I'll Be the 51%

At a dinner meeting some time ago I met a lifelong entrepreneur who owned 7 successful businesses-and none of them were connected! As I listened, I knew there had to be a story behind his acquisition of the businesses, so I asked him, “Which one do you look back on and find yourself surprised now that you own?” Without any hesitation, he and his wife answered, “Subway.” They were 51% owners of a Subway restaurant in their small community.

The back story is that the community really wanted a Subway but no one was willing to invest the kind of money it would take to make it happen. Wanting to help the community, he said, “I’ll be a 51% owner but you have to find the other 49%. The community did find a number of others investors and soon the familiar green and yellow sign was a reality.

In my training programs I frequently am asked to address the “How do I say ‘No’ more often or at least limit my exposure when I say ‘Yes?’ John’s approach to the Subway restaurant offers a good option for many of us. Be willing to take the majority share of “Yes” if it is something you are passionate about, but force those asking you to participate to also meaningfully contribute to the success of the task or request. Be clear about what you will and will not do before you break ground, and you can find out how serious others are about seeing the idea become a reality. If they don’t come up with the 49% you have saved yourself a lot of wasted time, energy, and in John’s case-money.