Take the Time to Appreciate the 'Dash' in Life

It’s commonplace to congratulate people when they enter the workforce, start a new business or change careers. And, we take the time to celebrate when someone retires from a job. But, I wonder if we take enough time to consider the “dash” – all of the things that take place in between these occurrences.

I read an obituary recently that addressed that very question about the dash between birth and death. It occurred to me that we seldom consider the “dash” when talking about our business or career.

Is your attitude today the same as it was when you first started in the kitchen and bath industry? Do you recall your first sale or the first customer that you worked with on a project? Do you have the same attitude toward service you did when you began?

When you retire or sell your business, or simply close its doors, will you be remembered for the “dash,” or just the fact that you’re saying goodbye?

As I reflect on my past 30+ years in this business, I still remember the beginning. I recall wondering if I’d made the right decision in starting my own business. I remember lots of people asking me why, with my reason being that I got fired from my previous job. I remember the fact that I’d been in the kitchen and bath industry for about six years, had worked for several other companies, and believed that I possessed enough intelligence, experience, energy and ambition to make my own business work.

And I do recall my very first sale – and how difficult it was to sell the homeowners on me and the fact that they could trust me to do the job. I recall taking the delivery of the cabinets in my showroom because the house was not ready for the cabinets. I recall loading them on a truck and delivering them myself because I had neither
a truck nor a driver. I also recall the pride I felt in doing all of this myself and earning my first real dollar, and the fact that I got to keep all of the profits.

I also recall how, over the next few years, I wondered where the money was going to come from to pay the bills. I struggled to make ends meet and, on one occasion, discussed with my wife the possibility of selling the house and moving. Fortunately, that didn’t take place, but just the thought still makes me wonder “what if?”

I think of all of the projects I took care of, the times I was the person to meet the delivery trucks at the customer’s home at 8 p.m. to help deliver the cabinets so the driver could get home before the weekend. I think of the many customers I’ve worked with over the years, and the fond memories I have of them. Some have passed on and some have moved away, but I appreciate how much they helped me to succeed in this business.

I hope you’re getting the point by now. I know that I am where I am today because of the “dash” – everything that has happened between the time I started in this business, and now.

Contemplating the ‘Dash’

Do you often think of the “dash” of your career as well?

Do you take the time to do things that are important to your business, and your career? Do you participate in your industry’s trade associations? Do you support your local high schools with ads, and sponsor different events throughout the year? Do you contribute to the local community, understanding that such a commitment is very important to your business?

The “dash” in your career also includes the people you’ve worked with, such as employees and fellow workers. How many great friendships have you developed over the years as a result of working in this industry?

Of course, these relationships do change over the course of time. Some people may have moved out of town, some may have passed on and some may now be your competitors. Whatever has transpired, though, they are part of your “dash.” Take the time to appreciate them.

Making Things Work For You

Everyone in my life, in one way or another, has contributed to my knowledge and success in this business. It only goes to prove that, while the beginning and the end appear to be the most prominent displays of what we accomplish in our careers, truly it is all of the things in the middle that are the most significant.

In my professional experience, my association and work with the National Kitchen & Bath Association gave me more information about this industry than anything else I was involved with throughout my career. Having the opportunity to visit so many kitchen and bath showrooms, through my association with the NKBA, has allowed me to see how others have made this business work for them.

There really are so many ways to make a business work in this industry. Just as in any other business, it’s simply a matter of understanding the needs of your customers and then figuring out how to best address those needs.

For my business, a merger with a local competitor was one of the best moves I ever made. While a number of my friends questioned the move, the results of that decision have been very positive for everyone. The move has been a very large part of the “dash” for my career.

Yes, these things have all been a big part of the “dash” for me – the things in the “middle” that have truly counted. And, there are many other things I’ve yet to accomplish.

To know if you’re spending your dash wisely, you need to ask yourself: Do I still have the same passion and joy for this business that I did the day I started? Do I still understand the needs of my customers, and am I still striving to meet those needs? Am I still learning? Am I still making the right decisions to grow my business?

I believe that, too often, we – as business people, designers, salespeople or installers – grow complacent about what we’re doing and where we are in life. We accept things and just want to get over with them.

Well, life is too short for that. It’s too short not to continue to have a fire in your belly. It’s too short not to remember there’s a reason to get up in the morning and go to work.

If you love what you do for a living, others will sense that and quickly know that they want to work with you. And that’s the best possible piece of business advice anyone can give you, when you think about it.
Ask yourself how the dashes in your career have made you feel. Are you happy with your “dash,” or can you think of better ways to connect the beginning of your career with the end?

Just remember that the space in the middle of your life is what it’s all about. Make the most of it, and love what you do.

Thompson C. Price, CKD, CBD, CR, has worked in the remodeling industry since 1971. He’s been an NKBA national board member and educator. Today, he is the co-owner/president of St. Louis, MO-based Callier & Thompson, and is the v.p./membership for the Houston, TX-based Bath & Kitchen Buying Group. He was a key part of the formation and development of BKBG in 1993.

Members of the BKBG address business strategies for kitchen and bath dealers in a regular bi-monthly column, appearing exclusively in KBDN.

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