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Reece: The ABCs of success in business

Jimmy John Liautaud founded Jimmy John's in 1983 after receiving the choice from his father to join the military or start a business after graduating second to last in his class at Elgin Academy in 1982.

I recently read a somewhat provocative online post that stated: “If you’re not a complete idiot, then you’re smart enough to be wildly successful. Being a genius isn’t a requirement for you being successful. With enough passion and personal motivation, average intellect trumps genius…at least when it comes to business.” What’s that saying? The “A” student works for the “B” student while the “C” student owns the company.

After discovering that hot dogs weren’t in Jimmy John’s future because it was more expensive opening a hot dog stand than his father’s offer of financing, Jimmy John discovered (stumbled upon) sandwiches. And because his original location was not in the most desirable part of town, ultimately freaky fast deliveries (and free samples) help set him apart. If customers weren’t going to him, he would go to the customer.

Motivation is one of the most powerful driving forces. It can mean the difference between tremendous success and failure. But there is more to it. In “Top 10 Characteristics of Successful People” Steve Tobak writes the following about those who succeed:

• They live for achievement. Their goal in life is to be something, make something of themselves, make things people need or want. They're passionate about it and focus on achieving their goals.

• They're lucky. It's said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. To me, that means you find a way to get your foot in the door, come hell or high water, and when you do, you deliver the goods, i.e. you don't screw it up.

• They watch their spending. They don't spend more than they have or make. To them, making money is not a windfall.

• They learn the rules. We're all taught at a very young age to follow the rules. Some people can make their own rules. Good for them. The rest of us have to learn how the game is played.

• They break the rules. As I said, some people become successful by breaking the rules and making their own. They see things differently; color the world with their own crayon, so to speak.

• They see the world the way it really is. And they see themselves the way they really are, as well.

• They take risks. Nobody ever made it by not taking risks and nobody ever made it big by not taking big risks.

• They mitigate risk. That said, successful people don't take foolish risks and they don't take risks lightly.

• They work their tails off. The vast majority of wealthy people and all the ones I know work really, really hard. They sacrifice a great deal.

• They learn how and adapt. Business success, creating jobs, making money for shareholders, and the result – accumulating wealth – is a process. Once you figure out what you're good at and how to do it right, you keep turning the crank until it no longer works. Then you adapt.

It’s not always what you do that will set you up for failure, many times it’s what you don’t do.

Through passion and overcoming the inevitable roadblocks Jimmy John Liautaud went from as close to last in his high school class as you can get, to over 1,200 Jimmy John’s locations in 40 states and opening approximately 200 units per year for the last three years. You see, there is always another way to accomplish what you set out to do (think Jimmy John’s Hot Dogs) and that some how, some way, if you really want to be successful, you can absolutely can achieve it.

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Join us tonight for Ryland Homes ribbon cutting and mixer at its new model at the Ashton Pointe subdivision (just north of the Pingree Road train station) in Crystal Lake from 4:30 to 7 p.m. All Crystal Lake chamber members as well as their guests are invited to attend.

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Showcase your business in front of 5,000 potential customers at the 2013 Crystal Lake Home & Business Expo March 23-24.You know your competitors are there so why aren’t you? Expo is one of the best, most cost-effective ways to market your business. Go to to register today.

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The Crystal Lake chamber is excited to present our first “Out to Lunch” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 27at Georgio’s Chicago Pizzeria & Pub, 75 E. Woodstock St., Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake chamber members meet over an informal lunch and let each know about your business. Cost is $15(payable at the door) and includes pizza, salad and soft drinks.

• Gary Reece is president of the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce. Email

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