Don’t get too comfortable.
I can remember my dad saying this to me as a boy. It wasn’t unusual for me to come in the house and plop myself in front of the TV whenever I got home. He would proclaim this advice as a forewarning when he had something in mind for me to do such as cleaning the barn, or building a fence or one other of 3.5 million things he came up with to keep me busy as a teenager. I swear I moved a fence line somewhere on the property anytime he would go out of town. My dad’s philosophy on keeping us kids out of trouble was to keep us busy. Whether that worked or not is the writings for another time but it was his philosophy none the less. And living on a small farm gave him plenty of opportunities to keep me busy.
I also remember hearing something my dad told me about a good friend of his a few years later. This was about 7 or 8 years after I have moved away from home but I was working in my dad’s company. I always had somewhat of a soft spot for anyone that could maintain a close friendship with my dad as he could be a little difficult. At times, he was judgmental, often erratic and could be downright explosive when he drank. Friends that could see through to the good sides of my father also had to endure the rough edges. So anyone that had the patience or the goodness to be my dad’s friend earned my respect. This is how I felt about my dad’s friend RG.
RG was a home builder and this time period in the mid to late 1980’s was still struggling from a housing recession in our area. For years this good family friend had craved a very nice living for him and his family but a couple of things had changed. For one, the housing market was very soft. This meant that the once profitable business did not produce like before. But another thing had happened. With years of prior success, RG had been able to do less work and play more. He had been able to golf several times a week. He was able to spend weeks at a time in Hawaii. He had gotten comfortable.
I remember when my dad told me that RG was in financial trouble. My dad was bothered because even though his business was hurting RG still was doing all the leisure activities that not only cost money but took him away from his business. My dad’s sense of right and wrong was very strong even if at times it seemed hypocritical to me. He could not see why his good friend was not making the tough choices needed in these tough times. He felt RG had gotten too comfortable.
But I clearly remembered this lesson that unfolded right in front of me. I, too, was bothered why someone of RG’s experience would not do what it took to save his business. How could he not see that drastic times called for drastic measures? I told myself that I would not make that mistake. The cockiness of my youth combined with the self-confidence of my past good work ethic made me believe this to be an easy choice. This was one that ANY self respecting business man or family man would make, right? I vowed to not forget this.
Fast forward to 2009; after decades of strong sales, my business has seen the last 24 months of negative sales. Even though we have thrown everything we have at it, this economy continues to be a challenge for our company.
In September of this year marked my 25th wedding anniversary. For many years, Laura and I had planned to make our first ever trip to Europe to celebrate. But about a year ago, I decided it was not a good time to spend that kind of money. Instead, we could combine a business trip of mine to Hawaii this year in October with some extra time at the end for just us. Hey, it’s not Europe but who doesn’t like Hawaii? It would still be some vacation time to celebrate our anniversary.
Most recently, my business has been even slower. There appears to no light at the end of tunnel at the moment and I have taken some pretty severe steps to protect us moving forward. For instance, I have taken over the role of District Manager in our company with the person that held that position taking over one of our restaurants. I have always worked 6 days a week but now I am busier than I have been in years. We have made serious cuts in spending and if it doesn’t need to happen, it doesn’t. This includes business trips to Hawaii, let alone extra days at the end to vacation.
I feel bad for Laura that we can’t go to Hawaii and celebrate our 25th. Hell, I am not happy about it myself. I also feel terrible because I had some obligations to my fellow KFC franchisees on this trip as I am currently the President of the NW KFC Franchisee Association. But in my world of right and wrong, I can’t go spend both the time and money on comfort when business is so bad. There is too much to do back at home and I am busy.
I remember back to the lesson I learned watching my dad’s friend responding to his failing business. I refuse to bury my head in the sand. But I was cocky to think it is easy to do. No one likes to make the tough choices. No one wants to give anything up and that is just as true for me. I think sometimes we don’t realize how over time we get used to things being easier. But to survive and succeed I need to do things I don’t want to do. I don’t like it… and I don’t want to do it…but I must. I never want to say I wished I had done more. No regrets, right? I know what to do.
I won’t be too comfortable.