Monday, August 24, 2009

Foreclosure & Bankruptcy: a new Beginning, not the End

It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up. Along the way don’t forget what’s really important – Family, Friends & Life.


TROY, MI – With pretty much everything I do revolving around real estate & lending, I get exposed to a lot of other people’s financial challenges related to the housing crisis. It’s a rare day that I don’t talk to someone in danger of losing their home.

Too many of these people equate losing their home to foreclosure or having to file bankruptcy with failure. For many, this feeling of being a failure can have a devastating affect on their mental well-being, health and relationships.

We all need to get a grip, swallow some pride and lose our egos. Failing at something is not the end of the world.

Remember when you were a kid learning to ride a bike? For most of us, learning meant a lot of falls and crashes, some of them nasty enough for stitches or casts. But most of us got back up, dusted ourselves off and kept at it until we succeeded.

I’ve got a T-shirt I picked up on a ski trip that says, “If you’re not falling, you’re not skiing hard enough!” There’s a lot of truth to that statement. In fact to make it more accurate about life in general we could alter it a bit to, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

I went to an entrepreneurial seminar several years ago, where the speaker was from California. He urged the audience to follow their dreams, take chances and not be afraid of failing. He pointed out that few entrepreneurs succeed with their first ventures and jokingly said, “if you haven’t filed bankruptcy, then you’re not trying hard enough.”

Now none of this should be taken out of context and used to justify irresponsible behavior. If you try your hardest to succeed and still fail, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Especially since our current economic situation has foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and unemployment at their highest since the Great Depression.

Keep in mind also, that many successful business people failed in their first endeavors, but later went on to great success. Here’s a list of some rather successful people who have filed bankruptcy:

Roland Hussey Macy
He failed at selling ribbons, provisions to miners and at a general store before going bankrupt in 1855. His next effort, Macy's became the world’s largest store.

J. C. Penny
First store went bankrupt when he refused to give whiskey as a kickback for orders from a large customer. Penny went belly up and got a job in a drapery shop that he later purchased and expanded into 1100 department stores nationwide.

Henry John Heinz
Started his first company in 1869 selling horseradish, pickles, sauerkraut and vinegar. In 1875 the company filed for bankruptcy due to an unexpected bumper harvest which the company could not keep up with and could not meet its payroll obligations. He immediately started a new company and introduced a new condiment, tomato ketchup to the market. This company was, and continues to be, very prosperous.

Milton Snavely Hershey
Started four candy companies that failed and filed bankruptcy before starting what is now Hershey's Foods Corporation. Mr. Hershey had only a 4th grade education, but was certain he could make a good product that the public would want to purchase. His fifth attempt was clearly successful.

Conrad Hilton
Lost all his hotels when he could not pay his bank during the Great Depression. Later, he bought them all back and built a few more. Things worked out pretty good in the end. Just ask Paris.

Frank Lloyd Wright
Famous architect lost his home, Taliesin in Wisconsin and was thrown on the street when business dried up in 1922. During the following decade, he designed some of his most famous projects.

Henry Ford

First two automobile manufacturing companies failed. The first company filed for bankruptcy and the second ended because of a disagreement with his business partner. In June 1903, at the age of 40, he created a third company, the Ford Motor Company with a cash investment of $28,000.00. By July of 1903 the bank balance had dwindled to $223.65, but then Ford sold its first car, and as they say the rest is history

Harry Truman
Opened a shop in Missouri after the First World War only to have it fail miserably. He was further humbled by having to move in with his mother-in-law. Truman later settled his debt for pennies on the dollar when the bank at which the underlying not was written actually went bankrupt itself. He is said to have learned a lot from the misadventure. And it all turned out OK in the in end. You may have heard, he eventually got a good job, in Washington, DC.

Walt Disney

His name is synonymous with Mickey Mouse and the “happiest place on earth,” Disneyland. However, Disney’s career wasn’t always a moneymaking venture. In 1921, he began a company called the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri but was forced to file for bankruptcy two years later because his financial backers pulled out. It must have been fate because Disney then headed to Hollywood and became one of the highest paid animators in history.

Sam Walton
His first store was a Ben Franklin discount shop that he made among the most profitable and successful in the chain. Walton's problem was a short lease. When it expired, the building’s owner canceled his lease and took over the store himself. Walton was broke had to start over from scratch. You may have heard, however, that things turned out pretty good in the end. After these early financial difficulties were behind him, he later created the largest company in the world and became a billionaire.

Larry King
Filed for bankruptcy in 1978. He later went on to have a pretty decent career as a talk show host and best selling author.

If you think these people are too far in the past or too big for a relative comparison to the everyday person , look at these people:

David Anderson -
Started first company in 1971 at age of 18 which failed. Promptly starts another, wholesaling plants to Chicago area florists and within two years has Sears account and all major florists in the area. Goes bankrupt 5 years later in 1979. Becomes sales manger for Fortune 500 company. Original investor in Rainforest Café in 1994. He also opens first Famous Dave’s BBQ that year and the rest is history.

Eva Sun -
In 1997 she was forced to take the reins of her 10+ year-old company after poor management by her husband, while she was raising their kids. In 2004, she was forced into bankruptcy despite her best efforts. The company though survived and today is more profitable than ever.

Jeffrey Yarbrough
Told his story to Fortune Small Business of filing bankruptcy after his three Dallas-based restaurants failed. Started PR firm Big Ink that now has $400k in sales and 4 employees with zero debt.

All these people failed initially and had to file bankruptcy, but they didn’t give up and eventually succeeded. Was it easy? I’m sure it wasn’t as they probably had to deal with their own feelings of failure and embarrassment. They got back up though and focused on their long-term goals of success and eventually achieved them.

There are also thousands more stories of every day people who lost their homes to foreclosure or were forced to file bankruptcy due to medical bills, lawsuits or job loss that persevered by getting back up after being knocked down. They put their lives back together by reaching out to family and friends for support


  1. Think these guys should be a role model for all of us. They really inspire our life. How they become successful is a thing to look at.

  2. Your blog is nice.Thanks for opening this blog. My blog is about Online Newspaper Site

  3. Thanks for an inspiring story. WE all need as much insperation as possible today.

  4. That's a great post Drew and very motivating. I like this quote from you

    "We all need to get a grip, swallow some pride and lose our egos. Failing at something is not the end of the world."

  5. Very true. I have been going through a rough time in my mortgage business, and I am so stressed out that my business is going to dry up and my family and I will lose our home. That is a WORST CASE SCENARIO I have to remind myself. Most likely that waon't happen, #1, but #2, if it does happen, I still have my health, my wife and kids, and a life.

    It is true about persective.

    Thanks Drew

  6. Thank you for a wonderful post! No matter how bad things get we all have what we started with, our knowledge, skills, abilities, creativity and drive. No one can take that away. Money and material things, in the end mean little. They can be wiped out by things entirely outside of our control. What matters is how you handle the situation. Thanks for the reminder and all the wonderful examples!

  7. I too would like to thank you for your post, within my 71 years I too have had my failure and embarrassment, but as you said, I have my Family, Friends and Faith. Thanks again...

  8. What a great post and very true. I loved all of the examples - some of them I was not aware of.