Chapter 1 – Complete.
On February 4th, 2020, the day I purchased our 3rd Generation family sign business from Mark Stein, there were 11 total cases of COVID in the United States. Today, we are approaching 30 million. If someone told me what the next year would look like before I signed the dotted line, I’m not sure if I would have followed through with the purchase. The uncertainty. The volatility. The responsibility. Trying to figure out how to run a business while one of the deadliest and costliest pandemics strikes the globe. Yet, here I am one year later with one helluva story to look back on. “Woe is me” entered my mind for a brief period last spring. But that didn’t last long because those that truly know me, realize I’m always up for a challenge.
Here is irony at its best. My Dad gave me a letter on his last day of work. It was a letter filled with advice, which I actually re-read today and plan to do so each year on this day. It was lengthy, heartfelt, and still means a great deal to me 1 year later. The best part of the letter was in the first paragraph:
“We’ve talked about most of these things, and some of these you well know, or are already doing. But if nothing else, this will let you know I can relate to most everything you’ll be going through in the years ahead and am always available to talk, or to just listen.”
Sign the purchase agreement and then… Bam! COVID hits. Don’t ever recall visiting about how to navigate and survive a global pandemic, Dad.
I soon dismissed the “Woe is me" mentality. Instead, what an opportunity! What a unique chance to learn and grow as a leader. There will always be challenges with running a business, but having this experience will most certainly prepare me and our team for future successes.
I wrote myself a letter on 2/3/19, the day before I purchased the business, with the intention of using the letter as a reality check after my first year as owner. I covered several topics within the letter. The first part I remind myself of how blessed I am to have this opportunity. My dad (and mom too) sacrificed so much through the years to make ends meet. Second, make a difference in the lives of your team, customers, and community. Create experiences that make them say, “WOW!” by Living the Vision. Third, stay present at home and don’t shortchange the very most important people in my life. Lastly, when things are going well – give God the Glory and put your trust in Him. And when things are not going well, do the same thing.
Looking back on my first year of business ownership, there were certainly some highlights. The company remains profitable, in stable condition, and fortunately we were able to navigate the last year without a single layoff. There were WOW experiences for our team, customers, and communities. My family is still by my side and my faith undoubtedly grew over the last year. If I’m being transparent, there are also many areas I fell short and will learn from too. I’m not perfect; I’m just trying to get better each day.
Here’s the neatest part of the story. Mark, in his final and 40th year with the company, led the company to its all-time highest year in sales volume. I am still so happy for him! But guess what? While we may not surpass our sales from last year, the company has a realistic shot to finish with our 2nd best year of all time, which ends on 3/31/21. Incredible! My sincerest thanks to each and every one of our team members-- the last year was a total team effort.
Chapter 2 begins now.