Once upon a time, there was an entrepreneur named Byron White that had a vision-- ship lobsters and smoked fish direct from dock to door. The plan seemed simple. And the tide was right-- few competitors existed in the marketplace.
Byron had a proven record for starting successful businesses, and success well documented in the major publications. His first start up called Freelance Access was a smash hit, quickly selling to Aquent within a few years. His second startup called LifeTips was now in full force, attracting millions of readers and fans. The golden touch was in full force, it seemed.
He arranged to meet with the largest commercial fisherman in the state of Maine, his home state. Within hours, they struck a deal, and a verbal partnership was forged. Byron would manage sales, marketing and operations in Boston. The partner would ship the fresh product and process all the orders from in Maine. It seemed like the perfect business plan, both sides experiencing the win-win.
Byron returned to Boston and rolled into high gear. The brand was developed including logo design, illustrations, stationary, website design and more. Custom plastic shipping cartons were ordered to help make a big splash with the brand. Five hundred t-shirts arrived to help promote the brand. Last minute sponsorship of the International Seafood Expo proved to be a big success, including an interview with NPR discussing the Webfish rollout plan. This thing was ready to go.
Despite all the excitement, a few months went by with no contract signed. Something was wrong. Calls were not returned. The fisherman had gone dark. The perfect storm.
Partnerships, as it turns out, are tricky things.
The partner concluded he might be in voilations of wholesale and retail contracts with existing customers. Going into retail business with Webfish might cause problems with his successful business focused on the wholesale marketplace.
The lines of opportunity were simply cast way to quickly. Lots of time and money were wasted along the way. Forging a new partnership would be more complicated with the new knowledge of contract complexity. Byron cut the line, and walked away, with a lifetime supply of cool black t-shirts as the reminder prize.
Entrepreneurial Failure Lesson #1: Don't count on things outside of your control, especially partnerships that are critical to the business. And always have things in writing, including Plan B.