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Make Fear Your Friend - The Countdown to Christmas




Earlier today, home from work at a reasonable hour, I decided it would be nice to take a hot bath. The next few days leading up to Christmas will be long and crazy working at the flower shops so relaxing for an hour, soaking in a tub, soothing my tired feet, sounded like heaven. As my husband prepared to relax and watch some football, I mentioned my idea to take a bath and catch up on some magazines, including the latest issue of Fortune Small Business. He was quick to say, "make sure you read something fun" as I peddled off upstairs. I laughed to myself at his comment because to me reading Small Business Fortune is relaxing compared to the Floral Management, Retail Florist, Florist Review, Flowers& and Floral Finance magazines that I read monthly. Compared to how work related those are, Small Business is as down right non-work related as it can get.

Anyway, I had been wanting to read the cover story in the December/January issue titled "Make Fear Your Friend" because with the economy the way it is and the big "R" word finally being used, I thought I knew what they would be addressing in that article. I breeze through the articles about people starting business, people selling businesses and others trying to just stay in business and finally I come the article that I wanted to read.

As I start reading the article it takes an interesting turn. It begins talking about how people are conditioned to respond when times get tough. I start thinking about myself and my own personal history, my ideas about money, security, work ethic and how I handle stressful situations. Now, it's no secret that if you are a business owner right now, times are a bit tougher than they've been for awhile. My husband and I have had to adjust our payroll, purchases, product line, pricing structure and how we collect money. When 3 items needed to be done at the two shops, we chose to do only 2, not all three. A year ago I might have thought that made me cheap but now it makes sense. Perfectly fine signage that still looks like brand new but has our old logo isn't that bad but having worn flooring looks horrible, so that has to go. It's funny how working with my husband shows how two people working together as partners in the same business can respond differently to the same issues. After reading this article I now know that it's not just whats going on around you that make you respond but things that have happened to you in the past make you "see" things differently.
Case in point. My husband who acts as our accountant in addition to a million other duties tends to bring to the table not only his years of experience as a Controller for other manufacturing businesses but also the experience of his own parents family business. That business failed back in the late 70's as he was heading off to college. Loosing your family home and watching your parents stress over everyday expenses has a way of making an impression, not to mention having to leave college and work in a machine shop to help the family make ends meet. The final straw in the family business? A broken water pipe that ruined all the product. Insurance? Not really enough. Funds to help pay expenses while there was no income? Again, not really. It was just too much, too fast and next thing you know, the business was no more.

Now, my background. I came from a very hard working family. My father worked two jobs, pretty much most of my life to pay the bills. My father loved his job but hated his job. That was always a hard concept for me to understand because I knew he loved what he did (supervise a cookie factory on the night shift) but hated certain aspects (his boss and the union that his direct reports worked for). His job was hard and stressful mostly because of daily aggravation caused by things that he could not control. I remember him complaining about work and I (at the innocent age of 8) asked him why he didn't just find a new job. "Because I have you I'm responsible for",was his reply. Many years later, after I had started my own first company, I told him what terrible guilt that had placed on me. I was responsible for my dad having to go to a job he hated. As an adult I knew that wasn't true but as a child it made me ask for nothing. If it cost money, I was not going to be the one to ask for it. Even as a dancing student in my early teens I arranged with my teacher to trade teaching classes in exchange for lessons with her. My mother was impressed, I was triumphant, one less expense for daddy to worry about. For me, two things were learned from my father that day. Number one, being trapped by a job that I did not like was not a good situation and so avoid at all costs. The second thing I learned was to work for what I needed and wanted so that I didn't have to be responsible to anyone for anything. I also learned from our conversation years later that he admitted that he was too afraid to look for a new job. I vowed to never be too afraid to take a risk, a risk that might lead to happiness. I also learned that it was up to me to make things happen, finding my own happiness was up to me. I had to choose to be in control as my father had chosen not to be. I realized that by choosing not to leave a job that left him feeling helpless, he chose to not be fulfilled. All because he feared risk and he feared failure. True success can't be appreciated without experiencing a few failures along the way. I don't want to fail but I don't fear it. I try like the devil to avoid it!!

So how does this strange mix of history of myself and my husband play out? First of all my husband has so much insurance on the both of us it's staggering!! I laugh about it but I realize that for him, a frugal person by nature, having those policies (and we have a lot, I'm serious) is his lifeline. He knows that if he gets hurt, his disability policy will pay. If we die, our key employees will have enough money to keep the business floating until they can figure out what to do. You name it, we are probably insured for it and you know what? I'm happy we can run our business and afford to pay for the insurance. Could we save a few bucks, take an extra vacation or buy a nicer car with those premiums? Probably but feeling feeling secure is important. Now, how do I fit in? What baggage do I bring into the business? We'll, first off, I'm not afraid to work a lot. I'll work and work, and work again until everything is done. I also pride myself on knowing almost every job at the shops so that in a pinch, I can fill in. Need to save payroll, I can take the order, fill the order and deliver the order. When it comes right down to it, that's how I started and to me it's comforting to know I can go back to that if need be. I love that I don't ever ask anyone under my employ to do anything that I haven't done myself a hundred times.

In case you could not tell, I enjoyed my time in the tub. Was it work related? Yes but not so much that I was not relaxing. Unlike my dad, I love what I do for a living, so much so that even when I'm relaxing I'm thinking about it. Am I fearful with economy? I'd be a fool to say no but am I anxious? Not really. I've always believed that when the going gets tough, the tough get going and I consider myself one tough cookie.

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