We have all met someone that makes us think differently. How about someone that makes you look at the world you live in differently? I think these tougher economic times should make us open our eyes and maybe, just maybe, we will appreciate what we have.

My brother-in-law and I have never really been close, even though he has been married to my only sister for almost two decades. I hardly knew what he did for a living, something with cardboard boxes and he has been doing it since I met him in the early ’90s. He is an overall great guy, a great father and husband, but cardboard boxes? How excited could I get about a cardboard box? What could we talk about? In all fairness, the plaster and drywall business was a big yawn for him, too.

A few nights ago our wives went out to an art show; my brother-in-law and I were delegated to be the evening guardians for six 12-year-old girls and a slumber party. It was a birthday party for my niece. I was shocked at the price parents now have to pay to keep their kids in groove with all the expensive electronic devices. The Wii is apparently the hot item and besides being expensive, it is difficult to get. They apparently limit production to control the supply and demand. What a racket!

This left my brother-in-law and I to find a quiet place to sit and talk. We both agreed the new electronic world is exciting but paying for it is something our parents did not have to deal with; that led back to our current jobs. I was determined to find out what he did for a living, not just something about cardboard boxes. I found out his company makes decorative displays for supermarkets and chain box stores; the type you see when you walk down the aisle of a store, a large colorful box full of tape measures, liquor or cameras. The display box is carefully set-up to optimize visual effect and hold the product, hopefully demonstrating the new improvements.

I learned, not surprisingly, that his business is also affected by the economic slow down, although he never complained about it and still wasn’t. As he discussed his business, I was amazed at his calm attitude and systematic approach to keeping current customers from leaving and trying to find new ones. His calm approach when losing a major account was based on understanding how his customer feels and what they are going through. That made me realize how I strongly dislike being around negative people where everything is doom and gloom. 

He, just like his competitors, has to find new customers. It takes a lot more work than it does during the economic good times. He has to reach out to new creative markets to make it through the tougher periods. None of these cold calls are easy and the business doesn’t just fall into your lap. He has to think outside the box, pardon the pun, and go after new prospects and variations on his business. Most of the new business contacts are not easy to reach.  Some of the companies are very large corporations and just getting through the layers of people to get to the right one who makes a decision would drive me insane. Even when all the calls and effort does not pay-off and he is told “no way,” he holds no grudge, smiles and perseveres to make it to the next day.

He has been through the boom times too. I know he did not go out and buy expensive cars, boats or toys, he never got excited about big sales, he just kept an even keel and steadily moved forward everyday with the same calm attitude.  I learned that night that my brother-in-law and I are different. I tend to get too up during good times and too down during bad. He is also a girls’ athletic coach for soccer, softball and basketball and not surprisingly, he passes those same values along to his team. Win or lose that moment, day or season, just keep giving it your best, and you will be a winner in the end. 

The other thing I discovered was now I cannot walk through the supermarket or box store without noticing the cardboard displays. Amazing how many there are and I doubt they just sprang up the other day. I just was not paying attention; probably too up or down about something. It was a world that existed and I paid little to no attention to. How many other things in life do we just walk by and never really notice?  Maybe some of these things are missed business opportunities. We need to be like my brother-in-law; keep calm and keep plugging away, keep looking for unseen and hidden opportunities and above all keep upbeat during these temporary tough times!


Publishers Note:

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On another note: John Wyatt, former editor with W&C, rejoined the magazine in May. We welcome him back. You can reach him at WyattJ@bnpmedia or at (248) 244-6404.