Apr 4, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
I was out with my grandson, Jayden, this afternoon. We grabbed a snack after school and were just driving around talking when he asked me if I would ever consider starting a card shop up. His latest love is to collect sports cards and so I have recently given him the two boxes full of older collectible cards that I saved for him knowing that one day he would enjoy them.
I told him there was only one card shop in town and asked if he would like to go there. "Sure!", was the quick answer. So, we turned the car around and drove downtown to Pegasus. The realm of Duncan McGeary. Although in certain ways Duncan and I are kindred spirits, we had never officially met person to person and talked before. I see his father twice a week when he comes in with old associates for coffee but in the business world, Duncan does what he does and I do what I do. And that means if we either meet each other there or here since we both spend the majority of our time doing what we need to do....run a business.
I knew I would be able to talk to Duncan a bit if he was not too busy as Jay would never get bored in his shop. There is just too much for a boy like Jay to see. And, indeed, as Duncan and I talked, Jay spent his time peering at the sports card section of his shop. He would have been happy spending the day there, I believe.
We talked about what you would expect us to talk about. Business, service, marketing, survival, and as you would expect, blogging. Duncan is a very consistent blogger who has built a very large following of his daily muses. I told him that I needed to be more consistent in my posts as I fear that I have lost some of that readership. Part of that has been because of my recent diet change which has allowed me more sleep at night. Now, last night, Judy brought up some popcorn while we watched TV and something about it has blocked my sleep so here I am.
Duncan is my kind of businessman. One who understands his product and loves what he is doing. While he has to invest in his business, it is far more than just an investment.
Maybe I can explain myself better with an example. When I first took over the diner, I felt that there was no way that I was going to be able to move on from it's present location without finding a local investor. I did not have any savings, other than the value of my house, and I felt that I would need to have working capital in order to survive.
So, a friend of mine introduced me to a local restaurateur who is quite successful. I remember well that first meeting. He asked me why I wanted to keep Jake's alive. I told him my variety of reasons, none of which made sense to him at all. He looked me in the eye and said, "You should be in business for one reason. And that reason is to make money. Making money is the only way the business and you will survive.".
He sent his business manager over to my place to look over our books and to judge how I run my show. That same business manager showed me how Jake's was far less profitable than their venture so I was not surprised when they informed me that they did not want to go into business with me. But, they offered their services. They would find me a backer and a building for a price.
I remember telling them the proposal that I had been given to be able to stay at Jake's present position for 6 months so that I could get my feet on the ground. They said that the proposal was not good and not to take it as it stood. They looked into a variety of backers for me and proposed us moving the diner to LaPine. I was not happy with that thought as I knew we needed to keep our base here in Bend.
I remember the day that I was sitting in the back room of Jake's with three of my close friends crunching numbers and trying to decide if it was all worth the try. I received a call that afternoon from that other businessman. He told me to take the offer of 6 months. I asked why. He said because he felt it was my best bet. So, I probed deeper and asked what had changed to make him change his mind. He then got angry and told me, "I have been working for you for two weeks and I haven't gotten a " " dime out of you for it. I then made one of the best decisions that I made at the time. I told him thanks for his help but I would need no more.
As I continued to discuss how we could make all of it work, Jack Mangin (the original owner of Pilot Butte Drive In and my business mentor) looked me in the eye and said, "Lyle, if you don't take this chance, you will regret it the rest of your life.". That was the push that set my mind on it's course and led us to where we are today.
That same businessman was in the diner last week. I was not sure if he was there for business or pleasure but I did stop by and said hi. I didn't tell the crew till afterwards as I did not want them to gawk.
I did muse with them on a point afterwards, however. This man is very successful. He owns and is invested in many different ventures and lives up on the hill. He is very wealthy because of it.
But, I told the crew that I am far more richer. For as I walk around the room, I see and talk with people who have become friends and that has far more value than the dollars they bring. I may not have his money, but like Duncan, I believe that there are things that are far more valuable than that.