Be Prepared For Change

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As I’ve told you before, I’m a Danish storyteller. Here is a story about my father: 

My father was born in Sweden in 1900. He moved with his family to Bornholm, Denmark in 1908 because his father was a stonemason, and there was a quarry on that island.
 
In 1916, he immigrated to the United States and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. with relatives. He worked on machines that made cigars. He became an engineer and took care of the machines in several production facilities.
 
Things went well, and he was able to marry and have two children before the stock market crash hit in 1929. My parents had a third child in 1931, and then the family had to deal with the Great Depression. There were tough times, but he and my mother held our family together.
 
I was born in 1941, just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. By that time, my father had contracted Parkinson’s disease and no doctor knew what it was. After my family exhausted all of its resources, the doctors said we couldn’t do anything for him. They told us we should take him home and care for him. I spent a great deal of time with him while my mother worked to keep our family together.

Life Lessons

I learned a lot from my father – how to play cards and chess and how life changes. He had started a great career before getting an illness that no one knew how to cure. Being sick and unemployed for the last 10 years of his life, he taught me many things that were helpful in coping with situations that occurred in my life.
 
My father taught me everything changes, no matter how well you plan or how much money you have. You have to be prepared for the changes that will inevitably occur.
 
Since he helped manufacture tobacco products, cigars in particular, he used to buy a box of 50 cigars for a dollar. One day I asked, “Would you like a cigar?” He gave me a great lesson in management.
 
He replied, “Yes, everyone needs a cigar. Here is why. In business, you need to know these five letters to adapt and survive.”
 
C – You must be able to communicate. If you can’t communicate with your employees, peers, suppliers and customers, you will never succeed.
 
I – Information technology. We used to listen to the radio every evening. One day he and my mother took me to a big tower station at a place called Mountain Top, Pa. We saw a television transmission on a screen of my brother playing in a basketball game. He was the captain of the University of Pennsylvania team, which was playing Rutgers. We could not believe it, but within five years we had a television set at home. My father said, “I have seen the development of radio and now television. You will see 100 times this technology in your lifetime.”
 
G – Growing technology. My father was absolutely right! The changes in technology from 1955 to today are unbelievable. He had the vision of what could occur. He also believed that what your mind can conceive and you believe can be achieved, but he had no idea of all the new technology that would be developed. 
 
A – Agreement. My father also believed it was important to have agreement among his employees, peers and top managers. Every time there was a conflict, he would say, “Let’s solve the problem. I’m a peace-loving man.” That saying had the power to solve many conflicts.
 
R – Research. My father realized you must constantly look for new ideas and new information. He made many improvements on the cigar machines and was constantly thinking of how to make them more efficient. He actually thought of the idea of a fully-automated machine that would replace four people who had to perform the steps to put a cigar together.
 
I learned a lot about management from my father and about how to enjoy life even though he was ill the last 10 years he was on this earth.
 
Although I have not smoked in the last 25 years, I still keep his humidor filled with five cigars as a reminder of what he said and how he influenced my life.

Takeaways

From my story about my father’s cigars, I think we can learn several important lessons about the changes facing us today:
 
• Stay low and keep moving. You can make things happen if you focus on your dream. 
 
• Enjoy every day because life is short. Remember, eternity is forever.
 
• I think I’ve been there before! Learn from your experiences. 
 
There is an interesting article in the April 27 issue of Forbes, written by the publisher, Rich Karlgaard. The title is “Obama’s Recovery Is Not Your Recovery.” While I don’t want to get political, I think some interesting information is presented.
 
Karlgaard believes inflation will occur in the second half of this year. He says you should enjoy $2-per-gallon gasoline and that you should lock into a 30-year fixed rate mortgage now. He also recommends investing money in some good oil companies.
 
Many people feel there will be new taxes and more regulations from the federal government. Karlgaard also states it will be more difficult for entrepreneurs to find money to develop their projects.
 
I suggest reading this interesting article. Karlgaard lists points you might want to consider for your business.

Measuring Up Spring

By this time, you should have a feeling as to how the season has gone. Hopefully, the weather was good. (We know 70 percent of sales depend on good weather.) Other factors, such as the economy, will play a role. Sometimes, a poor economy will help our sales because people stay at home and try to improve their landscapes and grow their own food.
 
People are now looking for the best price on a product. They are buying generic brands at the lowest prices possible. You might think about the old Sears & Roebuck concept of good, better, best. Price your material so it can sell at different price points to different people.
 
My wife Barbara and I make a yearly plan of what we want to accomplish. We each list five wishes. Most of the time, we have three or four on which we both agree. Then, we have to discuss and come to an agreement on the other one or two.
This is the first year Barbara suggested that we add a what-if plan to our list of wishes. I asked her to explain what she meant. She said we’re getting older. We have children and grandchildren. With all that is occurring in the financial arena, we need to develop a what-if plan. If something happens, how will we react?
 
You can go crazy if you consider all the potential problems that might occur, but you can probably zero in on three to five major possibilities. After a day or two of thinking about it, we were able to list the three that we were most concerned about and how we would react and respond to those events.
 
This was a very difficult process for me, but it was also one that was helpful to both of us. Therefore, I would encourage you to write your own what-if plan.
 
One last thought from my father: “A man is not measured by the money in his pocket but by the friends that are around him.
Happy summer! Hope you had a great spring season!

Will Carlson is a Michigan State University emeritus professor who has devoted his career to educating growers. He also had the vision to launch Greenhouse Grower magazine with Dick Meister more than 25 years ago.

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