Business Coach Lesson: Nothing changes until something moves.
When working with a business coach for business growth, we share tools, tips, resources, lessons, and strategies to help you grow your business. Let me help you today with a little flashback: There I was, in all my seventh-grade glory, sitting in the back of my parent’s red minivan waving goodbye to the only town that I had ever called home (Tulsa, Oklahoma) and the only people that I had ever known as friends. I understood, financially speaking, that my parents simply had to pursue the opportunities graciously presented by my Aunt Carolyn and my Uncle Jerry’s rural Minnesota-based software company. Even though I was only in seventh grade, I understood that we were struggling financially. I understood that our cupboards were always stocked with the yellow ”guaranteed value” generic brands because we did not have money (and not just because my mom preferred the color yellow). I had overheard their late night conversations about “only having $100 left in the bank account.” I had sipped on some government-issued powdered milk, and I knew that my quickly growing body was posing tough financial difficulties as they struggled to keep my brother and I in clothes. At the time we moved, I was almost 6 feet tall. I was a giant amongst normal people. I was the center on the basketball team. I was the big guy in middle school, and oddly enough, I am still almost 6 feet tall. I stand about 6-foot-1 naked, but I prefer standing with my clothes on.
When we arrived in Minnesota, I immediately went into culture shock. Because my Grandpa Clayton and Grandma Dot died within a few months of each other from unexpected medical issues almost immediately after we moved north, my brother and I were forced to live with our Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Jerry while my parents returned to Waco, Texas, to sell my late grandparents’ home. It was a traumatic time. My dad was having a hard time holding down a job because of a chronic hernia and back issues, his parents had both just died (he was an only child), and our family was struggling financially. Now my brother and I, who had grown up entrenched in suburbia, were being forced to live in Dassel, Minnesota, (population less than 3,000 people at the time) in an eighty year-old farmhouse located on a hobby farm operated by my aunt (who did not have kids) and my spooky Uncle Jerry, whom I vaguely knew. Their farm had spitting llamas, Arabian horses, chickens, solar panels, and tons of cats. Their town was located near countless bodies of water, outdoorsmen, farm land, wild turkeys, 10 billion blood-sucking mosquitoes, the “World’s Largest Ball of Twine,” Lutherans, Finnish families with twelve kids each, and enough Skoal brand chew to keep all their kids buzzed.
Back in Tulsa, it seemed that everyone we knew played sports; in Dassel, everyone hunted. In Oklahoma, the people we knew were friendly, outgoing, right-wing charismatic, conservative Christians; in rural Minnesota, many people were hard-to-meet, guarded, reserved, left-leaning, subsidy-dependent, democrat loyalists. It was weird. The people my brother and I were meeting at school had last names like Rauschendorfer, Kusler, and Sorenson. They had first names like Bjorn and Leif. Every time I met someone and repeated their name, I felt like I was introducing the starting lineup for a National Hockey League game.
I will never forget boarding the school bus on the first day of school and thinking to myself, What are these people wearing? I remember looking out the window and thinking that we were never going to reach our destination. I quickly learned that rural towns built on dirt roads and inhabited by hard-working farmers meant that a forty-five minute bus ride to school was not uncommon. My brother and I were not embracing our new surroundings for the same reason that people don’t like it when you move their stapler at work. Change requires new ways of thinking, and I am pretty sure that up to this point in my coddled life, I had not ever done much thinking. I did not like this new environment, but I had no choice. So every night at dinner I just sat down at the table with Uncle Jerry and ate his venison (deer meat) stew. Every once in a while, I would let him know that the “well water” we used in the house smelled weird and that I was not down with deer meat (Bambi meat), but then I would quickly back off when Jerry’s face began to display his frustration with my whining.
After a few weeks, my brother and I started to get settled in at school. I became friends with Aaron, Katie, and Joe Casey. My brother met some young friends, and we started to adjust; however, I never really grew fond of Minnesota. I personally thought that many of the people were great, but I did not like the culture filled with hunting, snowmobiling, thermal underwear, German food eating, constant boating on the lakes, mosquito-slapping, and farming. I did like Kirby Puckett, Kevin Garnett, Kevin McCale, and a couple of songs by Prince. Basically I determined that I would endure Minnesota, but I would never call it home (because I was a difficult dude and unwilling to change). Business coach tip: Do not be difficult and unwilling to change.
To pass the time after school, I spent most of my time upstairs in Carolyn and Jerry’s guestroom lifting weights. Endless amounts of curls and shoulder raises are what I did. As I grew stronger, I became more and more frustrated that I was living in rural America. Suburban living was now out of the picture, and I was in a group of quasi-new friends who liked to say, “You betcha” and “Ay” after nearly every phrase—almost using these phrases like a period to end their sentences. Looking back, I have no idea what my brother did to pass the time, and I feel bad that I was such an absent and self-centered brother. I sincerely never took time for him partly because he was five years younger, partly because I was so focused on getting the heck out of Minnesota, and partly because I was a jerk at the time. (Sorry, Carson.)
I am not sure when it happened or how it came about, but at some point, I got to talking on a “long-distance” phone call (which was a big deal then) with my friend Chris from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Chris was one of my best friends, and he was a guy best known for unquestioned integrity and an unquestioned lack of height. He or his mother, Lori, suggested that I fly back to Tulsa for a month during the summer to visit them. I don’t remember who came up with the idea, but I do remember feeling alive again when I heard this idea. I can also remember not even taking two seconds to think about how this might have made my brother feel for leaving him alone for the summer. I just remember thinking, Yes, I can get the crap out of this farm town! And I was willing to do almost anything to get back home . . . but how?
My parents certainly could not afford a plane ticket, and I did not personally have the needed funds saved up to this point. Sure I had brought in some cash in elementary by making bootlegged Garfield bubble-paint t-shirts (The year was 1989). I had also made some money by making illegal copies of audio cassettes that I later sold at school. I had even made some coinage tossing newspapers on a paper route for the Broken Arrow Ledger. So I did the thing that any young kid who wants something would do: I started telling my uncle, aunt, mom, dad, friends, and even the cows on the hobby farm what I wanted to do. I told anyone who would listen that I was going to go back home for the summer, and that is when Uncle Jerry first showed me his sage-like qualities.
To fully comprehend the character of Uncle Jerry, one must know that he was a farmer-esque looking man. He seldom did anything with his salt and pepper colored hair. He looked scary when he forgot to shave for more than three hours. His eyes were kind of sunken and dark like Abraham Lincoln or a raccoon. He had huge strong arms that were built from years of growing up on a farm and the current position he held as a retired hobby farmer. He had made his money working his butt off, and he was not very sympathetic to the whining and lack of tenacity that I displayed. He had been the head of a computer service center for the state of Minnesota, and was well read. Once I got to know him, I realized that he sort of fancied himself as a rural hobby farm philosopher doing his part to right the wrongs of the world through each animal that he cared for. I think eventually Jerry just got tired of me talking about my empty dream at about the same time he grew tired of me not wanting to help out at all around his farm. So he made me a proposition.
He said, “Clayton, I will pay you six dollars per hour to haul hay, kill weeds, install shingles on the barn, and generally do any handy work that I have a need for. Now, you are going to have to work, but if you do, you will be able to buy your ticket back to Tulsa.” Oh man, I was pumped! I didn’t care how many hours it took; I was ready to work immediately, thus Jerry put me right to work. My specialty at the time was spackling (because I had consistently shown myself to be dangerous with a hammer and suspicious with a screwdriver). So he started me out on a spackling project, then I was promoted to ditch digging. Eventually I became the head of the Weed Eradication Department of his hobby farm, which gave me some self-managerial experience. Eradicating weeds using a huge pick axe was an invigorating career opportunity for about an hour, and then the next 140 hours or so spent eradicating weeds were pretty grueling. Eventually, I graduated up to painting and shingle hanging. Much to Jerry’s dismay, I was equally bad and unskilled at all the tasks he asked me to do. I had never done manual labor, and I was weaker than post moves by Shawn Bradley (the NBA’s tallest and weakest basketball player ever). Jerry would say encouraging phrases such as, “Don’t try to scare the nail. For Christ’s sake, hit the nail!” He would ask me, “What, are you tired already?” I needed to hear his candor. At the time, I did not like to hear his criticisms, but he was correct. I would have fired myself, but he stuck with me and taught me what it meant to work. Jerry was the first person who provided business coach for me. He said, “If you want to accomplish your goals, you have to do these actions to get there.” He was the first one who imparted to me that all goals can be achieved through hard work. Looking back, I am glad that he was gruff and that he made me work. I am glad that he always challenged my religious beliefs, and I am glad that he made me eat the wild tasting deer meat stew. I think if it weren’t for Jerry, I would have grown up to be a metrosexual wuss. Today, as an employer, I have the privilege of interviewing men who have grown up without candor, hard work, and toughness. With each encounter, I find myself wanting to call Uncle Jerry to thank him for whipping me into shape.
As that first school year in Minnesota wound down to a close, I saved up the $600 to fly back “home” to Tulsa. I was ecstatic to visit my old friends. When the time finally came and I boarded the plane, it never occurred to me how much I had changed in the four months that I had been gone. I was still a city slicker, but I was now becoming an ambitious and hard-working city slicker. I had tasted the sweet success that can only happen when one has achieved a goal through hard work and determination. And although I was too dumb to know it, I was changing for the better because of our move up north. Every day my new friends were forcing me to evaluate who I was and why I was the way that I was with their confidence-reducing questions like, “Hey, why do you always wear your hair that way? Why do you always wear your clothes so baggy? Why do you say ‘y’all instead of you all?” My uncle was constantly asking me to explain my religious faith to him, which he knew would ultimately result in my explaining my religious faith to myself. For the first time in my life, I had to explain to the world why I was the way I was, and in the process, I was figuring out who I was for myself.
When the plane touched down in Tulsa, my therapy and business coach session began almost immediately. That summer in Tulsa provided me much-needed time with my friends, and it also provided my first real exposure to the world of serial entrepreneur— Lori Montag. Lori was my best friend Chris’ mom, and she showed me the light. During this summer, it was Lori who first showed me that no financial hurdle was too great in life. Lori preached to us all summer that we could have anything that we wanted in life if we were simply willing to work hard to earn the money. Lori constantly said, “The world of business is just a big game, and money is simply how you keep score.”
Growing up, my mom was always self-employed or worked as a contractor, but I had never heard anybody talk about these success and entrepreneurial principles with such clarity and openness. All summer as Lori drove Chris and I to the movies, the mall, the video rental store, and back, she taught us about her beliefs on luck and how she found that she had more luck when she outworked the competition. It was Lori who taught me how to formulate a plan to earn what I wanted in life. It was Lori who first showed me what it was like to be a real American, self-made entrepreneur. Lori drove a beat up, old, red minivan because she wanted to reinvest in herself and her future photography business more than she wanted a new car. The Montags had a nice house because they wanted a nice house, and they were willing to put in the work to build this house with their own hands, using the money that they had earned through their various entrepreneurial endeavors.
During those summer days, Chris and I would spend most of our downtime damming up the creek in the woods behind their house and watching movies that we rented. During the evenings, I would spend hours interrogating Chris’ mom and asking her all sorts of business and life questions. During these talks, Lori told me how Francine’s Photography was growing and the various stories about crazy customer service issues that happened most days. Lori would explain her new marketing ideas to me. She mesmerized me with the creative ideas she had for new photo backdrops. As I listened to Lori’s humorous stories, always told in an epic fashion, I started to subconsciously realize that she was what I wanted to be. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to have crazy stories to tell. I wanted to earn my own money based on the quality of my ideas. I wanted to be self-employed and in control of my own financial destiny. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to possess a hope that the future held a limitless amount of possibilities, as long as I was willing to go out there and work diligently to turn my dreams into a reality.
Sometimes, like most entrepreneurs do, Lori would bottom out. Sometimes she would work herself into exhaustion. But she always had HOPE backed by her faith in her abilities and a tireless work ethic. Lori always held high hopes for a better studio and for more pay. Lori always knew that she could and would make improvements as needed to create a better product to serve her customers, which would in turn pay her more. Lori believed that she could improve her life and her kids’ lives if she was just willing to financially, mentally, and physically invest her time in improving her business.
“Knowledge without application is meaningless.” – Thomas Edison
Make sure that this business coach post does not become as irrelevant to you as the weather report for a city halfway across the globe by answering the following questions:
In your life, what changes do you want to see physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially?
What changes will you have to make to make those changes a reality?
Are you willing to make those changes?
Are you going to have to read more?
Are you going to have to take more risks?
Starting today, what action steps do you have to make to steer your life toward your dream destination and toward your ideal reality?
Will you have to wake up earlier each day to achieve your goals?
For business tools, entrepreneurial resources, and helpful information, visit: thrive15.com.