September’s edition of IE3 Magazine featured a moving article about a first-generation business’s experience with ACCA’s MIX Group program. Ms. Pierce’s hesitation to join a MIX Group because of the cost and time commitment should resonate with any prudent business owner facing constant demands on their time.
What struck me was her closing line, if we “have a family emergency and need to step away from our business, any of my MIX Group colleagues would… run our business the way we do.”
I’ve been in this business for more than 50 years as a manager, company owner, Chairman of ACCA, and I remain active in ACCA. I’ve seen the ups and downs of business, and know that Ms. Pierce is right. A MIX Group can get you through those tough times where you need your closest peers to stand by your side.
Like Ms. Pierce, I hesitated to enter into the MIX Group program because I was trying to turn around a nearly bankrupt business that I purchased. It took me several years to feel comfortable enough to step away from AirRite for two weeks a year.
After I gained control of my business, I decided to attend ACCA’s “MIXer” at a conference. I met other experienced professionals who were working on their businesses and I decided to join the program. I was fortunate to be invited into a group quickly and thus entered a new phase of my career – working ON my business, not IN my business.
Before joining a MIX Group, I was becoming all too familiar with the saying, “it gets lonely at the top.” Like other contractors in the program, I benefited from being able to talk to others owners about the challenges and opportunities that faced. The business knowledge I gained my MIX Group was instrumental, but I quickly learned a much more valuable lesson – my peers were family, and they proved it in 1999.
That year, my son, AirRite’s Service Manager and GM, was in a terrible motorcycle accident. He suffered a broken back and pinched spinal cord. Like any father, my immediate concern was the safety of my son. But, my staff – his colleagues – served as a reminder that AirRite was a family operation and my staff were also suffering and praying for their coworker. I had to be there for them.
During this time of fear and unknown, I mustered the strength and tried to keep running AirRite and fill in for my son. Soon, however, it became more than I could handle and I turned to the only people who knew my business as well as me, my MIX Group. They knew AirRite’s strong and weak points, my staff, my customers, and how I liked things to be done.
Within days of reaching out, group members were scheduling regular calls and visits to AirRite to provide the guidance and support that we needed. Several of my MIX Group colleagues also arranged for their sales and service managers to spend longer periods of time with AirRite to ensure our team was able to keep moving forward.
This continued for several months as my son healed and began his therapy regimen. As often as possible, I would attend early morning meetings to update the AirRite family. I attended the meetings to assure our staff that their company was on sound footing, then I would turn the meeting back over to my peer who was filling in for me that week.
Sometimes, in situations like this, people receive a lot of help early on. But, help tends to fade away because many people often rely on small pools of close family and friends. A MIX Group, however, isn’t a small pool, it’s a reservoir of support – owners, staff, and sometimes their family members. Without my MIX Group, I am certain that this situation would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, to manage.
As a veteran in the industry, it is important that I share this story, especially with younger generations who may think they figured out all the aspects of running a business on their own. In the real world of business, there are many unknowns and we must prepare younger generations for them.
This is one reason why I follow Will Allen Dromgoole’s poem, The Bridge Builder. Dromgoole writes about an old man who crosses a swollen river, looks back and decides to build a bridge. Someone sees this and criticizes him because he already crossed the river. The old man responds:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “There follows after me today A youth whose feet must pass this way. This stream, which has been as naught to me, To that fair youth may a pitfall be. He too must cross in the twilight dim — Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”