Right now hundreds of giant reptiles in a failed Israeli crocodile tourist venture have some crucial business lessons to teach you. Go ahead and have a seat right down there at the front. Be ready to bolt, though. They can run surprisingly fast.

According to a CBS article, hundreds of the big reptiles have been stranded in the West Bank settlement of Petzael in the remote Jordan Valley of Israel. They were brought to that location in the mid-1990s to act as a tourist attraction. However, ensuing and ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians has kept people from visiting the area.

With the tourist attraction idea dead in the water, entrepreneur Gadi Biton swooped in and bought the big reptiles, planning to sell them for their skin. But, the Israeli government declared crocodiles protected animals in 2012 and made it illegal to sell them for their skin or meat.

Now, the hundreds of crocodiles get fed once per week by a single employee while they continue to reproduce and grow in numbers.

The fate of the reptiles is still undecided with the local government trying its best to find a solution together with Biton.

So, what can the big beasts teach us about business planning? Well, these three things for starters:

1. You have to take virtually everything into account when planning.

When you're planning a business venture, you cannot get tunnel vision. You have to look at every worst case scenario that you can think of and follow it to its most extreme conclusion.

As any Saudi Arabian doing business with a Canadian can tell you right now, things beyond your control can change in a second. A diplomatic spat between countries, a violent uprising or a natural disaster can throw your plans into disarray.

It would be impossible to take into account every single thing that could go wrong for your business that is out of your control, but extend your hypothetical worst case scenarios to cover a broad array so you are not completely caught without a plan.

For example, drug testing laws are in near-constant flux in the United States. It's not likely that drug testing will suddenly become illegal right across the country, but this is something we have discussed before at my business, which sells drug testing kits. If it were to happen, we'd be stuck with thousands of kits, which we'd have to find some way to unload. It's an unlikely scenario, but one that we've talked about.

2. You have to keep abreast of current events.

You have to pay attention to what's going on in the world around you. As many business people in the US and my home country of Turkey are finding out right now, the government can have a huge impact on your bottom line. One month everything is fine and the next you're forced to bump up your prices because of new tariffs or the bottom falls out of the national currency and then you're left scrambling.

At my business, we keep watching the march of cannabis legalization across the country with a keen eye, along with the detrimental opioid crisis because both of these situations could drastically alter the landscape of employment drug testing and that would affect our business. 

Whatever business you're in, if you weren't a news watcher before, you are now.

3. Multiple exit strategies are a must.

A businessperson should have multiple exit strategies in place. Many of them will probably see you lose money, but then it's better to take a loss than to continue to lose money. Sometimes you have to take the insurance money and walk away or sell your assets for what you can and restart elsewhere.

I've had to cut my losses on some businesses. When printing started to dry up, I had to sell the printing cartridges I had left from my online printer cartridge store at a discount and recoup what I could before shutting the website down. It's not how I wanted to exit that company, but I was grateful to be able to get out without losing my shirt.   

It can be hard to admit when a business isn't working, but it's better to get out while the getting is good than to risk being stuck with hundreds of crocodiles on your hands. 

Published on: Aug 24, 2018
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