Sometimes when I'm feeling negative or particularly stressed, it helps to draw upon a lesson I learned from my disastrous sales career. I'll get to the lesson in a moment. First let me explain how I learned it.
Both of my attempts at entrepreneurship were miserable failures that ended in complete liquidation. Belly-up business No. 1 involved a certain 5-year-old scrubby kid peddling pretty rocks up and down Lois Lane, a narrow street in Goshen, Ohio, where tar bubbles used to raise up like black boils in July and August. Business was clipping along at a nickel a sale until word got out that the merchandise was hand selected from the customers' own driveways. The good news is there was little overhead to sell off.
Several years later, my best friend, Jimmy Reddington, and I launched a far more honest trade -- worm sales. The business model for J&J's Bait was quite simple. We would hunt night crawlers by night and sell them to passing fisherman by day. Like the shiny rocks, the worms were free. And this time they came from my own yard. We fashioned our wooden signs and even obtained an official Ohio bait-sales permit. Though we sold a few dozen crawlers, each complete with a styrofoam cup and a lid just like our competitors, sales plummeted within weeks.
In hindsight I realize that opening a franchise at both our homes was premature. It also didn't help that we liked riding bikes and tromping through the woods more than we liked manning the company store. When our moms tired of filling in for us, we liquidated. That's a fancy way of saying that we took down our signs and went fishing.
Still, despite my track record in sales, there is one business principle I hung onto: How to take inventory, a process that typically involves an annual review of what's stacked on the shelves and hanging on the racks. It is an itemized list of all the goods and commodities -- rocks and worms -- in a company.
Today, however, inventory involves a reflection on my life. Usually I take it on my long commute home in the afternoon. Sure there have been losses -- my Dad, John Sr., in 2000. But there have been many more gains. Some people prefer to call them blessings. Either way, I like counting them: My faith, my wife, Julie, our three beautiful and brilliant girls (Greta, Georgia and Josie) our families, our friends… .
Business is good.