Business Owners

Chapter 4: A surefire plan to make an actual plan to build the enterprise of your dreams.

Business Owners
Note: This is the next installment of Made From Leftovers. You can read the first chapter here.

You don't have to rob someone to be an entrepreneur, but it helps. Making money on the backs of other people's talents is a storied tradition for us executive types. The first back was my brother's. His back was not as motivated as I hoped, and we never got it off the ground, but the lessons will last me a lifetime. Here's where I got the itch to make some scratch.

You build a lot of ingenuity when your waterbed melts right under you during a REM sleep session, but it wasn’t just my sleeping arrangements that gave me an edge over my peers. It was the entrepreneurship I was exposed to throughout my whole childhood. Science has proven that one's success is almost always fueled by the opportunities presented by family connections, resources, and experiences afforded to someone as a child. This, of course, doesn't take into account the obvious benefits of superficial things like being tall or having clear skin and straight teeth, naturally occurring benefits I've always enjoyed.*

Footnote: Due to a bike accident, I had to get a root canal and crown on a front tooth when I was 16 (about eight years after the actual accident). Even though it looks 100% real, what you see of the incisor is almost entirely artificial, but I guess nobody's perfect.

The Parents in Chief were always cooking up something.* When I say cooking, I really mean scheming because, like most poor people, we didn't want to be, but we weren't very good at not being poor. Our kind of people are pretty good at discussing hypothetical scenarios not to be poor. The execution of those plans is another story. The most crucial point to remember is that poorly executed plans can fail, but when the plan itself is not optimized for success (also known as doomed), then it's more than likely you'll have to go back to the planning stages or ignore the doomed nature of your plans so you never have to call it off entirely. If you're not much for legwork, I'd avoid the planning stages altogether and just talk about what it would be "like" if you did a certain thing.

Footnote: Although in the later years, most of the actual cooking was a little bit more Orphan Annie style without the singing, where everyone opens a pint-size can of beans or juice or stirs the contents in a pot big enough to hold a Thanksgiving turkey, but unlikely to actually hold one.

Most plans need a good document to put them on. Maybe a presentation, a series of slides, a chart to demonstrate financial potential, a little bit of math, and things like that, but sometimes a better use of time is just to shop for the equipment that the charts and presentations could be made on, not necessarily to buy them, but to imagine what it must be like to do so. This was Dad's long-time love and became his first endeavor into entrepreneurship.

Desktop Publishing

Dad loved computers more than anything. In fact, I’m certain he loved them more than he loved us (this is obviously a joke because we know he loved us because he gave us our first email address on Juno). When I was probably eight years old, a friend turned him onto the idea of the Adam Computer. It was a line of computers made by Colecovision, the maker of Cabbage Patch Dolls.

The computers were superior at computation tasks compared to stuffed dolls but less so when compared to other computers. Adam Computers had a cult following for a while because they were never the leading platform as far as I know. It was a competitor to the IBM Compatible computer, which is now known as the PC. My best friend at the time had a basement that was filled with neatly organized Adam computers.

On a regular basis, he would have “Computer Parties” where “the guys” would get together and play on computers and show each other how to do a variety of things. One dad would be showing another dad how he wrote a program that made the computer scroll numbers on the screen really fast, counting to a billion, while the boys were playing video games like Donkey Kong Junior or Hard Hat Mac. All we kids really cared about were games and being able to print our names in big letters. The dads wanted to make the computers complete useless tasks to demonstrate how something could actually do what it was told under their control.

Dad was pretty energized by this community, so he always gravitated to the computer geek kind of guy. One day he said, “I want to get into desktop publishing,” that way, he could play on a computer as a job. I never knew what that was, and frankly, I don’t really know today either, but it sounded fun, and I wanted him to do this too. I thought it would be cool to have a dad that works on a computer for a living, although it was cool enough to have a truck driver for a dad too. Most of his jobs were local delivery driving. His routine was to leave the house early before I woke and return right around the time that we were starting to get hungry. When he returned, he was always a little smelly and liked to take a shower before dinner. We would wait for him before we would eat, so we were always eager for him to finish his shower. However, typically, he would get on his computer and do something for about an hour or so in his underwear before jumping in the shower. Frankly, if he could work on a computer all day, we probably could start dinner earlier, so I was interested in him figuring out what desktop publishing was and how to get involved.

I did try to figure out what desktop publishing was myself. I mean, I knew that it was something that would happen from a desktop computer, but I never really figured out more than that until the first opportunity came along. One day, dad caught wind that the church had a computer on hand to produce the weekly announcement sheet that was passed out to every attendee. The pastor's wife, Sharon, used a PC laptop computer with a monochrome screen to prepare the announcements. Dad thought this was the opportunity of a lifetime, so he volunteered to prepare the announcements. Sharon let Dad take the laptop computer home to work on preparing them soon after he brought up the idea to her. This meant that we had the opportunity to play all kinds of games and do just about nothing else with it. Dad showed the computer to all his friends every chance he got. He was always very excited about anything that had to be booted up, and it didn’t have to be his for him to want to show and tell.

I’ll be honest. I was pretty excited as well. I wanted to play around on that thing as much as the next dad. One evening when Dad and Mom were out, Dad let me play on the computer. I was figuring out all kinds of stuff, but I can tell you now that the one thing I was not doing was preparing those announcements, and neither was he, of course.

The computer was a 386SX, which was pretty amazing to us since we had the less impressive Adam computers. While I was enjoying exploring the computer world of doing things before the internet (and chat rooms), mind you. I would usually have to wait for games to load, and sometimes the machine would freeze. Even if you held down a letter on the keyboard for just a little too long, the whole computer might lock up. This happened several times over the course of about three hours of enjoying this state-of-the-art computer. Before my lap was oven warm from the machine on my lap, things took a turn for the worse. I don’t know what I did, but the computer froze at one point, and it seemed more frozen than the other times. I was worried and started to panic. I pushed every button I could, but the problem was not solved. I knew what I needed to do next.


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