Recently I started receiving emails and notifications from LinkedIn congratulating me on my work anniversary of 5 years. I’m pretty staunch about remembering important dates especially after being married 30 years, but frankly I had to look at what the salutary messages were referring to as an anniversary. Just a short 5 years ago, I left the “security” of a big company to become an entrepreneur; what a journey it has been and continues to be!
I personally believe, “a vision is only a dream without execution.” I had a vision of an operating platform for a funeral home developed with Six-Sigma principles; a new way of operating and adapting to meet the changing consumer demands of caring for their deceased loved ones. The vision 5 years later is being executed; 2 locations in competitive markets serving over 300 families a year led by team of associates that earn a good living because our culture dictates and supports their efforts for success. The dream at times was a nightmare.
Starting a funeral home from scratch has it’s unique challenges. One just doesn’t walk into a lending institution, share your vision and get your capital for startup, but if you have a compelling story people will invest in you. A lesson I learned in the military; Officers eat last. Basically a leader makes sure his troops are cared for above his own needs; as an entrepreneur associates often may get a paycheck when you don’t. You just can’t walk into Verizon or sign leases, etc. to open a new business account without significant deposits (or as I see it, betting against your failure). Of course we received the typical competitive “the bit dog yelps” rhetoric from many especially the “we have been serving since Sherman burned down the South” crowd, however I also had the pleasure of a threatened lawsuit “making sure I did not violate my non-compete.” Yes, apparently I had a good idea because we had quite the attention from our local purveyors of funerals, but now the Toby Keith song “How Do You Like Me Now” is playing in my head as I write this.
“My failure gave me strength, may pain gave me motivation”- Michael Jordan. Not all of the visions could be executed. There are days when defeat and self doubt are the thought of the day. Such days are where I found out what I was really made of; do I practice what I preach to my sons and everyone else on the planet about perseverance, effort and resilience, or throw on the proverbial towel? When one of the initiatives does not work out, I know that my detractors find glee, but my fans wonder, “what is he going to come up with next?” Determination, intellectual curiosity and the ability to connect with people breeds opportunity. I am a living example.
“None of us is as smart as all of us”-Ken Blanchard. I know what I don’t know and I am certain of what I do know. I am blessed to have a business mentor Buddy Watson along with partners like Steve Zittle and Chris Tharp that I continue to seek guidance about many things “out of my wheelhouse.” After literally “burning my boat at the shore” in the funeral industry, I have developed relationships from professionals like Frank Immordino, Ryan Thogmartin, Kate Hamilton, Ryan Lehto, Simon Rothwell and Francine Trendler that spurred more visions which are now being executed internationally.
Interesting that this week, 5 years later I was so busy and excited “executing my vision” that I failed to even notice my anniversary of becoming a funeral industry entrepreneur. Today, I am at the pinnacle of all the cumulative successes, failures and lessons over a business lifetime launching a life changing business. Lives of consumers, our team and our families will be better from this journey I embarked upon 5 years ago. In essence, Happy Anniversary to Me…it’s only going to get better. This path is not for everyone, but it is for me, thank God for the blessings along the way. From the Command Bunker, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander