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