Updated: Jun 26
Before point-of-sale, accounting software, and the smartphone gave paint dealers access to their store’s sales history, there was the little black book.
Like the president of the United State and the nuclear football, these notebooks would have never been far from a dealer’s reach.
My father carried his financial diaries in a black attaché which he schelped to the Bronx six-days a week between 1960-1992; the years he toiled behind the counter at Tremont Paint.
And while I saw the books daily as I watched my him ready his briefcase each night, he never shared details of the notebook’s contents.
I’ll Show You Mine
As the door locked on my first 12-hour-day as a full-time employee of Tremont Paint, my father motioned me to his office.
Reaching into the tattered attaché Billy removed one of the three pocket-sized notebooks he had banded together. Handing it to me, my father explained that it contained more than 20-years of the sales history of Tremont Paint, then an 81-year-old independent paint retailer.
Flipping through the decades and landing on the diary’s most recent entry, July of 1988, my father pointed out our current sales saying, “this is what Tremont Paint was before you got here.”
Which he reminded me, was his!
“Your opportunity” my father shared, would come in “How you will fill out the remaining pages.”
My father adding that any additional profits my efforts would yield beyond his current haul, belonged to me.
My business partner proving to be a man of his word that Christmas when he handed me my first year-end bonus.
Billy showing his preference for the left-hand column!
You Gotta Earn it
The fighting began over my plans to leave the store daily to work as an outside rep, introducing myself to the Bronx’s largest paint buyers. A strategy Billy opposed; my absence from the store effecting his tee-times!
“How am I supposed to grow the business if you won’t let me leave the store?” I would ask.
Or shout, depending on the day.
My father from a generation of paint dealers who believed that a dealer’s place was behind the counter.
But the fights led to compromise and just six-months into my new career my father and I agreed that I would spend half my time out of the store making sales calls. Opening in the morning and closing at nights leaving the hours in between to make sales calls.
The “compromise” which had me opening and closing each day ensured Billy never missed a round!
It would be just months before my handwriting could be spotted in the notebooks. And less than five-years before my father’s handwriting would disappear from THE diary’s pages.
THE Three Percenters!
The intertwining of personal, business and financial outcomes can be stress enough in a small retail environment. The braiding of those strands making perilous, the work of generational transitions.
The antithetical perspectives of the transitioning generations only increasing the peril.
The outgoing owner looking to get paid for a lifetime of their work, while the incoming family members focus on keeping the business well-funded, in support of their expansion plans.
The generational transitions so fraught that in the United States only three-percent of family businesses survive through it's fourth generation.
My daughter Buck Wheat recently learning that the penalty for breaking the streak, is being the first Lipton in a century to pay retail for paint!