The Hardest Lesson Learned!

I spent this past weekend in Florida with my parents. They’re 80 and retired from the paint business. My father took his 30-year turn at the helm of Tremont Paint like all the Lipton men before him while my mother ran our wallpaper and decorating department for a decade and a half.

Of COURSE…. my father and I spent much of the weekend talking about the paint business.

More on those conversations in a moment!

I find myself thinking a lot about my paint stores these days, but not for the reasons you might think. I’m in a strange situation with my stores at the moment. It’s summertime and we are busy.

Yet I find it unsettling.

Usually when the stores are busy is when I’m most at-ease. Not this year.

At the moment, I have a lot going on outside of my stores. It’s all paint related, but none-the-less, it takes my attention off my store’s operations. This is not the first time in my career that I’ve gone through a period when I was out of the stores more often than in them. About 20 years ago, I did a nearly 5-year long, full-time consulting project while maintaining ownership of my stores.

The emotions are always the same when this happens that i must spend a lot of time outside the stores: satisfaction in the outside work while worrying about my lack of attention to the retail side’s details.

The five years I was gone for did not go well in the stores. The manager I had with me (for a decade before I left) decided to take advantage of my absence and promoted himself to partner! By the time I was done paying for the investigations, I was out well in excess of six-figures.

I became my own cautionary tale. I hope to avoid that this time.

I made a few mistakes that ended up being tragic. I had always thought of theft from my stores as a “small” problem. I knew that in retail, people steal. I had experienced it previously and knew other dealers who had had the same experience. As I prepared to leave my stores, I envisioned theft as the missing screwdrivers from the counter display. I got comfortable with the trade I was making: opportunity at vast wealth in exchange for a few missing screwdrivers.

It was my accountant who alerted me I had a problem bigger than a few screwdrivers; though I was already suspecting it. I was starting to hear from my bookkeeper saying she was short on funds to cover the bills.