Wednesday, July 06, 2005

When deals go bad

One of my entrepreneurial heroes is Ron Foxcroft, the Hamilton entrepreneur who barely finished high school yet built two companies - while working three nights a week refereeing NCAA basketball games all over the U.S.A.

He is best known as the inventor of the Fox-40 pealess whistle, the loud, shrill whistle that never jams - and is sold all over the world at a huge markups for a 1-oz lump of plastic, simply because it is unique.

Ron is one of the first subjects of the Globe & Mail's new online feature, "My Best Mistake", which interviews prominent Canadian entrepreneurs. (Of course, my friends at Alberta Venture magazine have been using that same department title and idea for years. For an example, see

Ron's "mistake" is worth reading because it speaks to an issue no one can understand until they have been in business for some time and made lots of mistakes: how to get out of bad contracts. Here's what he says:

"My biggest career mistake was to not have an exit strategy or expiry date on contracts and commitments. This applies to suppliers, distributors, agents and employees.

"Sometimes entrepreneurs make decisions from the heart and not necessarily in a scientific way. For example, even good suppliers, distributors, agents and employees can get complacent or, heaven forbid, incompetent. Early in my career I would honour a commitment in a sacred fashion even to my detriment. This cost me dearly because in some cases complacency and incompetence did rear its ugly head. Because I did not have established expiry dates or exit strategies, I paid the price for my mistake."

It's worth reading the whole article at

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