PROFILE: How An Informercial Guru Went From Rags To Riches

Dealing With Adversity

Every person who owns their own business has had to deal with adversity along the way, some more than others. Whether it is losing a huge client, a bankruptcy, lawsuits or what have you, business and problems often go together.

Could he have said, “I don’t have the $15,000?” Sure, easy, but he didn’t.

The real measure of an entrepreneur is how you handle that adversity. Of course it will be challenging, and no, there are no guarantees that the second time will be better, or even the third time — Henry Ford had two auto companies that went out of business before starting Ford Motor Co. at age 40.

Learning From the Best: How to Face Adversity in Business

This lesson was brought home when TheSelfEmployed recently spoke with an amazing entrepreneur — Tony Little. You probably know Tony from his trademark ponytail and hat, as well as his ubiquitous infomercials where he sells personal training videos and equipment in his infectious, enthusiastic style. With more that 40 million customers, it is said that he has logged more time on American television than any other celebrity. These days, he is on TV the world over (81 countries at last count) and he has generated more than $3 billion in sales globally.

But what you don’t know about Tony is the adversity he suffered, and the tenacity he has shown, on his way to becoming an incredible businessman:

In 1983, Tony was a Junior National Bodybuilding Champion, training for The Mr. America Bodybuilding Championship when he was blind-sided by a school bus and almost killed. He suffered numerous cuts over his body, two herniated discs, a cracked vertebra and a dislocated knee.

His bodybuilding dreams were over.

“I went into a three year depression,” he says. But clearly this is a man driven to succeed. After seeing a Jane Fonda exercise video, Tony found the will to move forward. He decided that he wanted to create a personal training exercise television show. The only problem? He had never done anything like that before.

Even worse: The cable company told him that he needed $15,000 to produce the show. So Tony created a business cleaning health spas. He raised the money in short order.

Could he have said, “I don’t have $15,000?” Sure, easy. Could he have thought, “I have no business being on TV, I’ve never done television.” Yes, he could have, but he didn’t.

What to Do When Your Business Faces a Setback

If you want to keep going in your business after a setback, do you know what you have to do? Keep going. Just keep going.

In 1987, Tony’s tenacity really paid off when he met the president and founder of Home Shopping Network. They struck a deal — if Tony could sell 400 of his videos within four shows, they would work together on more projects. Tony sold all 400 videos … in four minutes! He has gone on to sell millions of products and make millions of dollars through his HSN and QVC appearances as well as his infomercials.

But his story does not end there. In 1996, Tony was involved in another life-threatening car accident that damaged his face (more than 180 stitches), as well as two more disks in his back. But no, that didn’t stop him either. Today, he is more successful than ever.

The Key to Success When You Are self-Employed??

When I asked Tony what his keys to business success are, not surprisingly he said, “Enthusiasm sells!” If you have ever stopped to watch one his shows, you know that is true.

Equally importantly, he said, “There is always a way to the next level.” Tony’s life and career are a testament to that. Tony proves that though adversity happens, there is always a way to the next level.