(As told by him)
When I was about 7 years old, our mom’s new husband took Jeff for the first time to his local bar & grill, the Pic & Pan located in suburban Los Angeles. Not to party it up with the adults, but to play some pool with the old guys during the day. I’m sure what seemed a specially crafted adventure designed just for Jeff was actually a babysitting task for Jerry, our step-dad.
It was made abundantly clear by the old guys they wouldn’t put up with our brat self, and so began the lesson of taking seriously learning from someone older and more skilled. It was an advantage and opportunity. Over the years, I perfected our pool-playing prowess and eventually beat some of those old guys. The days spent at the Pic & Pan were some of the most fun days of our life, and I enjoyed other “adventures” there like perfecting a mean shuffleboard game, unlimited pinball play using the house’s red quarters and getting to meet a chunk of the Denver Broncos football team.
Yes, to Jeff, it was a house of fun, but to Jerry it was his business. Over those same years, at home, away from the “party”, I learned the realities and side effects of worrying about such things he called “payroll” and “accounts payable” and “theft” and “property damage.” Eventually, I also learned about “losing the lease” and “crooks” and “looking for a job.”
During those heyday years of the Pic & Pan, our mom also launched a business of her own called Jolly’s Bargain Shop, a modest big-window consignment boutique on our town’s four-lane main drag, where she combined her love of people, her gift of gab and her craving to acquire all sorts of collectibles, bric-a-brac, antiques and, well, junk.
Buying something at auction for $80 and selling it in the shop for $130 made her giddy, unless, of course she chose to give that item away to a friend, family member or would-be customer with a sufficient sad story. The act of giving something away still made her giddy, but for different reasons.
While hanging out with our mom at Jolly’s Bargain Shop I learned about “profit” and “loss” and “kindness” and “generosity” and “elbow grease.”
When I was teenager, our dad and step-mom, while still working full-time jobs, started a business selling Kachina doll plaques. They were beautiful, made from two pieces of wood – a backing piece, stained a natural dark wood tone and a front piece Kachina “doll” cut to form from plywood using a jigsaw and painted bright Hopi Indian colors. They sold well and we made hundreds of them. That is, I made hundreds of them. This is where I learned about “blood” and “sweat” and “tears” and “negotiate” and “seeing a job through” and “quality” and “start over” and “reward”.
It’s no wonder then that I’ve spent most of our life as a business owner. Dreaming, launching, testing, abandoning, succeeding, failing, giving, taking, compromising, standing our ground, giving in, and learning. Most of all learning. This is hugely important to you and your business.
Special Abilities To Serve You Well
Years ago, I would have said “for some reason” when discussing our broad interest in and mastery of various subject matter and activities. “Would have” until a decade ago when I read a book called “Refuse To Choose” by Barbara Sher, where she outlines her observation that prior to the industrial revolutions of Europe and America we celebrated generalists like Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison, et al, and it wasn’t until those industrial revolutions that as a society we began to celebrate and reward specialists while discouraging generalists.
Because we were now building cities and making products for growing mass consumer markets, we needed individuals to become expert in singular topics, and while this new system wasn’t ‘out to get’ generalists, there were simply no provisions made for them. Instead, a person was expected to select a course of study where they would become highly skilled in a specialty. They were then expected to solve problems in their specific area of specialty quickly and efficiently, and the threat of having them lose interest in the topic or be distracted by other disciplines didn’t serve society well. That’s when single-room school houses were closed, banned even, and public school and university systems morphed into what we know them as today - the Horace Mann championed, Prussian designed training camps for the specialist worker bees.
Instead of presenting a path choice for students; one where you could learn a lot about a lot of things, or one where you could specialize in a single discipline, the institutions demonized the generalists and shamed people into the specialist track, stating such things as “You must focus and eliminate the distractions.”
The good news, arguably, for society is that most people fit very well into the specialist category and are perfectly happy to drill vertically into their chosen area of expertise. For some of us however, sticking with a single topic can be maddening, and this is where you benefit from us.
Ms. Sher calls people like us “Scanners”, and we drill deep into a subject like the specialists, with an important distinction: we drill vertically and horizontally. While the specialist is intelligent to be sure, many of them do not want to learn new topics, new disciplines. The Scanner, on the other hand is energized with the new. Not simply satisfied with a generalist’s knowledge of a topic, the Scanner wants to KNOW a new topic, and that’s where the marketing world benefits from the Scanner mind.
Whether you own your business or you are charged with its upkeep, I understand you. I understand your peaks and valleys and what keeps you up at night. I understand personnel dynamics and conflict. And, most importantly, I can help you solve some of your most perplexing business problems – including the ones you don’t yet know you have.
Because of that entrepreneurial wanderlust, I have worked with some of the biggest and brightest marketing and media companies and minds in the world. Every encounter, every project was an opportunity to walk away with golden nuggets meant to be passed on to the benefit of our clients.