IN 1975, I WAS THE INDESPENSABLE MAN

I had absolute job security. I could not be fired – but I could not be promoted, either. So I wound up getting the work done, while the newly hired kids set at their desks, balancing their checkbooks and talking about the weekends Sunday School class. Or umpiring Dixie Youth baseball. Or any one of a thousand other things.

Me? I opened the doors at 7 AM, and locked up at 7 PM. I dealt with the customers, sold equipment, got it delivered and installed, and did what needed to be done. Interesting work – but hard on the wife and the three kids in high school.

Of course, the salary was commensurate with the responsibility. But reporting to a kid two thirds my age, who took home more money than I did, and who made no visible contribution to the company’s bottom line rankled. So I quit and went into business for myself. A non-competitive business, so I had to start completely from scratch.

I had one supplier, no customer lists, no goodwill, nothing but my determination to darn well make this thing work.

And it was rough for a while. My wife took on two newspaper routes to keep us in groceries while I scoured the country for customers. Fortunately, the Carter recession had not hit, so I found plenty of interest. Interest that grew as the first tentative orders were filled and satisfied customers started to talk me up. As they will if they are satisfied.

Sales went from less than $5,000 the first year to more than $500,000 in the sixth year. By the twentieth year, I had to close my retail operation and depend strictly on dealer sales. That has worked out well. I have only a couple of hundred customers instead of twenty thousand. So now my company is the sole supplier to many small dealers. And that’s how the circle turns.

Oh yes, I know of nothing more frightening than walking off the job for the last time. I did that several times before my stint in the Corps, and twice in the 56 years since.

I quit my first job out of the Corps because of a personality clash with a boss. Just down the street from the school was a radio shop and a man with a broken arm. I offered to repair his radios for a flat five bucks each. And “relick my calf” for free if the customer was not satisfied. That led to a better job, and a better one, and then a third job – as the guy who could take a proposition and turn it into reality – on time and in budget.

After twenty years on that job, I was passed over for promotion one time too many. So I quit, to do what I do now. And I make at least as much as I did at my last job, make a lot of folks happy, and most of all, I satisfy myself with what I do. That’s something that I seldom did when I was someone’s wage slave.

It takes a goodly dose of tincture of time to be a success in this world. And a few prayers as well.

Stranger

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