Years ago, we had a cold snap with lots of snow and ice in the area. I remember getting to the office one morning in King City, getting the snow shovel and ice melt handy, and going to work getting the walk cleared in front of the office. That’s when I noticed it.
Across the street, the walk to the former McCrea’s Grocery was already done. Clear as a whistle.
Now it’s possible that Dean McCrea hired that job done, or that an employee proactively cleared the walk. But I watched that man shovel snow well into his 70s, and I’m telling you, it was probably him who had scooped the snow that morning.
That was a lesson. I had been outhustled by a man who was over 45 years my senior. I deserved to feel a little foolish that day, and you deserve to hear about it a few years later. I’m not going to spend 600 words praising Dean, although I certainly could. Rather, I want to direct my remarks toward the qualities that many of us young(ish) businessmen probably ought to adopt in greater quantities.
The first is an obvious one: if you want to succeed big, you have to work hard. You might have to push your own snow, even if you’re the president of the company. Getting bogged down doing every little task in business might be a waste of your time as well, but I’d say most of us need to plan on wearing several hats in our chosen professions.
When the boss becomes the face of the organization, then that face needs to smile from time to time. People liked seeing Dean at his grocery store, but I think it goes deeper than that. Small town folks like to know that when you walk into a place of business, you’re going to get to talk with someone who has the authority to make a decision. Rural folks put a pretty high premium on service and familiarity.
I have worked for years with Danny Lewis of The Lewis Agency insurance as my business neighbor, and I was at first surprised with how many folks brought their monthly payments and hand-delivered them at his office. What about a stamp and dropping it in the mail? Didn’t time mean anything to these folks?
Then I got a little older and a little – just a little – bit smarter and realized that not only did hand-delivering a payment have the practical perk of allowing the check to be instantly applied to their balance, but it also let them hand something of value to someone they trusted. I’m sure the other agents in our coverage area would give you the same report.
None of this should surprise us, I guess. In our Midwestern mindset, we put a great deal of store in the efforts of hardworking people. It’s easy to give your business to someone who is working for it; but it’s equally easy to turn a lazy person away.
That doesn’t mean that every small business owner has to maintain his own heating and cooling unit or shingle her own roof; it just means that in rural America people still value being able to see the efforts on the part of a business owner.
So, this is the train of thought that left the station several years ago as I scraped at my walk and admired Dean’s clear entryway. He got up earlier, got to the store earlier and got to work earlier. And that’s how you make it 60 years in business, I suppose. I have the feeling that in spite of life’s conveniences – shortcuts that have made many of us lazy or lethargic – the individuals who dig in and work the hardest will continue to see the most success moving forward.
Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.