In 2007, over the Thanksgiving break from the University of Georgia, when my father approached me with the idea to utilize my International Finance and Spanish degrees to help re-brand and revitalize his paint business as an alternative to pursuing a career as an Investment Banker or Financial Analyst, I saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime. Do not be fooled, the job was not going to be easy – my father would never allow me to take the easy road. There would be no silver spoon, no coat tails with which to ride, no meetings left unattended, no sales call not made, and no abundance of sleep.
It hasn’t been a cakewalk, but three years later to the week, our business has seen growth each calendar year; our brand (Eco-Protective Products) has become recognizable to some but not overly known – still work to be done; personally, we have deepened our father-son relationship, and I have learned invaluable lessons of life and business from him and my experience along the way.
I’ve always been told that if we do not stop to appreciate that which we already possess, we can never expect to receive more. So to commemorate my three years with the family business, this is my thank you.
I am not quite sure when we, as people, develop the mental faculties to truly begin to appreciate things we have in our lives. Is it a function of maturity, age, or accumulated experience (all three similar but also very distinct)? Do we awaken to the reality of what's precious to us by chance, situational environment, or at milestones? Does it take tragedy to strip away the unnecessary fluff of the everyday, the mundane, to find the inner meaning, substance, and value in our trip around the sun?
As a regular contributor to this blog, I'll be honest to our readers; I can't say that at my age I have the all the answers - I certainly do not, and each day I realize that I’m probably not even aware of all the right questions to ask. To me, life has been [cliché] a roller coaster. As uncommon as I have perceived my experiences to be, I know that shear statistical probability means that there are hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions who have lived 25 (almost 26) years on this green and blue planet similar to my own.
As I contemplated the subject for this post, I felt the need to expand on some profound theme, but while helping elementary school students at church make pictures depicting things for which they are thankful, I had the epiphany, and I knew what I wanted to write.
Raised as an only child, I sometimes wonder how to define what a home is. From one perspective, home can be a fire place, laughter, accumulated sports trophies, hardship, birthday parties, troubled times, Christmas card pictures, tears, missed high-fives from over exuberance, burnt meals, treasured suppers, doggie treats, All Dogs Go to Heaven, hugs and kisses, arguments - "I'll never raise my kids like you", prayers and at times curses, broken bones, mended hearts, story time, good report cards and, at times, urgent parent-teacher conferences. Parents are super heros then they become the enemy. Home is base camp for hide and go seek, refuge from summer jobs, and the return from summer vacations. It is sneaking out at 11 and the sneaking back in at 7-- only to get caught, grounded, spanked, put into time-out - whatever punishment fit the crime. Home is ears when no one else will listen. Home is your favorite t-shirt hidden away in the attic. It’s where sleeping in my parent's bed is ok because I was scared, and it’s where Jiminy Cricket sings to me to wish upon a star. It’s taco salad night, or perhaps, it's Friday Night under the Lights in Raider Valley. It’s graduation day, an empty nest once again, but it’s where I return again four years later.
Is that really what home is?
Home can be anywhere and anything because home is not just shelves, roof shingles, eco friendly paint (product plug), hard wood floors, GE appliances, or a drive under garage; it's not necessarily the laughter that fills the halls or the sobs of sorrow when we say goodbye; it's not sleepovers, the Super Bowl party, or the time the neighbors had one too many on Christmas Eve; it's not the flood in the basement from the Washing Machine or the subsequent one from Atlanta's storms in 2009; it's not the renovation, the landscaping, the trampoline, or countless games of H-O-R-S-E. It’s not Super Mario, Sega Genesis, an N-64, Playstation or XBox (although thank you Santa); home certainly is not the broken coffee table (I had to break in the new baseball glove) or the broken windows (it was Brent's fault); it's not the beers you caught me drinking in high school, although that was a terrifying experience to say the least; it's not when I drove away to college or when I came home with 2 degrees; it's not the place I left when I moved to a new state, and it will not be the place I return to in one week.
These are just the symptoms and signs of a good home.
It is you, Mom and Dad, that are Home to me. No matter how far apart we may be, I can always go home by picking up my phone, or reading that Facebook post from you mom, or the encouraging email from you Dad. For 25 (almost 26) years, I have fought, loved, hated, argued with you, but this Thanksgiving, I say thank you. It is the idea of home & the love of family you instilled in me that makes me who I am.
In business and life, your brand may grow – something for which every business strives – but do not be fooled, success is not derived from the products we sell but from the people we are.
In closing, to quote a beloved American icon, Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."