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Fighters, Boxers, & Entrepreneurs

Fighters, Boxers, & Entrepreneurs

Hello and good day!

Remember the old Kenny Rogers song, "The Gambler"?

In case you are not familiar with it, part of the chorus goes like this:

You've got to know when to hold 'em

Know when to fold 'em

Know when to walk away

And know when to run

If you were to remake this song and call it "The Entrepreneur", you'd have to change the lyrics to the following:

You've got to know when to hold 'em

Know when to hold 'em

Know when to hold 'em

And know when to hold 'em

This would be a much less entertaining version of the song.

But it is the truth.

To build an enduring business, there is no folding, walking away, or running.

There is only holding and playing the cards you are dealt.

You have to stay in the game no matter what.

The underlying tension that our business has faced for the last several months is the very real possibility that we will run out of cacao and chocolate within the next year to year and a half.

We haven't bought any cacao so far this harvest season because of the historic rise in cacao prices and the unprecedented competition out where we've been buying cacao for the last 16 years.

The world market price has risen from $3,000 per ton to over $11,000 per ton over the course of one year.

Shortages in Ghana and Ivory Coast, the world's two largest cacao producing countries, as measured by volume, has sent industrial cacao buyers into every nook and cranny of every country that grows cacao.

It has been tough sledding.

But we've been holding our cards and playing them, with no intention whatsoever of walking or running away.

A friend asked me the other day if we are nervous about what might happen.

I told her that we are not.

We are focused.

We are taking the challenge seriously.

But we are not nervous.

Here is why.

We almost went out of business in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2020.

That is 5 times in 16 years, a once every three-year average.

This is not new territory for us, and we have great confidence in our ability to manage our way through hard spots.

One of my favorite people to listen to is the boxing trainer Teddy Atlas.

I've listened to just about every interview of his that I can find.

He wrote a great book too, which I highly recommend, if you are ever looking for an excellent read.

Teddy Atlas makes a distinction between a boxer and a fighter.

A boxer has technical ability. They know how to defend themselves, keep their hands up, and throw combinations.

Their foot work is correct, and their conditioning will allow them to be competitive for an entire fight. A good boxer will win a lot of fights because of their knowledge and preparation.

But only fighters become world champions. Every legend of the sport is a fighter.

This is because sooner or later, a boxer will be hit flush and find themselves on jelly legs with their opponent coming in for the kill.

They'll be in deep water with their head buzzing and the crowd roaring and sweat gushing into their eyes.

In those moments, which every boxer will have to face eventually, a boxer has to decide whether they will stand and fight or quit.

Those who stand and fight become fighters.

It doesn't matter whether they win or lose because either way, they learn something about themselves that can never be taken away.

They lose their fear of confronting hard situations because there is no question in their mind about who they are and how they will behave when the fight turns against them.

They've been tested and found worthy.

It kind of sucks that it has to be this way.

But then again, there are many things in life that kind of suck that don't appear to be on the verge of going away anytime soon.

Genetic baldness comes to mind as something I wish I didn't have to deal with.

I'm sure that my bald brethren out there can relate.

It is harder to stay in shape as you get older.

Kids stressing out their parents is evergreen.

White men can't jump (another one I suffer from, I'm 6'4" and I have never been able to dunk a basketball).

Upstate New York gets a million feet of snow every year.

And as far as I can tell, from books I've read, people I've talked to, and from life experience, part of the job description of becoming a successful entrepreneur is that you have to earn the right to call yourself a fighter.

Here is the methodology that I've learned for keeping composure when everything seems to be falling apart.

Get together with a group of smart people.

In my case, I confab with my dad, my brother, and my wife.

Lay the problem on the table and brainstorm your solutions.

Keep talking and talking and brainstorming until you have a plan that you and your group agree is your best option.

It might not be a perfect option.

In fact, it almost certainly won't be a perfect option.

Perfection is an unreachable ideal in this world that we live in.

A pretty decent plan is the best you can hope for.

Break your plan into action items.

And then work your plan.

From that point forward, your thoughts should not be on the problem, they should only be on the plan.

Day in and day out, you work your plan, because that is all that you have under your control.

The fighter who is in trouble and under duress in the ring shouldn't think about how much trouble they are in.

They should think about clinching, or running, or throwing punches, or doing whatever they can to make it through the round, so that they can get back to their corner, sit on the stool, take a breather, and get their legs back under them.

Over the last week, the price of cacao has dipped from $11,000 per ton down to $8,000 per ton.

We are watching closely, and we've made preparations with our team out in campo to fire up the operation full blast if the market continues to move in our favor.

By the way, detailed descriptions of every time we almost went out of business are in my book that is coming out June 4.

There have been some real doozies which were downright terrifying at the time.

Those experiences have turned out to be positives in the long run though, because they allowed us to prove our mettle.

If you find yourself in some kind of fight, work your plan, and act like a champion.

It is worth it.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day.


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