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The statistics on business failure are scary – a huge percentage of online businesses fail in their first few years. Here’s one question to ask that just might help you make your business failure-proof.

The big takeaways:

  • The main reason many online businesses wind up failing
  • The question I ask myself to help eliminate potential failure points in my business
  • The one asset that practically guarantees I will bounce back quickly, even if I lost my whole business tomorrow

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39 Replies to “Preventing a business disaster (with one simple question)”

  1. Thank you Jeff for this video. I love the idea that building my email list will greatly mitigate my risk of crashing and burning one day…Also why wouldn’t I buy my business is a great survival question to ask!

  2. Fabulous!! The right question at exactly the right time!! Needed this like we need oxygen.
    Thank you for your wisdom.

  3. Jeff, Key insights on such a simple but proprietary ingredient necessary for businesses with any attachment to the digital realm. As a local marketer, this info is impetus to to get “Email Mgmt/Growth” products and strategies in front of local clients.

  4. so how does a person send out ONE e-mail to like, about 100 e-mails? is there a software program to do this? How? that is one of my blocks, not understanding certain online stuff…

    • There are many email providers, check Mailchimp for start, or ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, MailerLite etc….

  5. Thank you Jeff. I’m starting a new business Dec 1 renting a wellness facility that currently has 2,000 members and will immediately start capturing emails to add value to them. Thank you for the idea.

  6. Thank you, Jeff. It’s good to see how you continue to underscore the fundamentals (having an email list), while bringing up an important question (“why wouldn’t you buy this business?”) and a mental approach for using the answer to make the business more resilient.

  7. “Failure is not an identity, it’s an event.” That’s a great quotation and we need to try to remember that when things aren’t working out.

    A good reason not to buy your own business would be that you don’t have a ready supply of people you can tell about what you are offering. Obviously, this is where your email list comes in. Before the internet was widely used for business promotion I remember a company being highly-valued when sold, and the only reason was that they had a huge list of prospective (qualified) customers that they could contact.

    By the way, where was the video shot? It looks lovely.

  8. Great idea to look at one’s business from the outside – takes time to build a good team – I think it can’t be rushed – I will work today on my list – thanks

  9. What a great insight into your business. As I am creating my marketing plan for 2018, this gives me a lot to think about. Would I buy this business? That is huge! People do not realize how important that list is especially, if you have a great relationship with your list.
    Thank you so much Jeff for this!

  10. YES!!!! This is good stuff, Jeff. This happened to my first online business during Google Panda. 🙁 AND…I failed to put enough value on my email list!! Lesson learned…

  11. Jeff, your vision is always dead on when it comes to understanding how to keep moving in business and in life. I appreciate your critical thinking capability and the way you break things down into understandable and actionable steps. You are a grandmaster not just of marketing but of thought leadership.

  12. Truth. My list was under 1000 but it was very responsive. Life circumstances happened and I stopped communicating with them. I’m now growing a new list, with a new program, and a new team because I had another source of income. Would you suggest I reconnect with my old list to see if they want to join my new list?

  13. Jeff,
    This one is brilliant. This message keeps coming in from all sides, the power and importance of the Lists, of Connections, of relationship. The List Is people, not a piece of paper. It’s a hub of relationship lines.

    I love watching you talk. You reveal yourself,: strength and vulnerability. That’s true power. I trust you.
    Thank you. Suza. A lifelong entrepreneur who is finally stepping into the ring.

  14. Allen D’Angelo


    When I was in my early 20s I started eight businesses over the course of three years. Seven of those businesses failed and one was successful (the last one of the 8). The successful one was a high-end gourmet snack product company. I sold products through country clubs and hotel gift shops. One day I ran one ad and gift basket companies began ordering thousands to put into their gift baskets. Luckily I was young enough to recover from each failed business to learn enough to create one that worked. Thanks to my very supportive parents at the time. Through my experiences I learned to pivot on a dime and become a sharp fast learner. Two things were critical: [1] Creating and nurturing income producing assets — like my ad; an email list is one of them too. [2] Investing in myself, in my education because I knew no one can take that away from me. Jeff’s been a great mentor through his books and course alone. A few years ago I sold two businesses successfully. I have since been consulting with a fun company until I start a new venture in 2018. I will start that business with this question in mind: “When it’s time to sell this business why would or wouldn’t someone want to buy it?” I love this video Jeff because your question causes one to introspect.

  15. Jeff – Great video! I have to agree with everyone above that having an email list is key to online success. One question I have though is how do you build a relationship with your email list when starting from nothing? Would I figure you have to offer something of value (?) and build from that point? Thanks for everything you do, Jeff.

  16. Thanks Jeff!
    Publishing, building an email list, study the influencers in the industry I am interested in and go to live events to connect with them.

  17. I agree, building an email list is essential. But I might add other things as well. Keeping contact with the list is essential as is gaining their trust and appreciation of your knowledge and willingness to serve and help them. You want them to keep accepting and reading your incoming emails knowing you have something of value for them. This is what I try to do with my email list for my current business. But regarding if someone would want to buy my business, I have to pause here. I have a fine art printing business and I am really a one man band with occasional help from my wife. I offer high end giclee printing mostly to artists in my immediate area. But not only printing services, I also offer helpful advice as an exhibiting artist with over 50 years experience. I often give suggestions to new emerging artists on how to operate as an artist to sell works in the current art arena as well as promote oneself and build a career directed toward making a living either partially or fully as an artist. I certainly think I can sell the part of the business where I am doing high end fine art printing, but I can’t envision how I would sell that portion where I am personally offering advice and many years of knowledge in the field of art to other artists. What would I be selling? Sure would appreciate some insight and ideas about this.

  18. Spot on Jeff! I’m in a manufacturing B2B2C business, so your insight is right where we’re at –fighting to get direct “access to the consumer” via emails (and other data sources if you want to get sofisticarse). This is pretty much the same battle all manufacturing brands are fighting.

  19. Hi Jeff,
    I have been following you for a year or more? Here I am re-building on another idea, but never could get an email list going….yet.
    I’ve always loved your work (still do!) and your authenticity. No hype, no b.s. just a super nice guy and that’s why I keep learning from you in bits and pieces.

    Thanks for sharing and teaching, and I’m heading over to your blog now 🙂

  20. Thanks, Jeff. I’m taking with me the insight of thinking in terms of why someone would not want to buy my business. I had never considered that before. It’s a good one! Thanks!

  21. Great to see someone talking about disaster planning. I’m in the business continuity consultancy where we help businesses plan and mitigate against the “What ifs” what if something stopped you doing “business as usual” what impact would have and how you can back to business as quickly as possible. Jeff, you’ve given a great example of a “what if” and steps to take to prevent it.

    The majority of businesses have no plans about what to do if things go wrong, eg extreme weather, loss of data, loss of cash, loss of utilities, cyber attack etc etc etc. Make sure it’s not you.

  22. Such novel and helpful info. We are also growing a virtual team and have been working like this for the past three years. Your so right about the leadership and team development part because as the leader you almost begin to focus more on the people in your team and ensuring they are productive and profitable with high moral than the actual product of the business. It’s like the business has a great product, and you lead the people on the team that causes that product to be great….and the better you lead, the better your team performs – and as such – your product almost automatically becomes more awesome. So – yes – build an awesome team!!!

  23. Julie Morton


    Another great offering. Thank you! I also love that when one video ends, another begins.

  24. Great video wisdom, as always!! Don’t know what I’d do without my email list. My list are community members and. Our relationship just keeps getting better! I learned the hard way though. I stopped having regular contact with my community of subscribers that I’d built for years when I was so busy with customers, orders and launching a new website to scale my business. I was in contact, but not weekly. Now I would stay in touch and involve them into experiencing the process, for a behind the scenes glimpse into what was happening. When my new website launch failed if I’d had a warm list I could have communicated with them about what was happening and done email marketing to get their support and help me survive. I’m finally in full recovery mode after five intermittent years. I’m glad for all of it now though because I had to reach deep within to my core for the strength to carry on against all odds and miraculously I’ve survived. I’m very grateful for all that I’ve learned. I hope what I have to share with others is now even more impactful to the quality of my their lives.

  25. As always Jeff, an excellent post. Thanks for sharing your over 2 decades of business building experience with us.

    Even seasoned old dogs like me often need reminders 🙂


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