We find ourselves again in interesting times, as the old Chinese curse goes. Congress has forgotten how to lead; our government seems to be intent on confusion instead of solid policy. So what do we do when we find ourselves living in interesting times? We can be very cautious, hold tight to our present position, basically put our head in the sand and hope that when we pull it back out all will be right in our world again. Or we can decide for ourselves that we are not participating in the paranoid press that surrounds us and push ourselves and our companies forward and thrive.
It takes courage at times like this to make those decisions. Let me tell you a story:
Many years ago, a man decided to make a difference in his life, and the lives of his wife and children. He had been working in the rat race of a big metropolitan city, traveling, fighting traffic, struggling with the conflicting motivations of his business partners. This man decided to leave the security of his business, separate from his partners, uproot his family from their home and move 700 miles to a new city, start a new business and work for a better life for his wife and children. Courage! He worked hard, at first out of the garage, loading a van with a variety of sewing machines, button feeders and parts, and heading off early Monday, returning sometime late on Friday, hopefully with an empty van. Hard work, determination, and courage to do what he knew needed to be done were his motivators. He knew he had to succeed.
From humble beginnings his company started to gain reputation. You always knew that he stood behind what he sold, was always there for the customer. He knew you provided service, service, and service. He worked in the garment industry, an industry that is normally the first to go down in a recession and the last to recover. Just because someone in Washington said we were in a recession did not mean he could ease off any. His children did not stop eating, they did not stop going to school and college, and his family still needed the roof over their head. So he decided not to listen to the experts telling of a recession, he just worked harder.
Years later, after battling through the recessions, Washington thought they finally got the last laugh when they changed the laws and exported our garment industry first to the Caribbean and later across the globe. They took his industry out from under him. Now in his mid-50’s, he found himself facing another challenge. Once again, he showed his courage, he crossed over into the new industry, and with nothing more than his determination and imagination and vision, started over once again.
How many of us have this courage today? To start over again, underfunded, during a recession, into a new industry that has never heard your name? And to make matters worse, he had convinced his son to join him, with that new family also depending on the business to survive. But he had also done an excellent job teaching his son what was important; hard work, determination, and the understanding that you have the choice to participate in the recession or not. He taught courage to his son as well.
The business grew, from half of a two car garage filled with sewing machines and feeders, into a manufacturing plant. Once again, as the company grew, he showed courage. He felt his time leading the company had come to an end, that it was his son’s turn to lead. He realized for that to happen, he had to leave, physically remove himself from the company he built. How hard is it to hand over the keys to the business you built (your “other” child) and walk away? But with his personality, it was the only way. He knew he had taught his son well, knew it would be in good hands and properly cared for. So one day he packed his desk and moved away, keeping the phone close for advice when asked, but stepping away from the company he created.
After so many battles, so many years of hard work and dedication and devotion, he lost his last battle to cancer on August 1. Through to the end, through all the pain he suffered, he never once gave up. All his life he showed courage. How many of us walk with courage each and every day? How many of us face the hurdles and road blocks that life throws at us, determined to keep our head high, moving forward, knowing we will succeed? Courage.
I miss my father.
Leonard Frushtick, May 11, 1931 – August 1, 2011