Hard to be Thankful isn’t it?

Tom Crouser November 22, 2011 1

As a business owner, it sure seems hard to find things to be thankful for this week. For most of us, sales are still down, the economy is the worst since the great depression, government is having a hard time functioning and there is no end in sight. Our reliable customers are using less of what we do and there’s even more intensive price competition for what remains. Yes, it’s hard to be thankful this week. Or is it?

All people focus on the own self-interest first. It’s natural. Well, if what I described above is the biggest worries you have then you have a lot to be thankful for. At least that’s what crossed my mind as I found myself pondering the outlook for our industry.

Ray Irvine, a printer in Bountiful, Utah, learned from his doctor one January that he had pancreatic cancer. I attended his funeral that October. Okay, so you and I can site numerous examples of people who are facing dread disease, family breakups and/or many other hardships far greater than our business problems. That’s not why I brought Ray’s story up.

You see, I worked with Ray in our performance group which later morphed into CPrint® International. I was in our San Diego boardroom with him and his other board members that March when he explained what was happening to him.

You could hear a pin drop after he told everyone about his diagnosis. Then he said, “I immediately looked up pancreatic cancer on the Internet and found out that was a really bad thing. I cried and was immobilized. That lasted a few weeks and then I realized if I only had a little time left; that I’d better be getting my business in shape so it could survive without me. That’s when I went back to work.”

And work he did: his business budgets and action plans were weaved among his treatments along with sales calls and dealing with personnel issues.

Ray’s two siblings were a well-to-do lawyer and a doctor. Ray was one of those happy people who seemed to me to sail through life on a wave of optimism and cool activities. I remember him with sunglasses and a smile. Seems to me he was always bike riding, climbing mountains, going to parties or doing something outside of the shop. I’m sure he had his moments but I never saw any.

Whether by choice or by chance, he went to work for his father in the small print shop in town doing what you do … typesetting, press work and bindery and everything else. Dad even passed one evening while he was working late and Ray found him the next morning in the shop.

At the memorial service, many spoke of Ray’s exploits as you can imagine. I, on the other hand, spoke of Ray the Printer and business owner who excelled at what he did. I told them of the guy I knew who continued to work to make his business better for those he was going to leave behind. And I told them of how much his peers respected Ray for the business results he achieved. And how much the customers appreciated his service over the years for Ray was a printer as was his father before him. Civilization depends a lot upon printers; most education, commerce and entertainment couldn’t exist without help from a printer. But then, look who I’m talking to now, you know this.

Yes, it certainly is hard to find business things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. But I can tell you one thing I’m thankful for and that’s Ray Irvine. He showed real courage in the face of adversity. He not only functioned in the worst of times but is now a role model for me and many others.

So what’s that we were saying about our troubles? Our reliable customers are using less of what we do? Start doing what they need instead of what we know. If they need what we don’t know; learn it. Sales are down? What sales process are we using or are we waiting for customers to just appear? Sure the economy is bad but that doesn’t mean all individual businesses are bad. Decide to be the exception and then get on with doing it.

I’d have a feeling that is what Ray would do.

Happy Thanksgiving to all

Tom Crouser

One Comment »

  1. Tom Crouser November 25, 2011 at 7:47 am -

    As a postscript to this message … here’s an edited email I received from another printer-friend after publishing this message
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    Dear Tom:

    I cried today when I told my wife I might not be here next Thanksgiving!

    Last Friday I had another CT scan. The scan hadn’t been read by a radiologist when I had the consultation with the oncologist. His comments were guarded, “tumors in the abdominal cavity had grown.” He had switched chemo drugs about six weeks prior and it’s an indication that the new drug wasn’t doing what the previous drug had done. I had endured the worst three weeks of my life with treatment effects.

    On the other hand, he said, “your protein is good! That’s an indication you’re doing something right nutritionally, besides, you’ve proved the mortality prognosis of your surgeon wrong.”

    My nephew who is a radiologist and owns a large MRI clinic in New York concurred with the oncologist, but goes into more mater-of-fact discussion. It’s not hard to read between the lines to know my days are numbered. Even though, he’s an encouragement and one that has made me think about being sure I’ve done what is needed to take care of my wife.

    Well, all in all, it’s tough getting one’s arms around what’s happening, but I must say that I am thankful for the life I had and the days with some quality that will be left for me to live out with a positive attitude.

    On the positive side, my wife and I are moving to an adult independent living community (they also have four levels of care beyond independent). It’s a really nice place, one of the best in the state; in addition, I am thankful for family and their support and help. The thankful list can go on . . . but I’ll spare you the details except to say our secured debt in the business is paid off.

    With the move, we will be selling the house. We’ve got someone to do an estate sale to get rid of what we don’t take with us. The next challenge is the business.

    I need to talk to you about the business options. [Long-time employee] has kept things running during all of this. She has a great attitude and loves us like family. I try to do little things like buying her a precooked Thanksgiving dinner that will feed an army. Her response tells and we are thankful for her contributions.

    I think I’ll go home and have a rare Bombay Gin & Tonic while I warm up the Anastasi beans, rice and kilbasa, and then sit down and enjoy a piece of my homemade mince-meat pie

    Many thanks & Happy Thanksgiving …
    = = = =
    Just a reminder for us all that even in these tough economic times, we can all find something to be thankful for. Have a great Thanksgiving weekend …

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