Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Small Business of the Year (Wednesday LINKS)

Yesterday, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce publicly announced that my father's accounting firm, Coale, Pripstein & Associates, P.A., would be named its Small Business of the Year for 2012.  I had known about this for a few days, but had been asked to keep it quiet.  You can only imagine how difficult this was for a proud son (with a daily blog), but I went along with this request begrudgingly, all the while writing the eventual post in my head.

My Dad was the son of school-teachers.  He was solidly middle class when the middle class was more solid.  There was very little that was extravagant about his young life, but by the stories I hear, he saw a small glimmer of what it was to own your own business in his grandmother's dance school that was just down the street from his house.  It would be pure speculation to say that Dad was inspired by this, but I know that we don't hear too many stories from his youth, yet the dance school comes up quite often.

Dad started out of school working for someone else.  He did this for ten years until deciding to go out on his own shortly after I was born.  Although I don't discuss it with him often, as I've grown older I find myself thinking more and more of the decision he and my Mom made to cut the cord and go out on his own.  How courageous.  The amount of confidence, self-assuredness, and maturity necessary to make that huge leap into the abyss as a thirty-something with a toddler underfoot is as inspiring as it is terrifying.  And it's not like my Dad grew up in a family of entrepreneurs.  He was quite literally stepping into the dark.

Growing up, I never wanted for anything.  I had braces, tried two different musical instruments (failing miserably), and drove my own car at 16.  I think my Dad will admit that my Mom was a "third partner" of the firm, as she made sure that my Dad had the fewest worries possible once he came in the door.  Dad always worked longer hours than everyone else's Dad, which meant my Mom had to work double-time to get our homework finished, get us to school events, and make sure we still had a social life to speak of, despite living on a street that was eerily devoid of children.

Sure, my Dad may have missed a (see musical instruments above) performance or two and he beats himself up about it on a regular basis.  But as I tell him, I would never have had it any other way.  That two-decade long seminar in work ethic is one of the most valuable treasures my parents passed down to me.  You don't go home when the clock moves.  You go home when the job is done.  As I got older, and was able to set my own bed-time, I remember trying to stay up for my Dad during tax season.  Every once in a while, I would be able to do it, but it was much more often that I would have to tap out around midnight.  Those few nights I made it, my Dad would smile when he came through the door and saw me, otherwise accepting that it would be another night without seeing any of the people he worked so hard to support.

My Dad was the one that taught me the value of community and the obligation to give back.  Despite the long hours and the mounting responsibilities, my Dad's resume of community involvement is unparalleled.  He was the one that impressed upon me that service is not a choice; it is an obligation of good fortune.  When you see something you can fix, you do it.  You don't need to wait to be asked.  Most importantly, being dependable is more important than being "everything."  Don't offer to help if you can't see it through.  Don't serve just to get your name on a piece of paper.  Commit to the job at hand, give it everything you have, and don't expect anyone to thank you when it's done.

I'm obviously very proud of my Dad, but right now the feeling is more one of satisfaction.  Finally.  My Dad is a humble man and does not seek out honors.  He never advocated for awards or self-nominated his business, no matter what commercial success that may bring.  Finally, someone out there saw everything that I've seen my entire life and say "You know what, that's pretty spectacular."  I'm just glad to see it done.


The Orioles cut into that pesky run differential last night with a 12-0 whuppin' of the Toronto Blue Jays.  Oh and, by the way, they are also tied for first place in the American League East.

I had a Board Operations Committee meeting last night and missed most of the DNC speeches, but I did hear pieces of Gov. Martin O'Malley's speech, which was then put in the background on NPR on my drive home.  It sounded like he may have had one too many 5-hour-energy's.  I hope the Dem's don't spend the whole week beating up on Mitt Romney.  It would be a waste.  Michelle Obama's speech was spectacular and was exactly what Team Blue wanted out of last night.  I hope the-powers-that-be can contrast that against whatever message O'Malley was able to get across as he was hopping around the podium.

I hope the State does more than three workshops for the thousands of laid off workers from the Sparrow's Point Plant.  This is an opportunity to intervene and transition these workers from failing plant to successful employment.  Current operations seem to indicate that all we are preparing them to do is "be unemployed."

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Love this post by WB about new shops popping up in Old Ellicott City.  It seems like there is a gradual shift in the character of our old town to meet an emerging yuppie demographic in the area, while keeping its hipster charm.  Main Streets can rarely be all things to all people, but it is great to see new attraction points developed to bring in a different crowd from time to time.

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love.