I am going to start this journey with our moving from Pasadena, California to Eugene, Oregon in 1973.
Living in California, Pasadena, California to be exact had many advantages. The weather for the most part was beautiful and comfortable. However there were far too many days when the smog would settle in, and at times you could viably see it, almost like fog. On the college campus where I worked some of the ground crews were required to take oxygen breaks during the hottest parts of the summer afternoons. At times it was a serious health concern, and the college took appropriate and rather radical measures to protect the workers as best they could.
My job, as an environmental specialist, presented many challenges of intellect and endurance. Trying to keep the campus green and beautiful was difficult. The smog poisoned the plants, shrubs, trees, and grass. It was necessary to be very creative in the approach we took to counter balance the effects that the smog was having on the campus. The job was anything but dull or routine. Every day presented new obstacles, and sometimes we fell short on workable solutions.
My boss was a pleasure to work for, gave me lots of latitude for personal growth and development. But as with any job there were glitches, difficulties and obstacles to overcome. And I did just that, met the challenges head on, and yes sometimes the sparks flew and toes were unavoidably stepped on, but in the end it turned out very well. More about that later. But now came the hard part, we had to leave Pasadena because the smog was so bad at times it was literately killing my youngest daughter. Family first, job second. So we packed up and moved to Eugene, Oregon against the protest of my boss and the staff.
We were moving to a city where more people were moving out of the state than in because the job market was drying up. Once there were thousands of lumber mills, but because of new government regulations, thousands diminished to hundreds. I was advised not to move there, because there were no jobs to be had. You might say I took a blind leap of faith moving my wife and two daughters to an economically depressed area. However I have never been intimidated by others opinions as to what I could or could not accomplish. I have always felt that success was something within and not something governed by or dictated by external forces.
After arriving in Eugene, and getting settled in, I began the daunting task of finding a job. As it turned out, within three days I was hired by one of the largest Landscape companies in Oregon. It was not a good fit but it was workable. It was not what I had hoped for, but it had a great deal of potential, and for now it was a job that paid the bills and gave us a start.
Before I knew it, I had been there a year. It was time to approach the owner about a raise. I had worked hard and long hours, sometimes without getting paid for my overtime, but that was OK. To me getting the job done was important. I assumed that my hard and diligent work would be recognized and appreciated. As it turned out my work was appreciated, but his response to a raise somewhat surprised me.
He told me that he deliberately paid low wages, and kept them low so his workers could not afford to quit. WOW! That was totally unexpected. How could anyone be so insensitive! But I already had a plan in place. If I were to be unsuccessful in obtaining a raise I had planned to start my own landscape business. So I politely informed him of my regret at not getting a raise, and that I would be starting my own business and was giving my two weeks notice. He stared, really more like a glare, at me for several moments. He then told me I was fired and to get out now! He made it very clear that I was to immediately pick up my check at the business office and leave his place of business. That was not quite what I had expected.
The story of my involvement with him did not quite end there. My journey was about to take an interesting if not a bit of a bizarre turn, one that was totally unexpected .
Leaving my old job behind, now came the task of building a new business. Actually it was quite exciting, being the master of my own destiny. So I put everything in perspective and started to work my plan.
I decided to target some commercial accounts. So one of the first perspective accounts I called on was the local bank. I picked them because we had our checking account there and I knew the manager. It is amazing, after all these years I still remember the branch managers name, Kim. More than likely I remember him because he helped me set up my new business. He was very kind and considerate and willing to go that extra mile to make my fledgling business a success.
So I asked Kim about submitting a proposal to the bank for their landscape maintenance. Since they were a local bank with six branch offices, it seemed like a good place to start. He listened to what I was proposing for the maintenance of the various branches. He advised me to put a written proposal together. And when I was ready he would arrange for me to meet with the executive board. Now that was really awesome!
About three weeks later I had the proposal completed, and Kim did what he said he would do, he arrange a time and place that I would meet with the board.
Another week passed, then the call came. Kim gave me a time and place for the meeting. Upon arriving at the down town main branch of the bank, which was a multi-story building, I was warmly greeted by the receptionist. I must admit, I was a little nervous, and rightly so, but her kindness put me at ease. She led me to the executive conference room and announced to the board members that I had arrived.
There in front of me was an oval oak table with six very distinguished looking gentlemen looking at me, obviously they were the board members. There was a seventh man there at the head of the table, he obviously was the chairman of the board…to my surprise it was my former boss from the big name landscape company. I knew right then that this meeting was not going to go well.
Before I could say a word, he stood up and leaned sightly forward with both hands firmly planted on the table. He was now towering over the other board members, looked at me with anger, almost rage streaming from his eyes. He immediately bellowed out, “We have deliberately wasted your time! We have no intention of giving you the contract, and if you try anything we will sue you!” This was said in a very hateful and demeaning manner. I knew he was a ruthless man, but his words and hatefulness surprised me. I think even the board members were surprised as well. Because I remember the looks of astonishment on all their faces.
After several long and silent moments. I addressed the board: “From the beginning all you had to do was tell me that you were not interested, and I would have honored that. I am sorry for the approach you have taken, I really don’t need this in my life. Today I will walk away, but you men will have to live with what you have done.” That being said, he yelled at me to “GET OUT”! So without arguing I quietly left the meeting. I didn’t feel defeated, just sorry for the bitter old man.
As I mentioned earlier there is an interesting and unexpected twist that was about to take place.
Between the time that I first approached Kim about submitting a proposal and that awful board meeting I picked up a new landscape customer. Dorothy, she was a self made wealthy business woman. From hard work she built a very successful log mill and lumber exporting business. Although she has now been dead for many years the business she built still operates today.
With all of my customers I have developed an appreciation for people that have worked hard and done well for themselves. People like Dorothy have a keen insight into the business world. So I asked her questions about her businesses and successes. She freely shared with me about her insights, which proved to be very helpful. I shared with her my experience and hopes and plan for the future. As a matter of causal conversation I mentioned what had taken place the previous month at the bank. We chatted briefly about the experience and what I had learned, and then moved on to discussing what projects she needed to be done with her landscaping.
Now here is where the events take an interesting and strange turn. About two weeks later I get a panic call from the president of the bank in Oregon. WOW! now what! He apologized for the irresponsible behavior of the board. OK, apology accepted. He went on to invite my wife and I out to dinner, and even guaranteed me the landscape contract for the following year.
“Now wait a minute! You, referring to the board, deliberately lied and misled me. And now you expect me to believe you? I am sorry, I don’t believe you, please call another landscape company.” I ended the call firmly but politely. I thought to myself, “What was that all about?”
Two weeks later it was time to finish my work at Dorothy’s house. And as a matter of conversation I mentioned the strange phone call from the bank. She smiled sort of a devilish smile and told me she didn’t like the way the bank treated me. She told me that she had $8 (eight) million dollars in their bank, and pulled out $6 (six) million because of their mean spirited approach. No wonder the president was in a panic. So that was what prompted his call. Now the chain of events began to make sense.
Her action surprised me, Dorothy was a self absorbed and focused business woman, in many respects she was quite ruthless in her business dealings, she didn’t help anyone unless it was to her advantage. I would not call her a mean person, but then again I would not call her a kind one either. Since I was in no position to help her at all, her standing up for me was a bit bizarre as well.
I never did approach the bank again, except for my business dealings with Kim. He continued to help and encourage me until the bank closed. It seems as though they got into some difficulties, the branches were shut down and assets were sold to another bank.
I really think, my opinion, they lost their customer base because they treated too many others with contempt and indifference. Oh, my former boss, he got scammed and cheated and was eventually forced into bankruptcy. Justice? No, just sad.
Sometimes battles are too overwhelming to fight. Sometimes we may be out numbered or even bullied to where we feel helpless. Such was the case in this story. I didn’t have a chance! The odds were that I would not survive because my opponent was both economically and politically powerful. As far as he was concerned my destruction was imminent. He was wrong! He did not take into account even the remotest possibility that a miracle and divine intervention were possible. Yet that is exactly what happened, my God fought the battle I could not win and subdued an enemy that I could not conquer. He did just that, He stood up for me and won! Personally I think that put a big smile on His face, it sure did mine. Not because of the victory, as important as that was, but because I know deep down I don’t have to be afraid or intimidated because He is always there looking out for me and those He loves.