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Friday, June 20, 2008

Success comes when you do the little things right

There’s a book I’m reading right now called “Big things happen when you do the little things right”, by Don Gabor. In the back of the book it lists fifty ways to make big things happen. For this post, I’d like to focus on these four:

  1. Look at each problem or hurdle you face as an opportunity.
  2. Use all available resources to achieve your goals
  3. Consistently press toward your goal without worrying about success or failure
  4. Persevere when you reach an impasse or difficult hurdle

All these things sound good, but it’s very difficult to put them into practice. I’ve failed at all of these at some point in the recent past. So I look to find inspiration in others who have excelled at these “little things”. I have to look no further than to Dan Harkins, of Harkins Theatres.

Harkins has a new cinema opening in Tucson, according to AZnightbuzz.com, that is going to have a play center for kids while you watch a movie. That, by the way, is Genius. Dan knows a lot about movie theaters, his website says he was conceived in a movie theater, raised in a movie theater, even married in one.

His father, Red Harkins, wanted to make movies, so he moved from Cincinnati and headed to Hollywood. However, he ran out of money by the time he reached Arizona, so he decided to settle in Tempe for awhile. A couple years later, when he turned 18, he opened a theater in Tempe, then seven years later opened another. He died in 1974, leaving behind a bankrupt company.

Red’s son, Dan, was in college at the time of his father’s death, and had big plans to become a lawyer. When his father died, he had the choice of pursuing his education and to watch the company get sold, or to pursue his dad’s vision of developing a profitable movie theater. Dan aw his father's death as an opportunity to carry on his father's vision. He bought the business from his mother for $75,000, dropped out of school, and began working 120 hour workweeks. He would negotiate with utility companies to keep the lights on for late payments. Talk about using all resources to fulfill your goals! For the next eight years, Harkins theaters lost money every year, between $50,000 and $300,000 per year. Dan never regretted giving up his dream of being a lawyer, and was willing to do whatever it took to carry on the business after his father’s death. His father was an innovator, and believed nothing in life is meaningful unless you get along with people. The strong values his father left behind became the backbone of the company.

Harkins had a lawsuit with Hollywood, which was settled in 1991. Harkins felt there was a conspiracy in which theater chains would get together to determine who was the exclusive bidder of top name movies, and that would be the only bidder the movie studio would license their films to. The antitrust case was finally settled, and Harkins was given the opportunity to license motion pictures for his theaters based on merit. In this example, Dan met the third and fourth"little things" of consistenly pressing toward his goal without worrying about success or failure, and pursuing his goal when he met a hurdle.

The company has been profitable since 1993, and continues to expand throughout the Southwest, by building new theaters and by acquiring others.

Dan’s father Red would be proud.