet me – @lbelgray

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