I wrote this passage on my trip home from the tradeshow that I attended in Chicago. I have some additional thoughts that I have added at the end but wanted to share what I initially wrote.
I also really enjoyed the my small group meeting last night and was inspired too.
The first part – written on Saturday evening 3-11-17
I had a very successful week in Chicago. It has basically been non-stop since last Saturday. I am on the flight heading back to New York and this is the first time I get to reflect on the week. We exhibited at the Pittcon tradeshow and had countless meetings. We also made connections with many new leads and existing customers. What really stuck out was that it has been five years that I have been working with these companies. One Japanese company and one Swedish company. I have relationships with other companies but these are the ones that I originally partnered with and participate together with them at tradeshows, etc.
On reflecting throughout my career, I have found one theme that is prevalent and that is I value and I strive to develop strong working relationships. Yes, this may be harping on the obvious but this is really important to me. Before going any farther, I believe that I have never shared an important part of my life that shaped my desire to start and grow a business as well as having strong working relationships.
Most of my friends who I have met in my adult life don’t know much about this. I hold the following near and dear to me and this shaped some of who I am. The reason I don’t share this is that I have stories that people would judge me, etc.
In the mid to late 1920’s early 1930’s my great grandfather – first generation immigrant peddled soft drinks and built it up to be a small successful business (pre/post depression). Sometime in the early 1930’s they traveled from Bristol Connecticut where they resided to a tradeshow in New York. At that time some unknown company was selling rights for Pepsi Cola. My great grandfather purchased the rights to distribute this brand for Central Connecticut. Over the years that small soft drink company grew to be a large brand. As a result, the family business grew as well. The business remained in the family through two more generations – my grandfather and his brothers and then to my father and his brothers.
The family business was undeniably a big part of the first 18 years of my life. Yes and so was sugared water with caffeine. I am relatively resistant to it as result.
From a very young age I had the chance to work in the business. I did every job a kid could do including– putting stickers on cans and bottles when the 5 cent deposit bottle bill was enacted (I believe that I was like 7 years old); helping delivering soda to stores; helping the service team deliver coolers; loading trucks; washing trucks; working in the recycling center where the cans and bottles are crushed; etc. Hard work – an honest day as some would say, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
I thought that I would be part of the next generation.
To make a long story short, on January 20, 1990 my family sold the business as it was the best circumstance given the nature of the industry. At that time I was devastated. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened as the dynamics that were needed to grow the business to the next level were not there. Family businesses are not for every generation and every family.
During the 1980’s I grew up with some cool perks including Michael Jackson concerts as well as the chance to meet Lionel Ritchie and Tina Turner. I remember going to Lincoln Center in 1983 to watch the advertising premiere featuring Michael Jackson (it was right after his hair was burned in the filming of a commercial). I sometimes reflect during the Tina Turner part of stretch night. I had the chance to go to countless Hartford Whalers Hockey games and New York Yankees baseball games. Although these were cool perks, this is relatively meaningless to me. I think the Yankees still have too many fair weather fans and I have been protesting the NHL since the Hartford Whalers moved to Carolina… Okay enough sports talk.. These perks were meaningless.
What has stayed with me and has shaped me as a person is to witness firsthand what working relationships are about. The business had strong customer relationships as my family and the business were very involved in the community. It’s been 27 years since the business was sold and I still walk into some old customers and restaurants when in Connecticut and we still have endearing conversations like it was yesterday. Many of these businesses are restaurants and stores that are the epitomy of hard work and sacrifice – the American dream as some call it. I benefited tremendously from these relationships. The employee relationships were very strong too. I learned so much at an early age from these people. Many of them are like family. I cherish many of these people and hold many of them close to my heart. I sometimes get emotional when thinking about some of these people and experiences. My most memorable summers were when I worked in the business.
What does this have to do with anything? On January 19 on the eve of the company sale I made a final visit with my father. It was a Sunday evening. My father said to me that we would start something new someday. I took that comment to heart and made a promise to myself to build something on my own.
Which brings me to now. I have realized that one of my strengths is that I value developing long term working relationships. I know that the vendors I work with trust me. I continue to work with individuals and companies that want the same and shy away from companies that don’t desire long term relationships. This was prevalent this week. I also noticed that I keep in close contact with many of my ex-employers or at least the ones that are interested in maintaining long term working relationships.
Additionally, on Friday I had the chance to visit one of my largest customers and I realized that many of the people met with me. Several years back one of the products I sell was approved for a large project. This gave me the chance to sell within this organization. During this visit, I realized that not only do these people meet me to learn about what’s new but also because it’s me and the relationship I have with them. I was flattered when this was brought to my attention.
My childhood experiences also give me the drive to build something! This is the reason I continue to strive/persevere. The official legal name of my company is Ganba International LLC – (which means to persevere / strive in Japanese – Ganba is shortened for Ganbaru). I don’t use this name every day but its on my legal documents.
I was going to leave the message at this but that would shy away from my PSP Goal. Here is more and some of this was addressed last night… I thank my small group for listening and asking questions.
I have good vendor relationships/ and products as well as access to customers, etc. However, what I still lack is a system that will effectively and efficiently get my products to the customer. I sometimes trip over my own feet. If this business is to grow I get to invest more resources into more support and technology so that I can better scale the operation. I have made some efforts at this but have not gone 100 percent. I currently have the support of someone working for about 20 hours. However, I need someone to be dedicated to at least 40 hours. At least 20 hours per week of accounting and order processing support; and at least 20 hours of marketing support. I also need to have a dedicated work space to carry this out. Having remote options makes it difficult to stay focused. I get to manage this better. I am happy that I am in a better position than I was last year and the year before that; however, things would be better if I took the full plunge! I have gotten my feet wet but have not gone all in!!
Honestly, I am a risk taker when it comes to me and my time but more risk averse when it comes to things that are beyond me. However, in order to make this a scalable operation I get to take these educated risks.
I sometimes view the world with scarcity when there is no reason to. I sometimes shun support from others as for fear of hurting my pride or giving up certain freedoms. However, this has caused me to pay some prices such as wasting time, extra stress, etc.
I love the selling process and I love building relationships. I understand the operations and what is needed but am a bit of a control freak and get to move past this if I want to grow. I also get to speak up with my partners for what I need and what works for me. I sometimes hold back on things for fear of causing friction.
I get to include the values I learned at an early age into the business I am growing!
Below are some pictures from recent shows.
Picture from the Pittcon Trade Show with people from the Swedish company I work with.
Picture from November at a tradeshow with the main Japanese company I work with.