It's probably safe to say that we've all had that "oh #*!@" moment at some point in our careers. You know, the one where you realize you just screwed up in a major way and there's probably no coming back? Yeah, fun times.

Passion is the fuel that drives entrepreneurs to do great things; sometimes with that passion comes naivety. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Best friends Matt Sconce and Keith Walker are movie fanatics. As young men, they made great memories at their hometown movie theatre, The Met--it's where Keith watched October Sky, sealing his fate to become an engineer and Matt cultivated his love of films, which inspired him to produce them. Naturally when they learned their old stomping ground was in danger of closing its doors, they didn't take the news sitting down.

The fact was, The Met wasn't selling many tickets. In an effort to keep the theatre alive, Sconce and Walker took it upon themselves to devise a membership plan, in which patrons could pay about twenty bucks a month and see unlimited movies.

They set a 30-day deadline and launched a large-scale awareness campaign that would funnel people to a website where they could sign up to be members. This included publicizing the story in local media, speaking at city events, and even getting people in the community involved.

And it worked. They gained 3,000 members that first month! But there was one problem: they didn't know the movie studios would not work with membership systems. This meant that they couldn't play any movies in their saved theatre and would now have to answer to thousands of patrons. BIG problem!

At this point, the guys figured they were doomed--a situation that most entrepreneurs can relate to at some time or another. These moments are the defining ones where you have to ask yourself--Am I going to cut my losses or keep going and figure it out?

Sconce and Walker chose the latter. The guys picked up the phone and talked to the studios about their concerns. They were well aware by this point that they put the cart before the horse--but decided to use it to their advantage. After all, they had 3,000 sign-ups in one month, proving that the membership system was valuable. This message wasn't lost on the studios--and eventually the two parties came up with a solution that worked for everyone: The theatre would pay the studios only after a patron walked through their doors to see a movie. After three months, they had three studios onboard. One year after their initial campaign, they got all the major studios to agree to play movies at The Met.

This ulcer-inducing experience made these two friends old pros at the movie theatre saving business and thus their startup, Movie Heroes, was born.

No doubt, those "oh #*!@" moments are terrifying. Unfortunately they come with the territory. The trick is to try to keep a cool, logical head and figure out how you can use them to optimize your goals. In the case of Movie Heroes, they were able to show a need for a system that wasn't in place. But maybe your defining moment causes a necessary and even more lucrative shift in your business. Oftentimes, those shifts are crucial to moving forward in the best way. Be thankful for those hair-raising times and have the courage to see where they take you!

Published on: Jan 26, 2015