Strong work ethic and fundamental economic practices were no match for the kind of economic decline I was experiencing. The realization that mismanagement and poor decisions as a private business owner were not solely to blame for my declining economic standing, (I have questioned every decision made in the last 30 years to come to that opinion). I found myself working 75% harder for 75% less and by now feeling grateful to be working at all). In order to uncover the real contributing factor for my individual predicament, there was more work to do.
I thought I had a firm grip on fundamental economics, only to find I was embarrassingly ignorant. It was then that the journey began leading to the principles of our republic and my responsibility as a American citizen.
Summer of 2004: My business partner and I had just opened escrow on a 10,000 square foot facility. The manifestation of a life’s work. We both believed we would be retired by 2010. Little did we know that as we were moving into our new facility, forces were at work that would eventually rob (in the literal sense) us of a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice.
The accumulated experiences would result in a decision to read biographies of every U.S. President from George Washington to George Bush in chronological order. I had concocted the idea that the knowledge of those individuals, their times, economic and political environments would help me to understand the present and put things in perspective.
Aside from illuminating the path to economic salvation, it affected a fundamental change in my paradigm of the world and my place in it as an American. I am not the man I was 7 years ago.
Like so many Americans I was too busy living the dream. I had no time for politics beyond voting. Providing for a family is after all, a full time job. The country would have to take care of itself.
I thought poorly of people sitting at card tables in front of store outlets to get signatures for various bills or candidates. Not until I became “one of those people” did I truly understand their motivation and appreciate the importance of that kind of civic activism.
Having started my business with a green pickle barrel for my chair and 4’X8′ sheet of plywood for my desk in 1977, I had no idea how to manage resources other than myself, much less employ someone. Working out of my house for a number of years before I hired the first employee (a relative looking for part time work durning the summer) I was happy and making more money than I had ever imagined. It was a classic example of the “technician” knowing his trade in a growing economy. Being good at what I did (as many technicians are) when the economy grew, things took their natural course and I was on my way to financial independence.
Though at the time, I had no idea what-so-ever of what I was doing in the area of business and management. No business plan, no financial training, knowledge or prior experience. The phone was ringing and I either found a way to meet the demand or start turning clients away.
It’s easy to grow a company in good economic times. One doesn’t need a degree in math, economics or business management to turn a profit and cultivate their next move. For most of the 80’s money literally leaped from the streets and into your pocket. I came from textbook to practical application during the “Golf Oil Crisis”. My boss had an affair with his secretary and they ran off to Oregon together. One can imagine my dismay to be standing outside the office on a cold winter morning wondering why no one was there. One phone call and one day later I was working out of my garage and I never looked back.
If I were to reflect on those years, my conclusion would have to be that no one I looked up to and respected as professionals and businessmen knew much about running a business. That old saying “nothing new under the sun” certainly has been certified in my life experience.